Satanic cults and themes were rampant in the pop culture psyche in the 70s and 80s. At first, it was more of a running theme in the book and film world, thanks to the popularity of Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist. Both films (and the books that they were based on) focused on paranoia and religious entities that were once considered taboo to touch on. Rosemary’s Baby gave the already stressful notion of motherhood a hellish twist while The Exorcist showed that evil doesn’t care how rich or old you are. These are probably the most popular titles, but actually fall in the center of several other titles that played off religious fears.
THE BROTHERHOOD OF SATAN was released in 1971 at select drive-ins where attendees were given “Satan’s Soul Seeds.” Customers were to sow all but one seed. As for the one seed, “if Satan’s Soul blooms red or pink, you are safe. If the blossom is white, you must wear the unplanted seed in an amulet on a chain close to your heart until the flower withers and dies to protect you from THE BROTHERHOOD OF SATAN.” The seeds were actually just fava beans, but this is the type of gimmick that I live for. The included booklet with Arrow’s release shows a photocopy of what that packet looks like. The booklet includes a more detailed reflection of Satanic-themed movies during that time that’s perfect for those searching for deep cuts to watch.
The movie opens with a car being crushed almost in a toy-like fashion. A family consisting of father Ben, girlfriend Nicky, and Ben’s daughter K.T. are driving through the Southwest when they come across the destroyed vehicle. They reach out to the town of Hillsboro to report the accident but are greeted with hostility and insane locals. It is quickly learned that several of the town children have gone missing and the locals claim to have the inability to leave. Rumors of a Satanic cult at play come about and they become a pawn in a larger ritual.
THE BROTHERHOOD OF SATAN is not exactly exploitation cinema, common for the Arrow Video label. Yes, there’s Satan and crazy worshippers, but the violence is limited and rituals don’t play out until the final act. It acts more of a paranoid thriller as characters shoot down the theories while others embrace any kind of absurdity. Kids play a big part here, which leads to “The Children of Satan,” a set of interviews with child actors Jonathan Erickson Eisley and Alyson Moore. They reflect on their time on set and how they scored their roles, especially as nonprofessional actors. For those interested in the Satanic panic, David Flint gives a brand new visual essay here. On top of an image gallery, the disc includes the trailers, TV and radio spots.
According to the booklet, SATAN is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 with mono sound. The master was produced and supplied by Sony Pictures. While neither visual nor soundtrack is anything to brag about, the movie comes off as clean as it probably will ever be. The audio feels a bit flat but reminiscent of the design utilized at the time. While one won’t feel lost in the sound mix, at least it comes off clear and subtitles aren’t necessary unless preferred (yes, they are included).
THE BROTHERHOOD OF SATAN is recommended to those interested in the sub-genre and Arrow Video gives enough special features to justify a purchase. You can now order the Blu-ray here!