Aesthetically and conceptually Satan’s Blade is a piece of shit. It’s a slasher film that has 60 minutes between slashes and is full of dopey logic and amateur stylings. It makes you wonder why films like this have such devoted followings and deserve lavish home video restorations like the one Arrow Video have just provided for this film (how I saw it). Everything about Satan’s Blade is way below average.
I liked this film quite a bit. Interestingly, it was shot mid-1980 which dates it before the first Friday the 13th meaning it wasn’t following some kind of formula. The similarities – woodland killer, cabins – are merely coincidental. It has a pretty amazing first ten minutes too. The film starts with a bank robbery for some reason and packs enough fake outs and double bluffs into its initial moments most films of this ilk fail to achieve in 90 minutes. As soon as that’s over, it becomes something far more familiar and, as I stated above, there’s a hefty middle sequence that is kill-free and full of dead air.
Still, it has that shitty 80s horror aesthetic that I really love (bunch of amateurs taking a camera into the woods and just figuring shit out there and then; do or die!) and there’s a memorable piano motif for a score which feels both corny and charming. There’s some unusual touches, like a pair of married couples in their 20s in the core group of protagonists and odd side characters (notice the motel owner with a broken arm). The killer is also amusingly vague for the majority of the running time. Little more than a pair of gloved hands reaching into frame and misplaced POV shots (Argento this guy aint), you never get a sense of threat from the killer. When their identity is revealed and the mythology around them clarified, at first you can’t help but laugh and find it fucking ridiculous but after a few minutes I actually found it pretty cool.
I have a soft spot for movies like this. As shitty as Satan’s Blade is, if this avoided being stuck on the shelf and was released either the same year or immediately after Friday the 13th it would probably held in higher regard, but coming out when it did as the genre was starting to wear thin, it was just too little too late. Watching now though, you can appreciate its very slim merits and look past its endless flaws. If you’re an 80s slasher nut, there’s just something about this film that is hard to deny.