Let me be the first to say that I'm not a fan of films that have to do with the subject of satanism, for a million and one reasons, which we won't get into now. I was raised in a Christian home and there were certain things that were considered taboo and forbidden in our household and that particular subject was one of them, point blank.
In the realm of horror films, there are many that touch on this particular subject - everything from The Exorcist to John Russo's Midnight. And though I've seen both those films, it's not because I was curious of the particular subject matter in each of those films. With that said, I was going through the DPP video nasty list - yet again - and I saw this one not only had made it to the list, but was actually prosecuted and banned under the Video Recordings Act of 1984 due to violence and the subject of satanism. I read more about this film and for some reason, I became interested in tracking it down and watching it, just to see what it was all about. I could relate to the plot: Nerdy kid gets picked on only to be able to get revenge, so this would be the basis of my reason for watching it.
I found out that Anchor Bay had released this film many years ago and was now out of print. Searching the net, I came across the original AB DVD that was selling for silly amounts of money (only because it was no longer being manufactured) and almost gave up until I found a collector who was willing to send me a DVD-R of said AB version so I could finally screen it. Well, needless to say when the DVD-R arrived, it was unplayable so I took that as a sign and gave up on seeing it altogether. Several months later, I actually did come across the out of print AB version at the local Rasputin's and picked it up used for about $9.95, which was much cheaper that what I'd been seeing it go for on the internet. My cousin and I sat down with popcorn in hand and put it into the DVD player. Was I nervous? Yes. Simply because...well, you know why. He, also, was uncomfortable with viewing the film as well but after an hour or so after talking him though it and promising that the slightest bit of "extremism" will prompt me to turn the movie off, no questions asked, he agreed. So we sat back, and waited for the next hour and a half to pass.
Son-of-a-b!tch I loved this movie! And I bet you're thinking, "what?"
So the movie opens with a bizarre sacrificing ritual about a guy who was banished from the church or something and commends his life to the devil, complete with nudie girl and everything. After this happens, we flash forward to the present day.
Stanley Cooper Smith (brilliantly played by Clint Howard) is attending a military academy and sadly, he isn't the most popular kid in school. He can't play soccer, he's a nerd, and all the guys hate him and pick on him. The superiors know of all this and do nothing to help the poor kid out and right away, you feel for him because the people around him make his life hell (no pun intended). So one day, Stanley finds this strange book which is the book of satan and he discovers that he can call upon the spirit of Estaban (which, in reality, is the name of the guy from the film's prologue) and wreak havoc on his classmates. Sort of like Carrie only with a Commodore 64 as the spirit of a dead guy as his tools. He uses the catacomb under the school to "practice" and soon enough, vengance is his.
There is plenty of gore here to boot and it's all done with such panache that you just can't ignore it. The film itself doesn't really delve into actual "satanism" as the spirit that Stanley calls upon isn't of the devil himself, but of someone who had been a follower. Sure, there are pentagrams at every turn and there are some brief moments of blasphemy that I had to overlook, but once I realized the "big picture", the film was actually surprisingly enjoyable. Maybe it's because I was picked on and tormented in school and deep inside I still harbor some unresolved issues? Maybe I would have liked the chance to "get back" at all those guys who picked on me on the school grounds and the athlectic fields? Maybe that's something I should save for my shrink?
At any rate the film boasts some fantastic and memorable moments. Everything from the pig rampage to the films ultra-gory climax. I enjoyed every minute of it. My cousin, surprisingly, enjoyed it just as much as I did. The gem of this whole production of course, is Clint Howard. He is just amazing in this and shows those bastards when it's time for their come-uppance. He plays the role of the outcast very well and when it's time for him to kick some ass, he KICKS SOME ASS. You can't help but root for the guy, especially when you see all that he's put through.
The ending is left pretty much ambigouous, leaving the viewer to figure out just what happened. Usually the good guys win in pictures like these, but in this case, we get the opposite. And for some reason, I liked that outcome. This one is a good time and I wouldn't say that if I really didn't have fun myself watching this forgotten piece of work. I remember seeing the VHS back in the 80's at Carl's Supermarket in Weslaco, Texas when I was in the seventh or eighth grade and the box art was something I never forgot. I wish that the DVD release put out by AB would have had the U.S. poster art instead of a derivative of the UK version. The picture is great and the soundtrack is just as good. I would say this one is worth seeking out if you can find it. Sadly, it's state of being out of print prevents many gore-hounds from tracking this down. Either AB should re-release it or BU should pick it up and give it's own release, because this one is an overlooked good time just waiting to happen.