Viva VHS: Satan’s Blade (1984)

Satan’s Blade starts off with a bang, literally.  A couple of bad girls rob a bank, kill the tellers after a little sexual humiliation, and run to a cabin in the hills.  Ruth (Meg Greene) double crosses her partner but only after she’s talked the poor girl into taking off her clothes.  When Ruth tries to hide the body an unseen killer stabs her in the back and paints bloody symbols on the wall.  The next day, Tony (Tom Bongiorno), Lisa (Elisa R. Malinovitz), Al (Thomas Cue who also wrote the script), and Lil (Janeen Lowe) head to the same winter retreat the crooks visited.  Checking in gets a lot more interesting when a gaggle of girls show up and request the infamous death cabin for the weekend.  A crazy old lady tries to warn everyone about an evil mountain man who haunts these here hills but no one listens.  Eventually, after a lot of talking and shots of characters roaming through nature, a killer armed with the titular weapon ruins everyone’s weekend.

Watching Satan’s Blade is like watching two different movies.  The first half has plenty of bad movie charm but the second half has a very brutal, almost nihilistic tone.  Director L. Scott Castillo’s nickname should be “One Take” considering the number of scenes with flubbed dialogue included in the final film.  The actors/actresses know they’ve screwed the line all to hell but bravely soldier on until the words, any words,  come to them.  During the check in scene it’s obvious some of the cast, especially the crazy old lady, is reading  lines from the pages on the desk.  The check in scene is also memorable because Castillo tries to fit twelve characters into the same shot.  The shot is a jumbled mess but it’s fun to watch all of the characters squeeze into frame.

All of the joking and laughing stops when the killer finally makes an appearance.  The flubbed lines are forgotten when the actresses scream, beg, and writhe in agony while the killer stabs them.  Castillo uses shadows on the wall for maximum effect here.  His budget is too low to include gore so the shadows convey the killer’s brutality without splashing blood all over the furniture.  A scene involving Tony fighting the killer by firelight also shows Castillo has some skills as a director.

Some of the bad acting in Satan’s Blade is sure to bring a smile to the faces of bad movie lovers but other performances are really good and give the characters a likability factor sometimes missing in low budget slashers.  Tom Bongioro and Thomas Cue play the two buddies like they really are buddies.  Their scenes together are pretty funny, especially when they get drunk.  Cue has a natural chemistry with Janeen Lowe so it’s easy to believe these two have been married for a long time.  Stephanie Leigh Steel is the best actress out of the group of girls looking for a goodtime at the resort.  Meg Greene as Ruth the robber makes an impression when, dressed in lingerie and boots, she drags a naked dead woman across the floor.  I can’t tell you anything about her performance but that one scene stands out in my mind.  Scream fans should pay special attention to Ski Mark Ford’s performance as Deputy Ski.  You’ll scream “Deputy Dewey” at the screen when Ford bumbles his way through the murder investigations.

Satan’s Blade is a bit uneven at times but it has some good performances and a terrifying second act going for it.  Thomas Cue’s complex script offers up a couple of surprises that takes the story in a very different direction from what you expect.  These days Satan’s Blade is considered a rare slasher due to its lack of availability on dvd.  If you can find a copy of the TVC or Prism vhs for cheap, then grab it.  Some dealers won’t let go of a copy for less than $100.  The Prism vhs features a trailer for The Forest at the start of the tape.  The TVC edition has better cover artwork.

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