Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Blood on Satan's Claw

We’re at Day 2 of Midnight Video week, and we’re dealing with what is easily the most famous movie I got from them. Blood on Satan’s Claw is a staple of early 70s British horror, about a small village that becomes host to the rise of witchcraft after a demonic skeleton is uncovered. It doesn’t quite work perfectly, but it is an enjoyably moody enough thing.

The film opens in a field in 18th century or so England, where a young man and his plow have just accidentally dug up a skeleton that’s not completely human. Before he can get to his master, a judge that occasionally dabbles in smiting witches, and return to the scene, the skeleton has vanished, and soon an ever-growing collection of townsfolk is dabbling in Satan worship, and conducting human sacrifices for their dark lord. The group is led by a girl named (of course) Angel, who not only leads the band (mostly comprised of children and teens) in their murders, but who also strips down to try to seduce a reverend over to her side, and when she is unsuccessful, accuses him of rape and murder. She’s a good egg, that one.

While the film is entertaining enough, it never really manages to go far enough in any direction to really make it stand out. It thankfully doesn’t have the vile core to it that the similar film Witchfinder General did, but it’s also too slow paced to really garner any excitement up until the big battle at the end between the Satanists and the Christian army. There’s also surprisingly little blood or nudity, at least in my estimation – I had heard tell that there was quite a lot of both in the film, and so was a little disappointed that it didn’t have nearly the violence of Hunchback of the Morgue, and a comparable amount of nudity (possibly even less than the previous film). It does have a nice overall visual appeal, but that’s hardly uncommon for British horror movies of the time. After all, Hammer Films was still going strong when this movie came out.

Still, there’s enough quality moments in the film to make it worth at least one viewing. After all, how many films can you name where you see a mob, whipped up into an anti-witchcraft frenzy, grab a girl and toss her into a lake to see if she floats? Or where the leader of the Inquisition’s right-hand man is a large bald mute whose main contribution to the witch hunt is to point at a captured witch and go “Uh! Uh! Uh!” like he’s a bloodhound or something? Not too many, I’d wager.

Rating: ** ½

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