Monday, July 11, 2022

Census Bloodbath: Knife To Meet You

Year: 1984
Director: L. Scott Castillo Jr.
Cast: Tom Bongiorno, Stephanie Leigh Steel, Elisa R. Manilovitz
Run Time: 1 hour 22 minutes

Plot: *takes a deep breath* Two sexy women are shot at a bank that apparently requires its tellers to dress like Hooters waitresses, and later it is revealed that the robbers are also sexy women. They hightail it to a secluded cabin in the mountains where they hide the loot and are summarily stabbed to death. Then two different groups of vacationers descend upon the cabin as well as the one next door, ignoring the warnings of the locals about a mysterious mountain man who stalks these here woods.

One of the vacationing groups consists of two married couples - Lil (Janeen Lowe), who is recognizable only because she's of Asian descent, and Al (Thomas Cue, who also wrote the screenplay, from a story by Castillo Jr.), who is the Jughead of the slasher genre because every single line either spoken by or about him is about how he loves to eat; and Lisa (Elisa R. Malinovitz), a jealous shrew, and Tony (Tom Bongiorno), who is celebrating having just passed the Bar. The other cabin contains 5 absolutely indistinguishable women, only two of whom matter at all: Sue (Ramona Andrada), whose father used to take her to these mountains; and Stephanie (Stephanie Leigh Steel), who has the hots for Tony. Eventually (by this I mean after like a full hour), a mysterious madman begins to tear through this huge platter of Meat with a knife. 

Analysis: The primary interesting thing about Satan's Blade is the fact that it seems more interested in being an adult drama than a slasher movie. Its exploration of a new marriage that is being significantly tested for the first time is far from the stuff of an award-winning indie darling, but it's more layered and interesting than I had any reason to expect. 

Unfortunately, basically everything around that plot line sucks, including the actors who are bringing it to life. For good reason, nobody in this film has more than 2 additional credits to their name (unless you count Castillo Jr. himself, who is loaded up with juicy credits including writer, director, executive producer, and actor... all for Satan's Blade, of course). The performances are uniformly stilted and wobbly. During the scene where two of the characters get drunk, you'd think their performance would finally match the page, but they just sloooooow eeeeeevery wooooord down, merely making their line readings miserable for more seconds of screen time.

Satan's Blade sucks as a proper slasher too, of course. As I already pointed out, the killer takes forever to actually get started, and when he does, it's in a variety of straightforward kills involving a nice little stab, a bit of Caro syrup, and calling it a day. The most terrifying thing about the entire affair is the boom mic that lurks in the corner of every frame in a particularly sinister manner. There is some blood to squeeze from this stone if you're into the whole "so bad it's good" angle, especially when it comes to the actors milking their dying moments for all they're worth (which isn't much). 

I suppose I can spare a kind thought toward the score, which is brought to life by a shitty, tinny synth, but has a more robust musical arrangement than was strictly necessary. At the end of the day, Satan's Blade isn't entirely unpleasant, it's just a methodical slog through plot points and characters that really should be more interesting than the execution allows them to be.

Killer: Ski (Ski Mark Ford)
Final Girl: N/A, but for structural purposes it's Stephanie (Stephanie Leigh Steel)
Best Kill: Lil has a knife thrown into her back, at which point she slides down a snowy hill on her stomach like a penguin.
Sign of the Times: The fact that the film is lightly supernatural, but not in the rubber reality way that A Nightmare on Elm Street would popularize just a few months later.
Scariest Moment: Lil, trying to escape, finally succumbs to her injuries right before she reaches the road, where there's a truck passing.
Weirdest Moment: The fact that Sue is killed with no fanfare, meaning that all the script's hints at a dark backstory for her that is tied in with the killings just... didn't matter.
Champion Dialogue: "I'm afraid you're going to have to take your bath in the lake."
Body Count: 13
    1. Bank Teller #1 is shot.
    2. Bank Teller #2 is shot.
    3. Ruth's Accomplice is shot.
    4. Ruth is stabbed in the back.
    5. Dishwashing Girl is drowned in the sink and also a knife goes near her neck, which makes blood happen.
    6. Shower Girl is stabbed in the back.
    7. Rita is stabbed in the boob.
    8. Sue is stabbed in the chest.
    9. Al is stabbed in the throat.
    10. Lil has a knife thrown into her back.
    11. Tony is stabbed to death.
    12. Lisa is killed offscreen.
    13. Stephanie is stabbed in the side, among other places.
TL;DR: Satan's Blade is a poorly made slasher movie that doesn't have a lot to offer except the basic pleasures of formula.
Rating: 3/10
Word Count: 864

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