Satan's Slave (1976)
Possibly the most famous film from director Norman J Warren (Terror, Inseminoid, Prey), Satan's Slave is also his most polished, generic and star-studded (take a bow, Michael Gough and Candace Glendenning). The high production values even stretch to some particularly gruelling gore effects, and despite only really being known of amongst diehard horror fans, it stands proudly as a worthy successor to Hammer (it even has the look and feel of one of the better Hammer House Of Horror TV episodes).
When it comes to tales of devil worship in modern times, all you really need are some flames, a couple of animal masks and copious amounts of female nudity, and Satan's Slave delivers all of that within the first few minutes - although if Warren wanted it to be a whodunit, the inclusion of Gough's unmistakable chocolatey tones over the goings-on ("Bring to me the vessel of reversal my child, lay you down on the altar " etc) rather gives the game away.
There's a scream (of course) and things cut to a young couple having dinner. She claims he's "lured" her to his country retreat and wants to get her drunk. And she's right. "You're like an animal you're insane!" she screams as he tries to rape her. He proves that, yes he is, by laughing insanely. Then he proceeds to slam her head in a door (nice) and messily stab her to death.
In a tower block another young couple are waking up, giving us yet another chance to see Glendenning in the buff (see also Tower Of Evil). The girl (Glendenning, obviously), whose name is Catherine, is off with her parents to see her Uncle Alexander, who lives 200 miles away. She's also been having premonitions: "As a matter of fact I have had a strange feeling about this trip, it's one of the main reasons I've decided to go "
Well, she should have listened to those nagging doubts, because on arrival at her uncle's house her father gently "crashes" his car into a tree. Mother is instantly killed (well, she's covered in a ridiculous amount of blood and staring into space), and as Catherine rushes to get help from the house the vehicle explodes, taking her father with it. Never was the use of seatbelts advocated more strongly - they can't have been going at more than five miles an hour, and the tree escaped without a scratch.
Enter Uncle Alexander (Gough) to the rescue, along with the rest of his odd household - Stephen (Martin Potter), his son (the nutter from scene two) and his secretary, Frances (Barbara Kellerman). Catherine gets put to bed and we find out that Stephen has already developed a crush on his cousin (naughty naughty), much to the ridiculously over-acting Frances' chagrin.
On waking up, Catherine seems strangely unperturbed by the loss of her parents. "Everything seems so unreal. Like a dream I can't accept the truth I can't accept that the car blew up before my eyes "
Uncle Alex (bless him) has got everything sorted out for her - the funeral's this afternoon and they're being buried in the garden. This is obviously not odd behaviour at all.
During a walk around the garden, Catherine gets attacked by a wind machine and has a vision of a naked blonde being tied to a tree by yokels, led by legendary horror film chap David McGillivray dressed as an unconvincing priest. The blonde is flogged, and the vision switches between images of Catherine's parents' car burning and Catherine herself getting fried at the stake. Weird.
After the funeral, Catherine is drawn to the grave stone of one Carmilla Yorke, and that night someone slips into her room and steals a bracelet.
Obviously deciding that things had slowed down a bit too much (there hasn't been any blood or nudity for at least five minutes), the film goes into nutcase overdrive at this point. Catherine's boyfriend (chubby ex Doctor Who companion Michael Craze) is taken over by Satanic forces in the lift of their apartment (unfortunately, the combination of the setting, a manic soundtrack and Craze's gurning only serves to give the impression that the lift muzak is being played too loud) and chucks himself off the roof, the camera lovingly zooming in on his mangled corpse.
Catherine then has another vision, this time of an extremely naked woman being sacrificed on an altar by another extremely naked woman (all shot at minge level tasteful), with the scene changing to one of Catherine herself covered in snakes.
Catherine and Stephen then get it on (honestly woman, your parents aren't cold in their grave, you've got a (admittedly dead, but she doesn't known that) boyfriend, and he's your cousin! Girls these days, I don't know )
The next morning, far from feeling ashamed of her behaviour, Catherine is positively revelling in it. "I feel marvellous today. There is a reason you. You made me fall in love with you!"
Do the Samaritans know about this? Death and psychosis, cured by one night of vaguely incestuous rumpy-pumpy. Who'd have thought it?
Frances, aware that she's been spurned by Stephen, tells Catherine the real reason she's being kept there - Alexander is trying to resurrect Camilla, a witch who just happens to be Catherine's ancestor. And it's Catherine's 20th birthday tomorrow
To go into much more detail would spoil it for the rest of you, but suffice to say that there's a few more shocks (and a reasonable twist) to come, including some nasty stabbings and one astonishingly gory nail file - eyeball death which has to be seen to be believed. It appears I only saw the "less strong" UK print (as opposed to the extra nasty European one), but I can't think I missed much.
Satan's Slave is yet another obscure Brit horror gem - much like all of Warren's work it's a film which deserved a wider audience. With less sadism and not quite so many front bottoms, it might have become as regular a fixture on late night TV as Lust For A Vampire (plenty of boobs) or The Devil Rides Out (mucho diabolicus). Instead it was destined to be a little-known classic, with little hope of much attention, despite a typically scene stealing turn from the ever reliable Gough. It's a real shame when you think that a well made, expensive-looking film like this has ended up being lumped in in the horror consciousness with trash like the terrible Virgin Witch
Last updated: February 27, 2010
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