Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Shocktober Review: Satan's Blade

 Satan's Blade is, hrm... it's tricky to really describe this movie because it's not exactly a slasher movie. For most of the mid-section, it follows basic slasher rules, but the beginning and end of the film have this "throw it at the wall and see what sticks" quality. Is it a crime movie? A demonic possession movie? Maybe a "crazy killer in the woods" movie? At first, I thought it was just going to settle down and be a slash and stalk kind of horror film, but then there's an out of left field final scene that confirms a backstory we only half heard, leading to one of the strangest last shots I've seen in a while. It's almost Death Bed-esque in the "what the hell?" randomness. And that's not even taking into account the beginning.

 We don't actually start Satan's Blade in the ski lodge where most of the film is set, but instead at a bank somewhere back in town. Two masked robbers force their way in at gunpoint, make the tellers give them all of the money, sadistically cut their clothing off (gotta get in that gratudity early), and then shoot them. It's more than a little unseemly and misogynistic, but oh wait, what a twist, the bank robbers are WOMEN you guys! They go check into the lodge and hide their ill gotten gains, and while they're waiting for "George," their accomplice, it's time to strip down. There's some betrayal, and then a mysterious stalker kills them both and paints a symbol on the wall using their blood. (It does turn out at the end that the hidden money isn't just a MacGuffin, although I won't tell you who comes to collect it).

 After that lovely prologue, we meet our overstuffed main cast, consisting of two groups: a group of sorority sisters looking to relax and two couples celebrating one of the husbands passing the Bar Exam. The girls are there to party, the couples are there to relax, maybe do some fishing - it's a slight contrast of age, intermingled with some sexual tension. Oh, plus the story of a  giant mountain man who killed people with a weapon from the "evil spirits of the mountain" to kill anyone who came to the mountain, and also kill his family. He had an evil blade and maybe lives in the lake as a monster. But let's not scare the tourists. Also, one of your cabins is where the women from the prologue were killed, but we did our best to clean it up. Enjoy your stay!

For a while, Satan's Blade transitions into a pretty standard slasher, cutting back and forth between the two cabins (well, it might have been one cabin redressed, considering this was a pretty low budget affair). The guys decide to prank the college girls, then they get drunk while their wives justifiably grouse about them hitting on younger women. There's a dream sequence to add an extra level of kills to the proceedings, and also so horror fans don't get too bored while director L. Scott Castillo, Jr. spends a lot of time developing various characters. Did I mention that, not counting the police or the criminals in the prologue, there are 9 protagonists? The lion's share of the storyline is spent with the couple, but you can't wipe out all of the college girls (SPOILER) except one without at least spending a cursory amount of time getting to know them. Of course, the deaths happen in such rapid succession that they barely register. Satan's Blade is the sort of movie that crams in a bunch of kills at once, builds a little bit of tension and then does it again. It's not really surprising that the dream sequence happens, and it actually ends up being more memorable than when they actually die.

 Kudos to you, by the way, if you happen to remember the prologue after all of this mayhem, because the "George" - who does comes to pick up the money - is (SPOILER FOR THE END OF THE MOVIE) the Sherriff's Deputy who is also the killer. Yep. Let that sink it, because this is when Satan's Blade also gets even weirder. He's too young to have been the original killer, and the Sherriff was a deputy when the murders happened the first time, but there's an explanation! The story the old lady told is true, and the knife he's using (*coughtitleofthemoviecough*) is possessed, or something. He kills the Sherriff, goes stumbling around in the woods for a while, washes his bloody hands off in a creek, and then throws the knife into the lake we saw earlier. Then, a hand raises up from under the water, holding the knife, and throws it back. It lands in a tree where some unwitting hiker is passing by, who sees the knife and decides to touch it. The cycle begins anew? Uh, maybe?

 The demonic possession angle is so briefly touched upon during the Lodge Keeper's story that you wouldn't be blamed for missing it, because it really just seems like a "guy who went crazy and killed everyone, including his family" story. But nope, possessed demonic blade that turns you into a killer with an Excalibur-esque delivery system. It's introduced so quickly and with so little fanfare that my honest first reaction was "what?" To be fair, it is so unexpected that this one plot twist makes Satan's Blade more memorable than it would be otherwise. Between the stilted line delivery and many dead-end subplots, I'd almost forgotten the whole "evil spirits gave him a blade" part. After all, the killer doesn't seem supernatural, just pretty good at slashing. In fact, he tries to keep the murder scene "shut down for a few days" as deputy, presumably so he can get the money and run. So why is any of the "possessed knife" part necessary? It wasn't until I watched the lodgekeeper's mother tell the story again that, oh yeah, I guess they did lay it all out. It's just that Satan's Blade is weird and  meandering enough that you'll totally forget it has a plot to begin with.

  That and the open-matte Blu-Ray, which about halfway through the film becomes a game of "spot the boom mic". If nothing else, I would recommend Satan's Blade for its inexplicably disjointed twists and turns, held together by only the barest of threads. If you're looking for gore or gratuitous nudity, this is probably not going to scratch your itch. Having a set of (comparatively) older protagonists is a nice contrast to the usual "nubile young college girl" trope, but it doesn't amount to much. Really, it's the last ten minutes that leave you scratching your head giving Satan's Blade an edge over more conventional slasher fare.

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