Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Forgotten Flix: The Blood on Satan's Claw

How have I not heard of this one until now?!?  Today's Film is The Blood on Satan's Claw, a 1971 Thriller with a kind of bonkers plot.  Set in a time long ago, a strange being's presence causes the youth to be corrupted.  They go from friendly Puritan-looking kids to Satan-worshipping monsters!  What is the secret?  What can stop it?  What does all of this have to do with body hair?  The Film is part of the Folk Horror Trend that came along around this time.  The most famous example, of course, is The Wicker Man, but there are others as well (like Witchfinder General).  This one falls in the middle- quite literally- and is less remembered.  Should it be though?  It feature evil kids, a silly monster and lots of paranoia.  To find out more, read on...
A Farmer finds a strange body in his field and reports it.  When it vanishes, nobody believes him.
The missing parts of the body appear to be affecting people in Town, specifically the young.

The lead one- Angel (ha?)- starts to lead the children...
The children begin to resist the leadership of the adults and eventually escalate to some light murder.

If you're going to turn to Satan, you need to ease into it.
In a bit right out of some famous Story whose name escapes me, Angel seduces the lead guy and uses that against him.

This scene is crucible...I mean, crucial, so, of course, the nudity is covered in many prints with a literal darkening of the Scene.  TCM didn't do that, provided they play it at 4am.
The Cult continues to grow in secret, but enough people start to get worried in the Village.
They call in a Judge to help them deal with things and he sees a big problem.  He vows to return prepared to battle evil!
The Cult, meanwhile, doesn't stop, even when they are exposed.  Their own members and friends are soon punished and/or killed for their new God!
The side part of this involves all of the Members growing weird patches of fur on their bodies.  One of them has it removed- ouch!- and is rejected.

So the idea is that these parts are going to make up and reform the dead Demon in the ground from earlier.  Freaky, no?
It all builds to a big climax as the Cult tries to complete the Ceremony, but the Judge is back and he's got a big-ass sword.  The not-fully-restored creature is killed and the day is saved.

This is the last (English language )Film of the Actor who plays the Judge, so why not go out big?  The End.
A somewhat flawed, but atmospheric gem!  Is the Movie good?  Yes. Is it great?  Probably not.  It works best when it does one thing- establish a creepy atmosphere.  It make everything look creepy when it wants to with long shots, suspense being built up and then big, strange pay-offs.  A Cult Member plays hide-and-seek and ends up being killed!  A girl is lured into the Woods, only to be killed (and more) as part of a sacrifice!  A man discovers that his leg it growing fur!  The Film has atmosphere down pat- great.  The rest of the Film is so-so and it is not as engaging as it should be in the non-scary moments.  The Setting is unique for the time- avoiding the same ones used by nearly every Hammer Film- and that does help.  If you want a modern comparison, it's The Witch.  You can't see this Movie and not think of this Film.  The difference is that the focus is reversed- we see way more of the Cult Members and less of the Puritans (of sort).   We see how far they go and we see how the Village responds.  The Director was supposedly given a checklist of things to include from Witchfinder General- which I really need to re-watch!- and they are also here.  The big pay-off is interesting, but they definitely try to cover for any budgetary shortcomings.  I mean, you see that mask up there- you just barely do in the Film itself.  If you come in with an open mind, you can enjoy this fairly-unique Horror Film that came from a trend that never quite caught on.  As a bonus, you can enjoy it under a few different Titles.  For instance...
Next time, a more recent Film that touches upon similar themes of Folk Magic and the Occult.  This one died a quick death at the hands of both Audiences and Critics, so...yea.  Stay tuned...

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