Satan’s Blood (1978)

Don’t Panic.

Poster image for 1978's Satan's Blood

Bored married couple Andy (José María Guillén) and Annie (Mariana Karr) are invited to a country estate by another couple, Bruno (Angel Aranda) and Mary (Sandra Alberti), who insist that they know them. Just for kicks, they attempt to contact the devil himself using a spirit board, and a deadly prophecy is invoked. A series of bizarre and not necessarily comprehensible events unfold in a decidedly demonic manner. Sex, death, the undead, killer dolls—you name it, you got it. Just throw it at the screen and see what sticks.

The creepy porcelain doll from 1978's Satan's Blood

Solid production values and creepy imagery abound, but it takes more than that to craft a good horror film. All the sex and violence in the world can’t hide the fact that this movie makes very little sense, even in a surrealist, nightmare logic sort of way. Occasionally gruesome and titillating, but ultimately aimless and a bit tiresome, there are much better examples of 1970s Satanic fare to be found.

The Ouija table from 1978's Satan's Blood

It should be noted that SATAN’S BLOOD does contain one of the most impressive props that I have ever seen. When the characters prepare to have a chat with Satan, they don’t bust out some ordinary, mass produced, out-of-the-box Ouija board. What they use is a beautifully crafted coffee table that doubles as a Ouija board—obviously not something that a casual occultist has just lying about.

Some critics are quick to declare that this film has” striking similarities” to ROSEMARY’S BABY (1968), but those similarities aren’t very striking at all. Yes, both films dealt with the devil, and both films featured elderly neighbors who were actually secret Satanists, but that’s where the similarities end. Unfortunately, in the wake of such successful satanic fare as ROSEMARY’S BABY and THE EXORCIST (1973), seemingly every film of remotely the same strain is compared to those two, if not accused of outright plagiarism. It’s the same phenomenon that dictates  every aquatic killer is a JAWS rip-off. Such comparisons are rarely constructive and oftentimes unjustified, and even when the comparison is apt, it should not detract one from viewing the film objectively and basing opinions on its own merits. Failing to do so hints at ignorance to the fact that everything is derivative of something else which came before. That is simply how art, in all of its forms, evolves. Charles Schulz’s comic strip Peanuts could be traced, step-by-step, back to the Yellow Kid in 1895 if anyone were so inclined.

Now that I’ve defended this movie, I should also declare that I didn’t care for it all that much.

As hinted at previously, logical progression of the storyline was not high on the filmmaker’s list of priorities—reacting to a post-Franco world by unleashing a torrent of sex and violence on the silver screen, however, was. After a certain point, the movie is comprised almost solely of disjointed scenes of weird sex and weird violence. Satanic film and surrealism often go hand-in-hand, but this didn’t seem like surrealism to me. It felt like a Mad Lib. And yet, if you edit a lot of the piffle from your memory of the film, it does seem to string itself along a bit more cognitively than it initially appeared. That’s not to say that it is anything resembling a linear narrative, but you can still get from A to Z…so long as you pay little mind to most of the letters in between.

A gatering of evil in 1978's Satan's Blood

There’s also some degree of education that comes with watching this film—at least if you’re a devil’s disciple. Everyone knows the basic names that the dark one goes by, but the characters here offer up a whole new laundry list of things to call him, including: King of the Lower World, Prince of Rape and Fornication, Father of Incest, Prince of Necrophilia, Serpent of Genesis, and “You Who Are of Death, Who Kiss Death on the Mouth.”

Multiple names seem to be a theme here: This import from Spanish filmmaker Carlos Puerto also goes by a few aliases, in order to confuse the viewing audience even more than the film itself did—Escalofrio and the odd choice of Don’t Panic among them. To muddy the waters even more, some of the characters even have alternate names: in the Spanish-language version (available with English subtitles), Annie is known as Ana, Andy is known as Andres, and Mary is known as Berta. Only Bruno retains his fabulous moniker throughout both versions. I viewed the dubbed version, and have referred to their characters by the names given there.

When researching the movie, the various titles and the various identities of the lead characters made the whole thing even more of a disorienting experience, and for the most part I came up with very little information. If this was by design, then Carlos Puerto might be a much better surrealist than I was giving him credit for.


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