The Redeemer: Son of Satan! (1978)

I love a cheap slasher.  There’s a grimy, D.I.Y. vibe to slashers that’s hard to find in horror genres that require more substantial budgets for special effects.  All you really need to make a barebones slasher is a few friends, a free weekend, case of beer, and a prop kitchen knife.  The bodycount murder-mystery template that most slashers follow provides just enough structure & purpose for what are otherwise hangout films, so that no-budget indies can somehow land regional, if not national distribution despite essentially being backyard movies.  Slashers don’t have to be especially cohesive or coherent to be worthwhile, since the draw of the genre is usually in the local, sub-professional quirks of their casts of victims.

The Redeemer: Son of Satan! pushes that disregard for coherence & cohesion past its breaking point.  As its more apt drive-in title Class Reunion Massacre suggests, it’s a loopy supernatural slasher set at a 10-year high school reunion, which is disrupted by a maniacal, possibly possessed priest.  The movie opens with an eerie shot of a fully clothed child emerging from underneath a lake with Terminator-level determination.  The mysterious child-demon coerces a local priest to kill unsuspecting alumni celebrating their class reunion, punishing them for the “sins” of adultery, alcoholism, and homosexual copulation.  The magical mechanics of that coercion remain a mystery, along with the origins of the lake-child and the priest’s connection to the class-reunion victims.  The result feels less like an actual movie than it feels like the dream you have after watching Prom Night.

The unexplained supernatural phenomena of The Redeemer establish an eerie mood before the film fully sinks into its slash-by-numbers formula, but they feel underdeveloped to the point of distraction & bafflement.  Disregarding the lake-child, the movie is basically about a Gene Parmesan style killer who wears a different generic disguise for each attack: priest robes, a clown mask, duck-hunter camo, etc.  Once you start trying to connect that killing spree to the priest’s extra thumb, his step-by-step tutorial of the face plaster process, his flamethrower-wielding puppet, and his supernatural child-boss, the whole thing unravels. All it really needed to do was set a maniacal preacher loose on victims he believed to be “sinners”, but instead it adds in a chaotic smattering of details from a more interesting movie that we’ll never get to see.

Regarding the local flavor of The Redeemer’s cast, there isn’t much to see here.  The film gets minor kudos for having multiple gay characters in its main roster, but it’s also a bodycount horror film so you can probably guess how that plays out.  Besides, the supernatural lake-child’s priest-hijack mission is too distracting for the central cast to stand out anyway.  There’s a wonderful sequence set in the preacher’s church, packed with candid shots of the locals in his congregation who fill the pews.  Otherwise, the movie doesn’t have much to offer except boredom, frustration, and bafflement.  It’s got an occasionally eerie mood and a few fun, scattered surprises, but it never really pulls itself together into anything solid.  I’d honestly be even more forgiving of those minor merits if it was just shots of drunk teens wielding a kitchen knife in the woods.  It’s almost worse that the movie teases more ambitious supernatural horror elements and then never does anything coherent with them.

-Brandon Ledet