It’s a family outing in the sun for KT’s eighth birthday, suddenly and unexpectedly rained off; driving home in silence, the radio on with reception increasingly poor, they come across an accident, skid marks where another car left the road and was wrecked. The nearest town Hillsboro, they make their way there to inform the sheriff, but even considering the bad news they carry the welcome the receive is not what they expected.
Children missing, their parents murdered, twenty-six dead across six families, nobody has been able to leave the town of Hillsboro for three days, and as outsiders unknown to the nervous townsfolk suspicion falls on Ben, Nicky and KT who now find they also cannot leave, leading the sheriff to seek answers elsewhere, seeking advice and guidance in the local doctor and priest.
A 1971 low-budget horror of small-town paranoia, The Brotherhood of Satan was directed by Bernard McEveety from a script by William Welch based on a story by Sean MacGregor, starring Major Dundee’s L Q Jones as Sherriff Pete, over his head as the bloody bodies pile up in the icehouse, leaning perhaps too heavily on the kindly Doctor Duncan (Nightwing’s Strother Martin).
Unjustly overlooked for many years and now presented on Blu-ray by Arrow, the early scenes are disjointed to the point of incomprehensible, their meaning only becoming apparent much later in a film which at times seems a cascade of disconnected characters in a town which harbours a secret coven of devil worshippers as fractious and ready to turn on each other as the locals on whom they prey.
At times surreal and primal, The Brotherhood of Satan is certainly as good as many higher profile films of the era such as The Devil’s Rain and Race with the Devil but in some ways it remains a film of two mismatched halves, the members of the cult tearing apart their unfortunate associate who has strayed from the faith with absolute conviction while the investigation is hampered by soap acting.
The occasional speckle aside, the print is clear and the colours vibrant, showcasing the impressive sets of the satanic temple, and the new edition also carries interviews with Jonathan Erickson Eisley and Alyson Moore who played two of the abducted children, a commentary from Kim Newman and Sean Hogan which sets the film within the context of creepy kids and devil worship and an video essay by David Flint who considers how the repeal of Britain’s Witchcraft Act in 1951 influenced the counter culture movement of the sixties and cinema in the following decades.