The Redeemer: Son of Satan (1978)
WRITER: William Vernick
DIRECTOR: Constantine S. Gochis
STARRING: Damien Knight as John
Jeanetta Arquette as Cindy
Nick Carter as Terry
Nikki Barthen as Jane
Michael Hollingsworth as Roger
Gyr Patterson as Kirsten
T.G. Finkbinder as The Redeemer
Christopher Flint as Christopher
QUICK CUT: Six old friends attend their suspiciously vacant high school reunion, and are soon set upon one of the bizarrest killers I have ever written about. Ever.
John - A big shot lawyer, and a loyal friend. He suffers from the sin of greed.
Cindy - After high school, it seems like she ended up going from dive bar to dive bar. I guess she represents the sin of sloth?
Terry - He's got a girlfriend with a kid who are quickly shoved out of the plot, and his main character trait is gluttony.
Jane - A rich woman who can't stand her husband, or much of anyone. I'd say she's wrath, over here.
Roger - Once he was out of school, Roger went on to become a budding actor who cares about no one but himself. Yep, we have pride.
Kristen - Her lone personality trait is her lesbianism, so I guess she must be lust.
The Redeemer - Our killer, with a penchant for masks. He's supposed to be going around killing the sinners, but it sure seems like he's full of wrath. Funny how that works.
THE GUTS: First a quick note, this movie is also known as Class Reunion Massacre, but I went with the official licensed version put out by Code Red on DVD a few years ago. But if this seems familiar and the name's not quite right...that's why! Anyways, into the review!
Well, I'll give Redeemer one thing, it sure knows how to start out atmospherically. The opening shot played behind the credits is nothing more than that quarry lake up there, but it's got some good, creepy synthesizer music. I can get behind that.
I can't tell if it's the quality of the print, or just the nature of the sun moving through the sky, or deliberately planned, or just an accident, but it's also a nice touch to have the frame darken as the credits draw to a close. Since it's probably just an accident, or video quality, I won't really factor it into anything, but happy accidents are happy.
Once the basic atmospherics are done drawing you in nicely, we get a block of text about the Redeemer's hand appearing to punish the sinners. And look, there's his hand now popping up out of the lake!
It's a surprisingly effective intro. Talk about a hand appearing, then BAM (or splash, but whatever) it bursts into view. There's worse ways to kick off your film. Although the poor kid looks like he was holding his breath down there forever, and he's doing his damnedest to not gasp for air too obviously as he surfaces.
We probably don't need the few minutes of watching Little Damian Hellstrom walking, but you know what? You wanna go for a slow burn? Make us wonder what the heck is going on, lead us down this story's path? I can go with it.
The movie starts jumping jarringly from scene to scene, from the kid walking, to a shadow watching a guy sleep, back to the kid getting on a bus, to a GUY walking which I presume is the same one that was sleeping, BACK to the kid riding the bus, then back AGAIN to the guy being let into a building.
And the movie is going to great lengths to not show his face, from covering it with a blanket as he sleeps, to focusing on his feet or back as he walks, and having characters obscure him from view when glazed windows aren't doing the trick.
The guy mumbles a lot, in a down home country accent, about how this place gives him the creeps. Repeatedly. The creeps, the creeps, it gives me the creeps, yes sir, the creeps! WE GET IT THE PLACE IS SPOOKY. And if you took the time to establish geography instead of doing the longest wide shot ever just so we don't see your face, I'd let it all slide.
With our opening shot of murder out of the way, we jump back to Hellstrom on the bus for more than five seconds, and see him get dropped off at a religious school and follow the other students in the choir as they get their robes on.
But heaven forbid the movie actually stick with a plot thread long enough to develop it, and it's back to the dead body and the killer cooking up meth or something. I suppose he's putting on stuff to the dead body's face so he can make a mask, which is at least an interesting thing to run with, and unique to see all this beforehand.
Little Hellstrom seems to be blending in well enough with the choirboys, aside from nearly getting knifed in the throat. Well, nearly if you consider the other kid was holding the wrong side of the blade to the kid's neck, but oh well.
Because two plots jumping back and forth isn't enough, we start introducing our actual canon fodder, 15 minutes in. I like the device of having the killer slicing their pictures out of the yearbook, then jumping to a scene of them deciding to go to the class reunion. It's a fun, inventive way to introduce the cast.
We get introduced to such lovely characters as, um, John the lawyer! Cindy, the white trash drunk! Terry, the sleazeball loser! Jane, a rich woman with a loser husband, and holier than thou attitude, as well as mad rifle skills, which would be nice if those were important. But back to characters; Roger the actor who may or may not be gay. And if he's not gay, that's okay, because Kirsten is definitely a lesbian.
Everyone arrives at the scene of the crime, where they are greeeted by the caretaker, who is not the caretaker, because we saw him get shot. I dunno why the killer's putting on such a show, and made a mask, but I'll assume it's because he would otherwise be recognised by his classmates?
The gang wanders around the more or less abandoned building, and we focus on character and plot for a bit, yay! Everyone interacts, we get to see how that goes, and we learn this IS their school, and it shut down some time after they graduated.
With all that talking out of the way, everyone decides to head to the cafeteria and say hey to all the nobody that's there, and pig out. And these guys just dig straight into the food. While everyone is being big ol' gluttons, our killer slash caretaker locks up the doors to keep his victims contained.
While they eat up, the gang starts to notice that things are a little hinky what with no one else being there, so John and Jane decide to go make some phone calls and see what's up. Surprisingly, the phone works. For about 20 seconds before it goes dead. The killer must've really gotten into his role as the caretaker, and the cane slowed him down.
Cindy's the next to decide things are not right, and goes to a nearby house to see if they have any clues. Let the splitting up begin. She is quick to discover the doors are locked up and barred over with handy grates to keep out looters. And she then stumbles upon the caretaker's body, as a bonus. So, yeah, they're gonna know things are REALLY wrong now.
They all check out the body, and figure out it must have been there for awhile, which raises the question of who let them in, which is at least indirectly answered by the mask in the caretaker's hands.
Kirsten calls out to a figure outside the locked up school, and I really don't know why she would have thought the Hooded Figure with the scythe would have been much help. I mean, really.
John notices the music that's been playing all this time, and drags Terry off to see where it's coming from. They sneak into the A/V room, and stop when they see someone casually lounging around. John grabs the most handy crowbar EVER and they creep closer.
What they find is someone in either their school's mascot mask, or a low-rent Howdy Doody mask. Either way, the guy turns and roasts Terry with a handy doody flamethrower.
Terry stumbles around, screaming, and crashes through a glass door, making this our first immolation defenestration!
Since they're all locked in, they decide burning the place to the ground to get someone's attention isn't a bad idea. Uhh. Okay, if you say so, guys. Armed with that flawed plan, they raid the place for stuff to burn, starting with Jane grabbing tableclothes until she notices an open door. Hey, rather than running out there to see what's going on, why not grab everyone and escape together?
She finds a campsite, and a hunter soon returns, looking like Weird Al. But then, this is the 70s, so I guess that's normal. They head up to a nearby house while talking about decoys, and I'm just waiting for this to go horribly wrong, because really. It all seems to convenient, to say the least.
And my wait doesn't take long at all, as Jane realises the hunter has lead her right back to the school, and finishes her off with his rifle before she can run too far. So much for her mad skills being usefull, and instead they fall to the ironic punishment division.
The movie gives us a weird cut from Jane screaming, to her dead body in the gym covered with the hunter's coat. At least the rest of the cast is asking questions about the weirdness there, and not just rolling with it.
Undeterred by Jane's death, or the weirdness, the remaining canon fodder decide to get back to their burnination of the school and head down to the basement. Something we have all dreamed of, I'm sure.
But everything's old and cranky and not working, so John sends Roger up to the A/V room to fetch the handy crowbar. He finds instead Terry's crispy corpse dressed up in football gear which...ew. Think about that. Bad enough to handle and change the clothes of a living unconscious body, but a dead one? A dead BURNED one? Just ew.
Their captor seems to have thought things through, as they open up the furnace to discover its been bricked over, so their plan to set the place on fire is out the window. Of course, there's plenty of other ways to start a fire, but they don't think that one through.
I guess they're too busy hearing noises from the auditorium to do to much fiery planning though, and go to investigate. When they get their, they stumble in the red-tinted darkness until a spotlight shines on the stage. Hilariously, one of them shouts out, "You!" but it's not like they can recognise the guy from the latest maske he's wearing.
And...and... Ho. Lee. Crap.
This guy's voice.
There are almost no words.
It is beyond scenery chewing and theatrical. It's got an odd cadence and rythym to it, the pitch is all over the place. It is HILARIOUSLY serious with the actual lines, but the delivery just...pfffff, all seriousness up in smoke!
If you have ever played the game Nightmare, or its remake Atmos-fear? This guy could be the Gatekeeper's sillier brother.
On top of all this, because all that isn't enough! Oh no! This needs to get even MORE messed up! There's a giant sized puppet behind him dancing. Which may actually be a human being. Which leads to so many questions. At the very least, who's controlling the puppet?? Or IS the puppet?! Aside from Damian, we never see anyone else with the killer.
This may be the single greatest five minutes of cinematic WTFery since Pino in Silent Night 5. Every line out of this guy's mouth is comedy gold. I need to show this movie to friends just so I can randomly shout this nonsense out and people will know what I'm talking about and only think I'm normal levels of crazy.
By Corman, it gets even better. Oh fuck, I am in tears. The moment the guy shouts out, what I presume is some demon's name, and I *think* is Yaknahpatapa I...I just lost my shit. Excuse me for a minute.
Okay, okay, I'm back from being banished to the black hole, I'm okay now...no wait, he just pronounced the demon's name differently. I...I can't. Oh gods.
Oh, wait, there's plot happening. Roger just got a giant dagger in his head and I am too busy laughing and wiping away tears to care. Ahahahaha.
John chases off the emissary of Yakatikitoopoo, leaving the women to sit there like lumps and cry over Roger's demise. And pound the floor a few times.
Anyways, John runs off after the guy, so much for sticking together. But really, that was never going to last. While he doesn't find Riki-Tiki-Tavi's pawn, he does find the sliced up yearbook. And I notice all the pictures of our victims were on the same page. I'm not gonna lie, I hope the sole reason THESE six are being killed isn't because some are gay, some are pricks, or whatever. I hope it really boils down to, "They were on the same yearbook page."
That would be the best motive EVER. "What? I did it because they were on page 27. What more reason do I need? TWENTY SEEEVEEEEEEEHHHHN!" It would make as much sense as anything else up to this point.
Cindy and Kirsten head to the bathroom to catch their wits, and the scene gets soooo close to the two making out, I just know it. But instead, they start to leave, until Cindy realises she forgot something behind and heads back into the bathroom.
Now, the door closes, and the killer is there in ANOTHER mask. He's not even trying at this point. Presumably the caretaker's mask was well done. The rest are just cheap, off the shelf store purchases, or just plain terrible. No consistency. This guy is no Toby. Of course, this movie is also no Popcorn. But anyways, I'm pretty sure he wasn't in the bathroom before, I'm not sure where he could have hid, I don't know how they could have missed him, and how did he change out of his bad Baron Samedi makeup SO quick??
The man of Inkadinkadoo struggles with Cindy for awhile, making sure to turn on the showers for our enjoyment, but soon drags her over to a sink and drowns her. And I'm sure the baptism like imagery, like the last supper, is wholly intentional.
Kirsten finally gets through the door and strokes Cindy's hair, and...GAH the movie jumps to another scene with John back upstairs and...HOW DID SCOOBYDOOBYDOO GET HERE ALREADY?! AND OUT OF MAKEUP!!
This is flagrant abuse of the 'villains can teleport' rule, and I CALL BULLSHIT!! Even with Satan as his co-pilot!
Okay, I needed a moment earlier to compose myself from hilarity, now I need to take a moment to just plain catch my breath. That was too jarring a jump, and too much thrown at me.
Gah. All right movie, you've got John at gunpoint by the killer who jumped back and forth...I'm with whatever is passing for a plot again.
Much like myself, John tries dilligently to sort things out, figure out what's going on, but Yabbadabbadooboo and this movie is having none of that. I think the killer shouting out, "Don't you try and reason with me!" says more about this movie than I ever could.
Not that this will stop me from trying, no.
Bippityboppitybooboo's servant blathers on about sinning and redemption being his motivation, so at least we remember the NAME of the movie, which is a plus. But John finally jumps him and gets the gun away. They struggle, and Kirsten hears the commotion.
John manages to shoot the killer from Yakkityyakdon'ttalkback, but they continue to struggle and John gets a shot himself.
Kirsten finally arrives and the killer spooks her, so she runs right back the way she came. She stops when she reaches the auditorium, and Yo Gabba Gabba continues his abuse of villainy powers by appearing somehow in front of her, despite the stairs being behind and...eh. Screw it. At this point, not worth the logic puzzle.
Benderfryandleela's Redeemer isn't doing so hot thanks to John though, and I'm sure teleporting takes a lot out of him, so he passes out and drops the gun right at Kirsten's feet. She picks it up and points it at him for an interminably long time without doing anything.
Which is bad, since the strangely ambulatory puppet continues to move beyond all logic, and is sneaking up behind her with the sword thing.
Now, you would think that would be the end of the movie. Everybody, and I mean EVERYbody is dead. Bad guy AND good guys alike.
But no! Remember the kid who climbed out of the lake and went to catholic school? Yeah, the movie actually remembers that plot, and jumps back to the preacher giving his sermon. Whom I think is also our killer.
After seeing his congregation out, he catches up with the boy, who now has the knife that was threatening him almost an hour ago. And since the knife looks bloody, there's probably a few more dead bodies of kids. At least we get to see one of them in the back of his dad's car.
The priest sends the kid off on the bus again without the pair of them doing much of anything, and he heads up to his room. We see his evil two-thumbed hand, and he rubs his gunshot wound, so yeah, the killer was a priest. A random priest. But at least I can see that sort of person going all redemption against sinners. Although why THOSE people, who knows? The back of the DVD goes on about how he's another former student getting revenge on the kids who tormented him in high school, and yeah. No. No, the movie has none of that. In fact, I *like* the randomness of it all more. Satan comes up, corrupts a priest, and sics him against the sinners. No need for motives or connections, just random carnage because the devil made him do it.
We see the creepy self-opposable thumb vanish from the priest's hand, much to his relief, and then jump back to Kid Hellstrom as he gets off the bus, and now HE has the weird-ass hand of Threeyaksonalog, and he wanders off back into the water from whence he came and...
That's the end, with a repetition of the opening text? Did...did the *bad guys* win?? Or did the good guys win, because the sinners were being punished and their souls redeemed by a priest?? But what about the 'son of satan' part? Doesn't that make the redeemer a bad guy again?
What?? I am confused...
Video: It's not good, I won't lile. But I won't hold that against this. This is an old, rare, cult movie, and Code Red did their best to try and track this sucker down. They didn't really do much work to it, which is a shame, but for an old movie with no restoration done beyond conversion, it's decent. I can see what's going on, and the colours aren't horrid. There is a TON of grain, and dirt, and scratches, and marks, but it almost gives it some weird charm becuase of all that. Probably as good as it could look without a ton of work.
Audio: An adequate mono track that's solid enough, with much the same considerations. I can understand the Redeemer's yellings well enough, so that's a plus.
Sound Bite: "Sweetheart, there's always a logical explanation for everything." EXCEPT THIS MOVIE, JOHN
1 - The caretaker of the building buys it seven minutes into the movie when our mysterious killer shoots him into the pool.
2 - Terry, charbroiled by the school mascot.
3 - After an encounter with a hunter, he turns on Jane and shoots her in the back.
4 - Roger gets the sword of Damoclese plunged into his head.
5 - Cindy bites it in the girl's room, drowned in a sink.
6 - A shot to the forehead takes out John.
7 - Kirsten also takes a dagger to the head from the weirdly mobile puppet.
8 - The knifey kid with a slit throat in the back of the station wagon.
And then a few extra kids, most likely.
Best Corpse: Oh, how can I not say anything other than Terry? He gets set on fire. He falls through a glass panel. We then get the bonus of his charred corpse in a football costume.
Blood Type - B-: There's quite a bit of blood, but it's that almost cartoony red blood. But the movie *ahem* redeems itself and gets a few extra points for a great body burn, a great burned body, and that weird-ass thumb.
Sex Appeal: We get teased with a few lesbian scenes, but nothing really bubbles up to the screen.
Video Village: Oooh, it's a new feature! I'm tinkering with this idea, so it might bounce around the review as I try and figure out where it goes. But I want more and more to include choice scenes from these turkeys. And there is no better way to start than the hilariously creepy scene of the Redeemer in the auditorium. See what made me walk away from the computer laughing in tears!
Movie Review: Whoooo. This one. Wow. This movie was truly farted out of Satan's rectum. After eating Taco Bell. I can seriously sit here and pick apart almost every element of the film. The writing is just bizarre. I have no excuses for it like first time writers or filmmakers. I have no idea what happened. I think I've actually managed to slice through it and find a more or less coherent plot buried through the bad transitions and dropped ideas. But the thin plot is so hidden behind the drek that it just gets lost. You are too busy in those last few minutes just shouting at the screen for any sense of logic, or thought, or anything more than jumping randomly from scene to scene with the Redeemer that it just crumbles under its own weight of WTFery. The characters are so paper thin and underdeveloped, and only there to represent sins, and I am purely guessing at that myself. This may well be the single best example of a good idea executed in the most terrible way possible. The Redeemer: Son of Satan takes any and all sense of a cohesive narrative and throws it out the window, laughing all the while. If it wasn't for struggling to find that nugget of an idea beneath all the masks it wore, it would not even get a two out of five double thumbs up.
Entertainment Value: And if you've been here long enough, you know what a review of a movie that goes like that can mean. And the previous piles of words should give you a clue. I love this movie. If anyone ever asks me again, "So, what sort of movies do you see as Trisk movies?" then this one will be the first one out of my lips. This movie looks you square in the eyes, grins like a Cheshire cat, then headbutts you, and leaves you in this dazed state while it prances around in every mask it could find. There is no making sense of this movie, there is no sense to be made. I can poke holes in my own theories. But even beyond that,m the simple fact remains. This movie broke me. I was quite literally in tears. I literally did walk away from the computer to recompose myself. This is the single most entertaining film I have watched on this site for a long, LONG time. This defines "so bad it's good". You cannot believe such a movie like this exists, even while you're watching it in utter disbelief. Five out of five deadly sins. And it will not soon be forgotten.