10 January, 2009

Exploitation Cinema

To get me in the mood for Horrorfest, I fired up the Exploitation Cinema double-shot I picked up at Best Buy recently. I didn't even notice that it was "Exploitation Cinema" and not "Welcome to the Grindhouse" until after I watched the movies and was putting the disc back in the case. But the format is exactly the same, complete with trailers and intermission. Speaking of the trailers, I saw two that really looked interesting - Nightmare, and Beyond the Door, which look like (in loose terms) X-rated versions of Nightmare on Elm Street and Rosemary's Baby, respectively. Those are definitely titles I'd like to check out if they're available.

Satan's Slave (1976)

The first title in this double feature is another witch-cult movie (the classic British kind, that is) - I say "another" because it's structurally similar to Virgin Witch, which I've seen before. I'm sensing a cultural difference here, as "backwoods family" films in America tend to deal with in-bred cannibals living on farms, whereas the same in the British film scene tend to deal with wealthy witch cults that live in nice mansions out in the country. Between the two, the cannibals might be a little scarier, but the witches are almost certainly sexier.

And saying that, there are a number of great scenes in Satan's Slave that involve Satanic rituals and naked women. The plot is your typical "city girl gets caught up in a country coven's secret plans" story, this time with the high priest desiring to resurrect a powerful witch (who was burned at the stake) by making a special sacrifice. The good scenes are good, but I'm afraid that overall, the film tends to drag. And the ending is kind of ambiguous, but it's bombastic, and really, you're not watching an exploitation film for the intricate plot details, right?

Terror (1978)

I felt that this title raised itself above "average" exploitation fare and was actually quite good. Here's the setup: a witch is burned at the stake (yes, another witch story), but casts a curse on the family that condemned her. It's present day, and the family's ancestors (and various innocent strangers that happen to get entangled in the plot) start dying off in gruesome ways as the ghost of the witch seeks revenge.

Instead of a flashback to tell the pre-story with the witch's original burning and cursing, this part is actually told in the form of a film-within-a-film created by the main character, who happens to be a film director (in the story) - and right at the beginning of the story, before you know it's just a film. I thought that was quite a clever and effective device.

The rest of the film is full of scares, as well as a decent share of raunch - between the club the girls work at, and the soft porn being filmed in the director's studio. All in all it makes for an entertaining time as you watch the witch take out each of her victims in, as the box says, "brutally inventive fashion".

And now let me mention one of the things that's so great about exploitation films. In a mainstream film similar to Terror, by the end of the movie, the witch's curse would probably either be left ambiguous or discounted entirely, and at least one member of the cursed family would make it through the ordeal alive, right? But here, since it's an exploitation film, that witch gets the job done, and you get to watch in satisfaction as she unambiguously kills off the last ancestor of the family that burned her alive, and there the film ends. No consolation. No resolution. Welcome to the grindhouse, baby. Similarly, in Satan's Slave, you expect the innocent girl to eventually make it out of the mess she finds herself in the middle of. No such luck. Satan's gonna have his slave, and there ain't nothin' you can do about it. Ah, exploitation is good.


  1. Why does she take so long to get her revenge?

  2. Heh, a very good question. If the film-within-a-film is any indication, she started getting revenge even before she finished burning. However, she waited hundreds of years to finish the job. My guess is, she wanted to savor the experience. Let a few of them live on here and there so she'd have more to kill later. >:)