ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dustin Fallon runs Horror and Sons and I really appreciate him also writing for our site from time to time. He’s always been a big promoter of what we do and has been instrumental when it comes to sharing things and getting writers for our many projects. Plus, he’s super nice!
The Brotherhood of Satan is a lower-budgeted 1971 horror film from director Bernard McEveety. McEveety had previously directed a couple of Chuck Conners-starring Western films in the 1960’s, but had otherwise spent his career working in television until this film’s release. He started with 1960’s-era television Westerns, such as The Big Valley and The Virginian, working until the late 1980’s, directing episodes of shows such as Simon & Simon and (my personal favorite) The Misfits of Science.
Despite dealing with the still relatively “taboo” topic of Satanic cults, The Brotherhood of Satan was released to theaters with a “PG” rating, meaning that it was deemed “safe enough” for impressionable children to view, albeit in the company of a parent of guardian, which we can safely assume probably didn’t happen (and which the theaters were probably willing to overlook.) However, the rating seems immediately questionable as the film starts with a family being brutally crushed to death as a tank rolls over their car. The audience is treated to their screams being snuffed out as they each slip under the tank’s treads. While the act isn’t overly gory and the car is clearly empty, there’s still a few bloody limbs sticking out of the wreckage afterwards. Ah, good ol’ family fare!
Soon after, Ben (Charles Bateman, who has a ton of TV acting credits, but whose single role I’ll choose to list is that of “C.C. Capwell” on the soap opera Santa Barbara) and his girlfriend, Nicky (Ahna Capri – Piranha, Enter The Dragon), are travelling down the road on their way to Grandma’s house, where they will be having a birthday party for Ben’s daughter, KT (played by a young Geri Reischl, aka “Fake Jan Brady”), who currently sits in the backseat. They come across the flattened car as it lays just off the side of the road. Horrified, they drive to the nearest town to report what they’ve discovered.
They roll into town in search of the local sheriff (LQ Jones, who co-wrote the story with Alvey Moore, who appears as the deputy, “Tobey”), but the meeting goes awry when Ben is treated as a suspect by the sheriff and townsfolk alike. The family makes a high-speed flight back out of town when one citizen appears, carrying an axe that he seems more than willing to use on Ben. However, they are forced to return not long after when they run their car off the road after swerving to avoid a little girl they “thought” they saw. Upon returning to the town, they’re informed of strange happenings occurring as of late, including several murders, the disappearance of a dozen small children, and the mysterious “force” that has been preventing anyone from entering or leaving the town. Anyone, that is, except for Ben and his family!
A coven of Satanists, lead by local doctor Strother Martin, are behind the deaths and other strange events. The coven have been abducting children to use in a ritual in which the members, the majority of whom are senior citizens, will use the children’s bodies as receptacles for their own souls to occupy in an attempt to cheat death. Through supernatural (and not suitably explained) means, they use the children’s own toys to murder anyone who gets in their way. See? More fun for the whole family!
Within time, KT also goes missing, claimed by the Brotherhood as a potential vessel for one of the member’s “re-birth”. By this point, the local priest has deduced what is happening to the town, but he serves little use from here on. Ben, Nicky, and the sheriff finally converge on the coven’s hidden location in an attempt to rescue the children, but things don’t end up as pleasant and happy as one might expect them to, especially in a PG rated film.
Nothing I’ve said so far in this review is spoilerific. The Brotherhood of Satan makes no real attempt to hide it secrets. Sure, it keeps “what is happening?” a mystery for the film’s opening moments, but quickly lays all of its cards on the table by the end of the first act. This approach unarguably robs the film of any suspense factor. The only real surprise from this point forward is if the “bad guys” win and who dies in the process. To answer the second half of that…. a lot. A lot of people die. Again, PG.
This is a purely personal note, but one factor that I enjoy about the film is that there is never any sense that the “good guys” are winning. They are always one step behind and their efforts, while valiant, always ultimately feel futile. Granted, that’s most horror movies. However, when the “good guys” are getting their asses handed to them by the residents of Shady Pines, I find it more than a little amusing.
The Brotherhood of Satan is available on Blu-ray courtesy of Mill Creek Entertainment as part of the “Psycho Circus” 3-movie set (along with The Creeping Terror and Torture Garden), as well as on a double-feature blu-ray disc with William Castle’s Mr. Sardonicus.