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  Brotherhood of Satan, The Suffer The Little Children
Year: 1971
Director: Bernard McEveety
Stars: Strother Martin, L.Q. Jones, Charles Bateman, Ahna Capri, Charles Robinson, Alvy Moore, Helene Winston, Joyce Easton, Debi Storm, Jeff Williams, Judith McConnell, Robert Ward, Geri Reischl
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: It is the birthday of K.T. (Geri Reischl) so her widowed father Ben (Charles Bateman) and his girlfriend Nicky (Ahna Capri) hold a party for her with her friends in the afternoon, then all three pile into the car and set off for K.T.'s grandmother's house out in the countryside. Along the way they stop off at a picturesque spot for a snack, as they have all the time in the world, but when they resume their journey with not another vehicle to be seen on the road Ben catches sight of something by the verge. He stops the car and jumps out, then Nicky screams: it is another car that has been utterly crushed, with the occupants still inside. What could have caused this gory mess?

How about our old friend the Prince of Darkness himself? The Brotherhood of Satan was one of a rash of devil worshipping movies to emerge in the seventies, ostensibly in the wake of the success of Rosemary's Baby but also speaking to an unease in the general populace which carried an interest in the occult and paranormal married to a belief in seeking a spiritual self-actualisation - they didn't call it the "Me Decade" for nothing. A suspicion about dabbling in forces we might not entirely understand spawned a reaction in the horror fiction of the era, which reached its apex in The Exorcist, though as this little item illustrated, fascination with how the Devil was abroad in the land was around before that.

This was the brainchild of some of the team who had made the better known cult movie A Boy and His Dog a couple of years afterwards, and while their earlier effort did not command the same influence or even the same following, it has picked up a number of admirers who appreciate its endeavours to creep out the audience on limited means. Some accuse it of being too slow, but actually that deliberate pace represented an inexorable slide into the jaws of evil, culminating in a then-fashionable ambiguous ending, where you're not sure which way things are going to go after the end credits roll. Although you suspect Beelzebub is stronger than a bunch of rural townsfolk trying to stop him in his cloven-hoofed tracks.

In one of many weirdo touches, we have seen how the car got destroyed in the opening sequence, and it was apparently because a little kid was playing with a toy tank which somehow grew to actual size and squashed the vehicle, one of many instances of sinister child imagery movies such as this delight in. When Ben and his family arrive in the nearest town and ask to see the Sheriff (L.Q. Jones), they are almost arrested, then nearly lynched by a mob for reasons they cannot understand, though manage to drive away, but not escape when a small girl appears in the middle of the road and Ben crashes when he swerves to avoid her. With a neat 360 degree camera pan to show there was nobody there at all, we are already knee deep in an oppressive strangeness.

Some would say strangest of all would be seeing Strother Martin, that seasoned scumbag of many a movie, as the leader of the Satanists who also happens to be the town doctor, here getting one of his rare lead roles and going about it with some glee. He's a curious choice, aside from him being pals with the filmmakers, but one which is surprisingly effective and well used (even with a fleeting nude scene!) as he guides a bunch of old folks in robes to some kind of born again through Satan ceremony, one which needs the presence of the children to succeed. There may be a disjointed quality to much of what played out, but that added to the off kilter atmosphere, benefitting from such seqences as the one where one girl's doll forces her parents into seizures which kill them, or Nicky's nightmare which isn't presented in a particularly different fashion to the rest of the movie. Add in a beheading and a celebratory cake with black icing (and a blood filling) and The Brotherhood of Satan was slightly harmed by a lack of funds, but did well with what they had. Music by Jaime-Mendoza Nava.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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