In 1692, a witch is condemned to death and drowned near a church for her crimes. During her execution, she vows revenge and curses the property, promising eternal revenge. Fast forward 300 years, and we learn that the property, including the decrepit old mansion that has since been built on it, has been left to the local church by the family that owned it. Strange, violent occurrences have been going on at the house for years, and when two teenagers are brutally murdered on the property, an idealistic young priest and a grizzled police detective take an interest in the place, and begin to conduct an investigation. Despite the history of violence and "accidents" at the house, the church decides to station an alcoholic priest and his family there, and things just get worse. Who, or what, is responsible for the gruesome acts at the house? Could it be the creepy caretaker, a descendant of the property's original owners? Could it be the caretaker's ogre-like, mute son? Or is it something far more sinister?
Superstition is an enjoyable, albeit flawed haunted house/slasher hybrid that earns it's place among some of the better early 80's horror fare. It suffers from typical low-budget faults such as wooden acting, cheesy sound effects, and a completely illogical plot line, but succeeds on other levels. Director James Roberson lays the atmosphere on thick, and uses simple haunted house effects to his advantage, including creaking floors, strange breezes, and doors that slowly open and shut by themselves. The scenes in the pitch-black basement are particularly suspenseful, and camera angles give the viewer the sense that someone, or something, is menacingly following the characters at all times.
To tell the back-story of the house, the director relies on flashbacks to the seventeenth century and depicts the condemnation of the aforementioned witch. These scenes are particularly well done in traditional gothic-horror fashion, and one can't help but think that the director would have made an excellent "witch-burning" film along the lines of Witchfinder General or Mark of the Devil had he decided to go that route.
What really stands out in the film, however, is the gore. There is some seriously nasty stuff going on here, including exploding heads, bodies hacked in half, a buzz saw through the chest, severed limbs, and an absolutely brutal stake through the forehead that has to be seen to be believed. The effects are surprisingly realistic despite the film's low budget, and the director manages to keeps things interesting by spacing the death scenes evenly throughout the film.
Overall, Superstition is a fun, atmospheric slasher that is a can't miss for gorehounds. After years in obscurity, it is finally available in an inexpensive, bare bones DVD release from Anchor Bay. If you're looking for a mindless, enjoyable popcorn flick, you could do a lot worse.