Leave it to the fine folks at Arrow Video to unearth a lost piece of Satanic filmmaking with their new Blu-ray reissue of The Brotherhood of Satan. Now, as much as I love my horror, I’m the first too admit there are many films and sub-genres I’ve yet to experience, and as someone who likes a good story about the devil, I’d never heard of this 1971 release. If you haven’t either, here’s the log line:
Produced by Alvy Moore and L.Q. Jones, a veteran character actor best known for his work with Sam Peckinpah, The Brotherhood of Satan is a chilling tale of terror that provides a crucial missing link between Rosemary’s Baby and The Devil’s Rain in the cycle of turn-of-the-seventies shockers involving sinister devil-worshipping cults lurking within the dark shadows of modern-day America.
Granted, that does tell you too much, so my short form summary is as follows: a family are on a road trip when they come across an accident on the side of the road. When they go to the Hillsboro, the nearest desert town to report it, the townspeople immediately start going after the family, mainly out of desperation. We soon discover that a series of grisly killings have taken place, and that eleven children have gone missing.
When I mentioned to my good friend and fellow BBP! writer Jeffrey X Martin that I was watching The Brotherhood of Satan, he told me that “it’s a tremendous piece of surrealist Satanism cinema.” By the time I was finished watching, I could see what he meant. Directed by Bernard McEveety and written by William Welch, based on a story idea by Sean MacGregor, The Brotherhood of Satan feels like a movie that could only have been made in the 1970s on a somewhat low budget. There aren’t a lot of locations and none of the actors, other than Sam Peckinpah regular L.Q. Jones, are familiar; that’s not a bad thing, though, as the lack of stars puts a focus on the characters and the film’s general uneasy vibes. As the body count rises, there’s lots of very fake blood, but the dawning revelation that there’s an actual Satanic cult doing nefarious things helps you look past some of the limited make-up effects.
Children and the Devil go hand in hand in film, and many of those instances are classics – Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist, and The Omen may be easy and obvious examples, but there’s a reason they’re always cited. They’re the Satanic standards. The Brotherhood of Satan doesn’t ever reach any of those film’s lofty heights, but that’s ok. It’s its own, trippy, psychedelic thing, and if you like movies about cults and/or the Devil, you really can’t go wrong here.
Arrow Films has done an excellent job cleaning up The Brotherhood of Satan; it’s colours pop nicely. The Blu-ray disc includes interviews with two of the actors who played children in the film, but the real highlight for me when it comes to extras is Satanic Panic: How the 1970s Conjured The Brotherhood of Satan, a visual essay by David Flint that does an excellent job of contextualizing the film. There’s also a nice booklet that features two further essays that are worth reading.
The Brotherhood of Satan is out now from Arrow Video, and makes for a devilishly good way to kick off October.