Code Red // 1978 // 83 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis (Retired) // November 5th, 2010
If you have a craving for terror, come to the class reunion.
Caught somewhere in between religious horror and a slasher movie, Redeemer: Son of Satan is a forgotten relic of the '70s that may not be that good, but has elements which have become common in the modern genre. Was director Constantine Gochis prescient, or just lucky? Either way, this cruel little number will resonate with today's horror fan, which may be little more than an unfortunate comment on the current state of the genre.
Attending their ten-year high school reunion, six old friends arrive at their old Catholic school to find that, while the place is decked out for a party, they're the only people who have show up. They discover that they've been locked inside, they find the rotten body of the caretaker, and realize that the reunion is not what it seemed. A crazy person in a mask is stalking them, determined to get revenge for their sins of the past.
Like Prom Night and many other horror entries released right around 1978, Redeemer opens with a scene from the past, which explains outright why the coming violence will take place. This time, we're with the school's church choir as one boy tells a really awful dirty joke. He's apparently a bully, so everybody laughs except one kid. He's a loser, so to get back at him for the snub, the bully pulls a switchblade on him.
I guess it gets the explanation out of the way, but I've never cared for the device. It lets you know immediately that the people we will subsequently meet as adults, when they receive their invitations, will soon be slaughtered. It's not like there's a lot of suspense in the film anyway, but the film would be better if the explanations were meted out in a slower, more mysterious way. Mystery and suspense aren't really the point for Gochis, though; he wants to get straight to the mayhem. It's for the best; better to get right to it than to wade through this ridiculous story. When the film focuses on that part, things get hairy pretty fast.
If non-stop killing is your thing, Redeemer might well satisfy. The killer has a moral code, believing he is exacting the Lord's vengeance, and dispatches with his victims in ways that vaguely punish them accordingly. The kills are gory and violent, and with a nastiness that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. The characters, meant to represent the seven deadly sins, are awful and unlikable, and the performances are just as bad. Gochis's direction is competent, if lacking style, but he focuses too much on the characters' suffering. In many ways, Redeemer reminds me of modern "torture porn" in tone, if not in content. It's closest current compliment is the original Saw, which I suppose is a compliment if you like that film, which I can't say.
Code Red sent a screener for review, but the presentation appears to be consistent with the final release. The film begins with a note, which essentially apologizes for the state of the print. I appreciate the thought, but it's certainly not the worst I've seen, not by a long shot. The transfer itself is fine; it's the source material that's the problem, and it's pretty rough. It suffers from plenty of damage and washed-out colors. I suspect, as well, because of some very harsh edits, that there are missing parts, which would explain a few things about the story. The mono track is adequate, but no more that you'd expect. A trailer is the only supplement provided.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Code Red
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 83 Minutes
Release Year: 1978
MPAA Rating: Rated R