Some movies are difficult to decipher and are just plain weird, but for whatever reason they stay with you, tickling the back of your mind enticing you to revisit. The Brotherhood of Satan is one such feature that I’ve been thinking about for the last three years and last night came my long-awaited second viewing. We follow a family that becomes trapped in a small desert town where many of its children have mysteriously vanished, leaving the remaining adults bewildered and on edge. Little do they know that a coven of elderly Satanists is recruiting the youngsters as a bizarre means of divine worship.
By not relying on expository dialogue, The Brotherhood of Satan carries with it a surreal quality, allowing audiences to just watch and take in a series of strangely sinister acts perpetrated against people who are in the way or trying to escape the powers that be. John Arthur Morrill’s cinematography is vital in capturing the film’s eerie mood, with many still shots almost creating the illusion of an unseen observer, adding to the already prominent dream-like feel. Set design for our antagonists’ secret location are a little on the cheesy side, but they look great, making full use of various symbols and colour schemes synonymous with that cliché appearance of a black mass, and giving this obscure piece a lot of character. There’s a noticeable absence of big-name actors except for late bloomer Strother Martin in dual roles as the town doctor and satanic high priest, like many of B-picture roles he hams it up to high heaven, terrific as always. It’s also worth noting that a young Geri Reischl, who would later go down in history as “Fake Jan” in the ill-fated Brady Bunch Variety Hour makes her big-screen debut of as little K.T.
Some fans have stated that The Brotherhood of Satan is a horror film too smart for its own good as the cryptic narrative was often lost on a large percentage of the target audience. While I somewhat agree, I think it’s just a simple case of two or more viewings to remedy any confusion, plus will be left with a great appreciated of the cult classic as I was.
If I’ve managed to pique your interest, you can a watch The Brotherhood of Satan online and completely free via streaming service Crackle.
THE BROTHERHOOD OF SATAN
(1971, dir: Bernard McEveety)