Two sets of guests at a ski lodge are tormented by an evil spirit that haunts the mountains.
Slashers from the 1980s are typically either praised as classics of the genre or condemned for being simply terrible. For every Nightmare on Elm Street there is a Don’t Go in the Woods or Terror at Tenkiller to remind you that not every serial killer was as successful as Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers. Satan’s Blade is another film that tarnishes the reputation of old-school slashers and acts as a cruel reminder that the ‘80s was not a perfect time for horror films.
Satan’s Blade is a bad film. And it’s not a bad film, because it has aged. It’s just bad in almost every way possible. You can look at it from every single angle possible, attempt to put yourself in the director’s shoes and wonder what he was thinking when he brought this to screen and you will draw the same conclusion; this is one hell of a bad film. From the wooden acting to the poor script and the overall limp execution of events, it’s a travesty with very few redeeming factors. It squanders its potential for entertainment very early on, because there is a promise for good things to come with the film’s mysterious opening that feels reminiscent of a giallo; there’s close-ups galore, very little dialogue and the events unfold on screen in an enigmatic, almost seductive manner. However, don’t get used to this, because it is quickly abandoned for an unimaginative execution of all further events. Satan’s Blade drowns in its predictability that hits like an avalanche, rendering most of the opening sequence pointless.
The central concept is quite good; it’s not ground-breaking or genre-defying, but the idea of a demonic “mountain man” haunting the area surrounding a ski lodge is a solid base story for a film that purely wants to kill a lot of people and shed a lot of blood. It’s a shame that the deaths probably won’t live up to the imaginings of the audience, because they never reach their potential in terms of creativity or gore. Every person is killed in a lacklustre way that draws attention to the film’s failings in both the ability of the actors and also its overall originality. The camera lingers for a painful amount of time on the actors as they are bleeding to death; they hold their chests in pain, open their eyes as wide as possible and sink slowly, dramatically to the ground as they give the performance of their lives. The camera captures every slow, harrowing moment and it’s laughably bad. There’s not even a lot blood, so there’s not even enjoyment to be had in the extreme gore or excessive violence. It’s mild, amateurish and hilarious on-screen death and that is the worst kind.
There are a lot of very strange decisions in Satan’s Blade which, I am assuming, are intended to manoeuvre the film away from the traditional narrative of a slasher film. It tries desperately hard to add different layers to the film; there’s a couple with marital difficulties and a weird sub-plot involving a bank robbery, but instead of increasing the complexity of the narrative it further heightens the incompetency of those that were involved in making this film. The bank robbery plot is never properly meshed into the narrative and just lingers on the outside like a child waiting for its parent to finishing talking to a friend they’ve bumped into on the street. It goes a long for the journey, but did it really need to come along? Probably not. The bank robbery scene is the most impressive scene of them all and, without spoiling, it unveils a surprising twist that I didn’t see coming. It’s a shame that it eventually vanished into thin air, never serving a purpose.
As with most slasher films the characters are just there to be killed, so we have very little sympathy when they begin to meet their ends. The women characters all feel like carbon cut-outs of the same person and each one is a victim of uninspired writing; scribes that did not care about adding depth to these females, because their only purpose is to run around in their underwear and scream every once in a while. They die in such a theatrical fashion that Satan’s Blade would have fared far better on stage than it would have on screen and at least the levels of melodrama would have felt more at home. The two men are not much better as they spend the majority of their snowy trip in the doghouse and victims of their wives icy tempers; oh silly women, you should leave your poor husbands alone to drink whiskey and frolic in the snow with the ladies in the next cabin.
Satan’s Blade is a mish-mash of events that doesn’t deliver on either thrills or kills. There is a great final moment that ties a pretty little bow around the film’s events and brings the story full circle, but this neat conclusion is not enough to warrant the need to watch this predominantly average slasher flick.
Words: Jessy Williams (@JessyCritical)