Columbia Pictures Corporation
Directed by Bernard McEveety
Reviewed by Anthony Francis
Satanic worshipers abound this Halloween with another lost classic horror film from the seventies.
Brotherhood of Satan is a very odd little movie from 1971 that escapes its low budget, drive-in picture trappings to become a solid and effective horror treasure.
The plot is simple as it tells the story of a family of three who run afoul of a group of small town, senior citizen, Satan worshipers who are using children to find eternal youth and bring back the Devil himself.
The cult is led by its high priest played by one of the greatest character actors who ever lived, Strother Martin. Most famous for his oft quoted role in the classic Cool Hand Luke, he was an actor mostly known for westerns and films set in the South, but he did take a side step into horror three times beginning with this film and followed by Ssssss in 1973, and the so-so Nightwing in 1979, not long before his death.
Martin throws himself into the juicy role of the town doctor that hides his secret of being the master of the satanic cult that operates under the nose of the townspeople and their sheriff. He knows this is campy material but plays it straight and his scenes where he prays to his “congregation” are done with great flair and seriousness. He is great fun to watch and gives the film’s best performance.
The sheriff is played by another great character actor, and real life best friend of Strother Martin, L.Q. Jones. Jones also wrote the screenplay, which seems odd since he was also a western mainstay working with the likes of Howard Hawks and Sam Peckinpah. Nothing he had done before would lead us to believe he could write or had any interest in horror films. Mind you, his script isn’t rock solid but it is quite rich throughout and works as a film thanks to the energy of the cast and director.
Directed by Bernard McEveety, who did only this one horror film before continuing his career directing television shows, it is a film that, at times, lacks a bit in pacing but makes up in interest, acting, and creepiness.
One standout is the set design. The small town is like a run-down Mayberry or any small town you saw on television in the sixties. The movie was filmed around Albuquerque, New Mexico and that state’s landscapes add greatly to the film’s realistic tone and look. The scenes of the cult worshiping are well staged and the look of the altar and worship area is quite eerie and properly populated with elaborate candles and pentagrams.
The children in the film are very creepy and the oft used line “Come in, children” takes on a sinister meaning that will send shivers. It was also used as the title in many countries overseas.
All in all the film can be a tad predictable and silly here and there but the stand out horror scenes and the creepy finale completely make up for its shortcomings. It is a fun, if imperfect, screenplay.
Great devilish atmosphere, moody lighting, over done fog machines, and sly music lead Brotherhood of Satan to be a blast of a horror romp and a lively entry in the annals of seventies satanic horror.
3 ½ out of 5
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