A lake out in the middle of nowhere hides a small boy who emerges from the waters fist-first and wades to the shore. He then walks along the nearby road until the school bus picks him up, and is taken to the local church where he joins the choir, though must negotiate the resident, knife-wielding bully when he doesn't laugh at his jokes. Meanwhile, a man at the local school is poring over a former yearbook of at least a decade before and cutting out seven photographs for his own motives. He has already murdered the janitor after he was allowed onto the premises, and creates a mask of the dead victim's face, for this killer is a master of disguise, and he has a mighty grudge...
Or that's what appears to be happening, anyway, in this early slasher which was completed in 1976, but when certain movies began to grow in popularity during that era of the late seventies, it found a distributor who wanted to cash in. In truth, you could tell it wasn't quite up to speed with what the genre was turning into by 1978, as it had one foot in the Ten Little Indians style of mysteries where one victim after another was bumped off in inventive manners, and the other in the Satanic camp of the earlier years of the decade which were popular once Rosemary's Baby was a blockbuster hit. In effect, The Redeemer was neither one thing nor the other, but it was strange.
Watching this was akin to seeing a work crafted by someone who knew what they were trying to convey, yet were having difficulty in the lucidity department. The director never made another movie, and indeed the cast were all one and done for the most part, a few bit parts here and there, aside from Jeannetta Arnette who forged a respectable career in the industry, most visibly as a regular on popular sitcom Head of the Class in the eighties. Other than her, the people you saw would be strangers to you, which also lent it that off-kilter atmosphere when the former pupils in the cut-outs showed up at the old school, having been sent invites to a Class Reunion of their year.
Always a worrying sign in a horror flick, but they are oblivious, though when they arrive and are locked out, it might have been a good sign to make their excuses and leave. We have already been introduced to them in short vignettes where they ran the gamut from sleazy womaniser to coldhearted lesbian, even a gay film star in there, but what they could have possibly done to deserve whatever the Redeemer has planned for them remains something of a mystery even as the credits roll. In his guise as a preacher, he delivers a sermon (where the young lake boy is singing in the choir) that rails against immorality, so we have to assume he is seeking to punish the ex-pupils for their lax behaviour, but despite that they don't come across as especially awful, indeed a few are sympathetic.
Nevertheless, they are being judged whether they like it or not (and who likes to be judged?) so we get to watch them run around the empty school and be offed in a variety of methods by the mad preacher. Does the film endorse its villain? The indications were that we were meant to fear him and his grotesque collection of masks, though some have seen the film as an ultra-conservative chiller of the sort we were often told slasher movies consisted of, every man jack of them back in the original heyday of the style. To be honest, this was so fuzzy in its intentions that you would be tempted to wish anyone trying to work out what the message was, if anything, a hearty good luck and leave them to it, but The Redeemer operated neatly as a weirdo experience as well which may reward the more adventurous dabbler in these murky seventies depths of low budget shockers. When the plot rested on a third thumb being passed between characters' hands, you could tell this was unconventional business. Music by Phil Gallo and Clem Vicari Jr.