Satan's Blade

It took over 100 years... but the blade got even.

Year of Release: 1984
Genre: Horror
Rated: Not Rated
Running Time: 82 minutes (1:22)
Director: L. Scott Castillo Jr.


Tom Bongiorno ... Tony
Elisa R. Malinovitz ... Lisa
Stephanie Leigh Steel ... Stephanie
Thomas Cue ... Al
Janeen Lowe ... Lil
Ramona Andrada ... Sue
Diane Taylor ... Rita
Marti Neal ... Marlene
Susan Bennett ... Mary
Ski Mark Ford ... Ski
Fred Armond ... Ben


The haunting legend of the mountains becomes shocking reality when seemingly innocent holiday-makers become victims of sadistic stabbings. Romance and murder are horrifyingly entangled. Satan's blade will stop at nothing.


Satan's Blade, remindin' us that bobbing for apples may be an amusing party game, but bobbing for kitchen cutlery is best left to the professionals.

And speakin' of things that seem like a good idea until you get a fork into 'em, has anybody else noticed that the older ya get the harder it is to succeed at goosin'? You'd think that between a lifetime of accumulated experience and the various scientific enhancements uncovered in recent years that it woulda gotten easier, but I'm here to tell ya - it's rough out there.

I've never much cared for it myself - way too much work for a few minutes of fun; but Billy Hilliard decided to use his tax refund on a brand new Mossberg 940 Autoloader and just couldn't wait till pheasant season like a normal human bein', and so we loaded Apollo into the Sierra, picked up Cleave Furguson and Mindy, and hauled on over to Outhouse Creek to explode a few fowl.

We musta sat out there in that stand of frost-bitten cattails for three hours, but the only honks we heard all came outta Sty Sullivan when he pulled off the Roadkill Loop access road in his Dodge Sweptline to tell us how he used to plug four or five of "those Canadian sonsabitches" before school every mornin'. Really wouldna been that bigga deal, 'cept every 40 seconds or so he'd hafta stop to blow that hanky howitzer he calls a nose and set off all the car alarms in Twin Falls.

We tried everything to get one to land - goose calls, duck calls, cat calls, unflattering remarks about Justin Trudeau, I even peeled the cornbread offa my corny dogs and tossed it into the creek; zero, forget it. 'Bout all that happened was a coupla carp swam up to munch the breading and Cleave thought it'd be funny as hell to pump a turkey round into one and scare the tar outta everybody. On a related note - turns out a guy's a lot less sympathetic to a man pleadin' not to be dunked in nine-degree water when his ears're still ringin' from the shockwave of an unexpected shotgun blast, but in our defense, we did let 'im sit next to the heater on the ride back.

I could see Billy was pretty bummed about not gettin' to fill the air with goose down like a slumber party scene from a late '70s sex comedy, so I reallocated all the mental resources I'd dedicated to findin' a more sadistic punishment for Cleave's asshattery into devisin' a new huntin' strategy.

"Ya know, if you're not picky about whatcher shootin' I know a place where you can still try that out," I offered.

"WHA?" Billy hollered, his ears still clamped shut followin' the effects of Cleave's comedy stylins.


'HANG AH," he instructed, pluggin' his nose and forcin' his ear canals open.

"You're gonna Cronenberg your skull doin' that one of these days," I chided.

"Ah'm fime," he insisted, pushin' his mildly bulged eyeball back into its socket.

"I said-- look, just take a left up here past that haystack," I instructed.

"Why? Nothin' out there but the dump," Cleave chattered, clutching Mindy for additional warmth.

"Worst-case scenario, it's a good place to bury YOU where nobody'll ever find ya, chuckles," I threatened.

Now, I realize they may not be highly sought-after game animals, and I don't deny that you'd hafta be pretty desperate to fry one up for supper, but I'll be damned if we didn't have fun blowin' all those seagulls outta the sky, and with the dump closed on Sundays there wasn't a soul out there to hassle us. Or so we thought.

"Not very sporting," Cleave remarked as he drew a bead on a gull perched atop a discarded Maytag appliance.

"This from a guy who works all week mountin' trophy animals shot from a heated huntin' blind on private property. You spoze he ever offers that criticism to his clientele?" I asked Billy, but he just chuckled and dropped another garbage gut as it swooped down on a nearby tuna can.

"'Sides, it was startin' to look like a Hitchcock movie out here and they needed to be thinned a bit," I added, feigning a sense of social conscience.

I dunno how many boxes of shells we went through, but my shoulder still feels like Morten Anderson used it for kickoff warmups. No big deal though, 'cause Billy was pleased with the performance of his new artillery, and my little detour had salvaged an otherwise wasted afternoon. Really, there woulda been nothin' to write the internet about if we'd left right then instead of hangin' around to gather our vanquished foes into a heap of foolish pride, as we woulda bypassed our surprise guest.

"Who goes there?!" a desiccated, yet strangely authoritative voice demanded.

"Cheese it! It's the packrat patrol!" Cleave panicked.

"Bullstuff! Skeet ain't in his scale shanty, look," I pointed toward the station where Skeet Snooks normally charges ya nine bucks to dump 780,000 years' wortha non-biodegradable material.

"Landfillistines! You have slaughtered His servants and defied his will!" the voice continued.

"I swear to God, if this's Ronald McDonald..." I started sayin' until Apollo and Mindy stepped in front of us and started growlin'.

"Behond, Sylvia, the heretics challenge us in His domain!" the figure asserted, rising from behind a soiled La-Z-Boy, his hazy, yet familiar identity beginning to take shape.

"Mackow, iv 'ah you ya goofy bafdard?" Billy squinted.

"They know too much! Sylvia, attack!" the officer formerly known as Angus Mackle shouted.

Sylvia, it seems, was a coyote the nutbar had somehow managed to tame, and at his urging, she sprang from a concealed position shielded by numerous bags of lawn clippings.

'Course we were completely outta ammo by then, but Apollo and Mindy charged out to meet our assailant, causing it momentary pause and blocking its path to our position.

"Sylvia! Finish them!" Mackle barked from a defensible position behind an ancient Kelvinator.

Sylvia was pretty small even by coyote standards, and it was clear to everyone except Mackle that if she did follow orders she didn't stand a chance. Fortunately it never came to that, 'cause after slowly slinkin' over to the dogs she stopped, sniffed Apollo's muzzle, let out a little whimper, and... presented.

"Treacherous canis! You are unfit to serve his..." he began ravin' only nobody could make out the rest of it 'cause by that point we were all in the throes of hysterical laughter.

"Betcha didn't see that one comin', Nostradumbass!" Cleave howled.

Mackle took his leave moments later but stopped short to offer a few parting words.

"Revenge may be a dish that's best served cold, but heat can do wonders, or so I'm told!"

By the time we got back to the Sierra the daytime temperature had risen into the high '40s and the snow we'd parked on had melted into the already spongy dirt road. Took us three hours to get the truck outta that mud pit, and somehow that cracked creepola knew it'd happened. I'm not sayin' I'm scared or anything, but I'll say this much - I'd sure sleep a lot better if that whackadoo'd get a job at La Toya's Psychic Network and stay indoors like the other undiagnosed schizophrenics.

Needless to say, by the time we were back on the road in the pitch blackness we were exhausted, starvin', and so filthy that the only logical course of action was to head for home and find a flick that'd gone so far sideways that it'd make our little excursion seem quaint by comparison, so as soon as I'd stuffed a coupla bags of pizza rolls into the oven I immediately reached for Satan's Blade. I've yet to involve myself in a fiasco so humiliatin' that this baby can't put my situation into proper perspective, and I'd highly recommend it to anybody who feels like they've made an irredeemable mess of things 'cause it's guaranteed to make ya feel 10x better about your own situation afterwards. Some enterprising congressmen oughta write a bill enshrinin' into law a mandate that all suicide hotlines hafta keep a streaming link to this flick on hand to distribute to people on the brink, 'cause in the right hands, it could be the life-savin' tool this country needs to restore hope to a weary populace.

I'm not tryna say it's some kinda miracle cure that'll work for everyone, and I understand that sometimes things're so bad that you may hafta consult Dr. Manos for a proper self-esteem boost, but I'm fully confident that Satan's Blade is exactly the kinda flick to help a person move past minor missteps like photocopyin' your junk at the office Christmas party. So, if you'll indulge me a moment, I'll try makin' the case for its over-the-counter use with a few examples of its unique, therapeutic pick-me-ups. First, bulletproof blouses are one of the leading causes of botched bank heists and should always be removed to prevent unexpected rackochets. Second - give a woman a fish and you feed her for a day, but teach the younger, sexier, free-spirited gal next door to fish and your wife's divorce attorney's gonna take you to the cleaners. And third, Hell's armorer has all the artistic vision of a Soviet building contractor.

The movie begins with a coupla crooks forcin' their way into a Fisher Price Baby's First Financial Institution bank set where they proceed to kill two aspiring trophy wives and make off with a bounty somewhere in the high two figures. Turns out the thieves're actually just a coupla co-eds (Ruth and Trish) with dreams of havin' the kinda scratch necessary to buy matchin' underwear, only when they arrive at their rendevous location in the snowy reaches of Big Bear, Ruth gets greedy and blasts the Chef Boyardee squib strapped to Trish's diaphragm so she won't hafta split the 87 big ones. Ruth decides to drag Trish outside and bury 'er in the snowbank so nobody'll find 'er until the spring thaw when all the bears emerge from their caves hungry enough to eat a frozen, direct-to-tv dinner, 'cept when she opens up the front door she gets shanked in the pancreas by some irate beaver trapper who can't stand to see a good pelt go to waste. Next thing, the Natty Light Cops show up to investigate and find the gals racked up on the staircase with a hastily slathered Astrology readin' congealing on the wall and just kinda scratch their noodles until they give up and head into town for their annual head lice treatment. Then two married couples (Tony, Lisa, Al, and Lil) and a van fulla college girls (Stephanie, Sue, Rita, Marlene, and Mary) show up at the ski lodge where the caretaker agrees to rent Chateau Prego to the girls on the condition that they listen to his mama tell the tale of Maul Bunyan who, according to legend, made a pact with Satan, Earth First, and Citizens for Decency to safeguard the woods against contamination by sex-positive young people who play Blue Oyster Cult on their boom boxes and threaten the serenity of nature.

Everybody settles in for the night but pretty quick Sue starts dreamin' that all 'er friends're bein' slaughtered by a gnarly backwoods wendigo satyr, and by the time she wakes up Tony and Al've gotten themselves blitzed on 40 proof and dressed up like a snowbound baboon so they can knock on the girls' door and scare 'em outta their hooter harnesses. Lisa is P.O.'d, so the next mornin' when Tony asks 'er to go fishin' with 'im she basically tells 'im that he's gonna be baitin' his own hook for a while, only when Tony heads down to the lake Stephanie follows and tries to jump his pole and for a while it's lookin' like he might take 'er up on 'er offer to drown his worm until he realizes that if he gives in now he's basically forfeited all the money he spent on marriage counseling and so Stephanie gets 'er zoning redesignated from erogenous to friend. A few hours pass without a single nibble of either Stephanie or nightcrawler, so Stephanie goes for a walk and Tony resolves to swallow his pride and reassure Lisa that he's much happier sittin' at home watchin' Three's Company reruns with her than gettin' 'imself tangled up in Stephanie's fishnets like a horny salmon and this makes Lisa so randy that the two of 'em end up makin' the sign of the hypoxic frost donkey even though it's not Thursday. Eventually night falls and Stephanie hasn't returned but the girls just assume she's out doin' some homewreckin' at the sasquatch residence or somethin' and continue to giggle and remove their tops like nothin's wrong until someone sneaks in and drowns one gal in 'er own dishwater and knifes the others for slingin' their Tetons all over his mountain unbidden.

Needless to say, when Stephanie comes home and realizes she's gonna get stuck with the entire rental fee she flips out and runs over to the couples' cabin in the hope that some of 'em'll jump ship and go halfsies, but after Al inspects the aftermath of the hooter holocaust next door his advanced doctorate in roadkill collection tells 'im that his best chance for survival is to drag Lil through the snow-covered, pitch black hills sans long johns, and they end up gettin' devil daggered and left out to freeze into slaughter pops. Then the chillbilly comes back to the couples' cabin to finish what he started and kills the lights so we can watch two silhouettes square dance on the ceilin' until Tony gets lanced through the liver with a fire poker, leavin' Lisa to fend for 'erself against the wrath of Ice Rube who snaps 'er neck like a frostbitten toe and drops 'er just close enough to the bed that she can see Stephanie's cowerin' countenance hidin' underneath. Think I'm gonna stop right here 'cause if I told ya how this one ends it'd probably reduce the number of people interested in seein' it from two to negative four, but I do wanna reassure everyone that the threat of a sequel turned out to be a hollow one, and that when it's all over none of these people will be able to hurt you anymore.

Alrighty, well, Satan's Blade certainly gives ya an idea of just how high the demand for new home video titles was in the mid-to-late '80s, 'cause after about half an hour you'll be beggin' for Don't Go in the Woods. In all fairness, unlike Don't Go in the Woods, I don't think it'd be accurate to write Satan's Blade off as a Friday the 13th clone, as it looks as though it *might* have been filming before Friday the 13th was released. The dwindling snowpack and warmer temperatures would suggest they started filming somewhere around April or May of 1980, and Friday the 13th released on May 9th of that year. Granted, it took four years before the director was able to secure distribution, but that's neither here nor there.

The picture was filmed at Big Bear Lake in California for "less than half a million dollars," which is both technically correct and also something you might say when you don't want to reveal the exact amount, though I can't fathom why you wouldn't wanna just come out and say that the flick's budget was $50,000 (or less), since doin' so would provide a certain amount of cover for its shortcomings. I don't claim to have a mind for the business, but it seems to me that it'd be far more embarrassing to have spent, say, $400,000 on this turkey than a mere $40,000. It should also be mentioned that the director is one of those guys who, when discussing film, will tell you that filmmaking "is a business, not an art," and in my experience, most guys who say that tend to make some pretty rank flicks. Herschell Gordon Lewis was perhaps the most famous member of that breed, although, to his credit, Lewis had a tremendous grasp of marketing, understood what an audience wanted to see, and was a true visionary who was willing to go places other filmmakers wouldn't and broach taboo subjects. I feel like a Grade-A jackass comparing Herschell's work to Satan's Blade given how important and revolutionary it was in spite of its low production values, but ultimately, Herschell wasn't an artist and genuinely believed that directors who thought they were making art were deluding themselves, and that seems to be an opinion also espoused by Castillo.

It's true that this was the first (and in many cases, last) film most of the cast and crew would ever work on, but it has so many fundamental flaws ranging from not understanding where the boom mic needs to be when shooting in 1.33:1 to keep it from appearing in 14 different shots, to accepting that it might be better to shoot on 16mm and use the money you saved on more qualified actors and/or special effects creators. Another truly astounding factoid in all this is that a distributor looked at the first draft and told Castillo that they'd buy the film if he would go back and add "two more murders, one topless scene, and a hint of lesbianism," as though that would make it marketable. Seriously? Say what you want about the movie, but the breast and body counts are not, and were not, among its inadequacies. On their own, these issues would make for a pretty disappointing outcome, but the thing that I keep coming back to is the amount of time dedicated to fleshing out the four central characters when A) the acting abilities of the entire cast preclude any chance of the audience identifying with, or caring about them (and after about two days of shooting the director must have known this), and B) knowing what your screenplay has in store for them. There's a reason most slasher flicks only take the time to flesh out one, maybe two characters, and it's because of the mutual understanding between the filmmaker and their audience that mosta these folks gon' die.

And let me just say, before I take this flick out back, tie it to a tree, and put it out of its misery - I take absolutely zero pleasure in rippin' apart an '80s slasher flick, let alone one of the ultra-rare snowbound variety, but even I have my limits. The plot bogs down after the opening robbery sequence, and while it is customary and perfectly acceptable to slow down and begin establishing characters and setting, this goes on far too long and without purpose given the fate of the cast. I kinda wonder if the opening sequence wasn't part of the original director's cut and that the heist was added to satisfy the distributor's demands, as it alone neatly addresses their list of demands. If that's the case, you can't fault Castillo for adding them, as it was either do so or lose a chance at distribution, but the caper subplot adds nothing and feels incongruent with the rest of the story. Honestly, the plot, mundane as it is, is probably among the film's strongest asset in the sense that it's not the primary source of fuel for this raging dumpster fire, although one might rightly ask why Al and Lil tried fleeing to town rather than the nearby Ski Lodge. Ya know, if you're not cynically assuming that the crew no longer had access to that location.

The acting ranges from nearly adequate to elementary school understudy, and while I'm not inclined to dogpile on a group of non-actors, I would also point out that, as much time as was apportioned out for character development among the primary cast, I literally could not name the more pitiful castmembers even if I was inclined to do so, as I was never able to discern which of the co-eds were which. Tom Bongiorno (definitely his real name) is alright as chronic nag victim Tony, Stephanie Steel isn't too bad as the homewrecker who keeps her top on, Thomas Cue is surprisingly decent given that he was the screenwriter, and Janeen Lowe should still be able to show her face at the office in the event her co-workers discover her involvement with the film. Everyone else caused me decades late sympathy pains for the humiliation they must have suffered at the hands of their friends and loved ones, but at the same time, considering they received one day off over the course of a 31-day shooting schedule (yeah, it took 31 days to film this), they were still better than the production deserved.

The special effects are limited in scope and brought to us through a generous donation of canned goods provided by Olive Garden. Hunts Traditional if I don't miss my guess, though the lighter shades of staining on the walls and superior clotting ability suggest they may have gone with the Four Cheese recipe. Regardless, we've got zero penetration shots in a flick where every victim but one is killed with a knife, and a minimal amount of blood spillage seeping from the victims' hands as they clutch their wounds. Pitiful. The wendigo satyr troll monster from the dream sequence with the pastrami glued to his face wouldn't be bad if they'd done it in closeup and not made it clear that it was the only part of him covered with an appliance, and rounding things out, there's also a little rotoscoped glow effect that pulses around the titular blade for the opening and closing sequences, which is unimpressive but up to the standards of the time. In short - the weak effects are less damaging than the acting, but they weren't able to live up to the incredibly low standard they set for themselves.

The shooting locations range from pathetic to awesome to downright stunning, with the only real weak point being the "bank" used for the opening heist sequence. They tried building a coupla teller stations and passing a random office off as a bank, but the sparsely decorated room belies the notion that the place was anything but a hastily assembled substitute. The cabins, and particularly the ski lodge/restaurant, however, are superb, though by and large, the interiors pale in comparison to the scenic mountain peaks and Big Bear Lake. Admittedly, the winter atmosphere is plainly fading as the spring thaw sets in and certain areas are reduced to residual snow drifts, but that's to be expected given the film's low budget and the fact that they will only have been given permission to shoot after the ski season had ended. This aspect of the film will likely inflate its overall score to a level it doesn't deserve, but the locations are nonetheless spectacular, and the cinematographer photographs them competently.

The soundtrack is better than you'd expect given the film's other problems. Martin Jaquish's synth score comes close to generating atmosphere and would likely succeed were the acting less amateurish, the dialogue more natural, and the special effects more ambitious. Regardless, it's fairly catchy at times (notably during the opening credits sequence) - though by the time the climax rolls around the over usage has blunted much of its effectiveness. The piano track scoring that accompanies the synth tracks are unincredible, inspiring no emotion of any kind, and serving no real purpose other than to bolster the flick's credibility as an honest-to-God feature film. Somebody was apparently a fan of Blondie's recent hit "Call Me" too, as those eight familiar borrowed notes stand out pretty clearly against the rest of the piano scoring. Additionally, the soothing acoustic guitar track that plays while Stephanie aimlessly wanders the woods is nice and fits the mood of the scene, and the woodwind solo would be okay had the recording not picked up all the musician's inhalations between sections. So it's kind of a mixed bag musically, but given how bad some of the other aspects are, you could probably get away with calling the score a win.

Overall, Satan's Blade suffers irreparable damage from its cast of untrained actors, poverty-row special effects, and technical problems that take the audience out of the movie every time they rear their heads. The constant presence of the boom mic in particular is a real killer, although it should be pointed out that the Slasher Films blu-ray has a matted version of the flick that, while presenting the movie outside its original aspect ratio, does remove the aforementioned problem and is probably the version to watch even if it does change the presentation. Even without the operator's frequent lowering of the boom, Satan's Blade ranks well below just about every other forest slasher ever produced and is only recommended to '80s completists and slasher enthusiasts. Believe me, when it's over you'll have newfound respect for titles like Rituals and The Forest.

Rating: 32%