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The Redeemer: Son of Satan! (1978)

Aka The Redeemer, Class Reunion Massacre

Director: Constantine S. Gochis
Starring: Damien Knight, Jeanetta Arnette, Nick Carter, Nikki Barthen, T.G. Finkbinder, Michael Hollingsworth, Gyr Patterson
Rated R  Running time: 84 minutes

Once again, the fine folks at Code Red have rescued another horror oddity from the pits of obscurity. This one was originally released on VHS as Class Reunion Massacre, in one of those giant boxes that almost always seemed to house sleazy horror. Continental had some of the greatest video box covers in history. (Fred Adelman has lovingly scanned and cataloged a whole bunch of them, and hosts an impressive gallery on the web. You can check it out HERE.) For some reason or another, I never rented it back then. I'm kind of glad I didn't, because the new Code Red DVD looks about as good as this near-forgotten sorta gem will ever look, and features some cool trailers from other off-the-wall new releases.

The plot of the film falls directly in between the two titles. A handful of graduates from the class of 1967 convene on their (now long closed) high school for a reunion. These characters are all introduced during a fiery sermon given by one of the angriest preachers (T.K. Finkbinder) ever captured on film. There's a nice almost giallo touch to the introductions. While each yearbook photo is shown, the preacher reads out the character's crimes against god and nature, while a gloved killer slices their photos from the yearbook. While some characters are major league buttholes (a boorish jock turned womanizing jerk, a sleazy money-grubbing lawyer, a rich lady who shoots live pigeons just for the hell of it), a couple of them don't seem so deserving of death, particularly the floozy, the lesbian, and the gay actor. Anyhow, it's not me who is doing the judging here, and evidently our way hostile preacher thinks they are the scum of the earth. And, conveniently enough, so does our mystery killer.

Oh, did I mention the weird kid who emerges from a lake in a rock quarry in the beginning of the film? He's pretty important to the story, but I won't reveal that little secret here.

The Redeemer has some of the more inventive murder set pieces of its era. Grim reapers terrorizing lesbians, flame thrower-wielding puppets, bathroom clown attacks, and a really cool theatrical bit (featuring another puppet) that signals the end of one of the characters. In some ways, the film is typical of the low-rent slasher fare of the day, but it's these touches of weirdness that make the film work much better than it probably should.

IMDB lists this film as the only credit for director Constantine S. Gochis. I couldn't find very much about him on the web, regrettably. However, The Redeemer is listed as one of the flicks writer/musician/artist/and all-around cool guy Stephen Thrower is featuring in his sequel to NIGHTMARE USA. If Thrower keeps turning out the good work, we'll soon know more about Mr. Gochis than you probably wanted to know. I mean that in a good way. If you don't have that book yet, you should buy it immediately. And while you're at it, pick up a copy of The Redeemer: Son of Satan!


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