Brotherhood of Satan (1971) – Film Review
Director: Bernard McEveety
Cast: Strother Martin, L.Q. Jones, Charles Bateman
By Sarah Morgan
“Do you want to review a 1971 film about satanists in small town America?” they asked. While many might shake their head in despair, I nodded eagerly.
I have a penchant for such movies, from the likes of Rosemary’s Baby, The Wicker Man and The Blood on Satan’s Claw to the much-maligned Virgin Witch and The Devil’s Rain. The Brotherhood of Satan comes between the two groups in terms of quality, and perhaps has more in common with a particular favourite of mine, Race with the Devil.
Released in 1975, Race with the Devil focuses on a group of people who unwittingly become caught up in a nightmare while travelling through hillbilly country on holiday – The Brotherhood of Satan follows much the same theme, yet predates it by four years.
The film opens as Ben, his girlfriend Nicky and young daughter KT are enjoying a road trip through the American southwest. All goes well until they spot a recent car wreck outside the town of Hillsboro and try to report it to the local sheriff, who informs them of a series of bizarre events in the area. Not only have several murders taken place, but many of the local children have vanished.
Ben and co find they have no choice but to stick around and help the sheriff and his friends face whatever malevolent force has invaded their town when their efforts to leave are continually thwarted in mysterious circumstances. What they uncover is a coven of ageing residents desperately hoping to be reborn, no matter what the cost.
The plot is actually pretty similar to that of John Blackburn’s 1968 novel Nothing But the Night, which was subsequently turned into a British horror movie in 1973, and was the only film made by Christopher Lee’s Charlemagne production company. That also featured ageing folk who hoped to take over the bodies of children in order to prolong their lives.
Although there is certainly nothing new or particularly original about the premise (alongside satanists, demonic children have long been a staple of horror cinema), the creepy atmosphere generated by director Bernard McEveety makes The Brotherhood of Satan stand out from the crowd. McEveety spent much of his career working in TV, which perhaps explains how he was able to create so much on a presumably meagre budget.
Plaudits should also go to LQ Jones, a familiar face thanks to his many acting credits, particularly in the movies of Sam Peckinpah. He plays the sheriff here but also wrote the screenplay and produced the film, alongside his friend Alvy Moore, who has a smaller role as Tobey the sheriff’s assistant.
The only bum note comes from Strother Martin. Perhaps best known for his semi-comic turns in Cool Hand Luke and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, he’s simply eccentric rather than genuinely menacing as the villain of the piece.
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
• Original uncompressed mono audio
• Optional English subtitles
• Brand new audio commentary by writers Kim Newman and Sean Hogan
• Satanic Panic: How the 1970s Conjured the Brotherhood of Satan, a brand new visual essay by David Flint
• The Children of Satan, exclusive new interview with actors Jonathan Erickson Eisley and Alyson Moore
• Original Trailers and TV and Radio Spots
• Image Gallery
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Richard Wells
Brotherhood of Satan is released on Blu-ray by Arrow, £24.99