Because the devil wants to be your pal…
When she isn't entertaining fans with her stirring rendition of "Music Box Dancer," pianist Lucina Martin likes to solidify her career by nervously breaking down. When Betty Ford is all filled up (since it hasn't even been founded yet), she checks into the Asylum of Satan for a radical 12 step recovery program consisting of black masses, demonology, and cross-dressing. Patients under the care of Dr. Specter are given therapeutic fire extinguisher body rubs, plastic insect facials, intense group conflagration sessions, and unlimited time in the garter snake Jacuzzi. It's not long before unlucky Lucy is seeing weepy eyed weirdoes in the attic and a fur leotarded Lucifer in the basement. Her hurly-burly boyfriend has to convince the clench jawed police chief that his keyboard concubine has been soulnapped by the Prince of Darkness, and she's not just using devil worship and a sanitarium stay as a means of developing some rock and roll cred.
Poor Bobby Douglas has the kind of life that every teen dreads. His abusive stepfather makes him mow, edge, and rake (!) the lawn. His puffy, pouty stepsister is constantly teasing his hormones. And odd Bob gives off an incredibly gay vibe. This leads to a vehicular homosexual hoedown starring several sexed-up sleazoids, a long lonely stretch of Florida highway, and Robert's pristine rump. Post gangbang, he is discovered by the Sarasota version of the Moonies. His used and contused hinder is recovered by a young adult cult of devil worshippers. Just call them Satan's Children. Ersatz leader Sherry wants to prove that Rob's no poof. She even goes so far as to hang three followers of the Father of Lies for challenging her gaydar. Upon returning to his flock, the sinister leader Simon gives Sherry an ant bath and B-Do a chance to prove his manliness. He goes on a revenge-filled killing spree instead.
One ascends films like Asylum of Satan and Satan's Children with the appropriate tonnage of sodium grains. They give off an aura of low budget buffoonery made to simply shill the marks at nationwide passion pits out of their hard-earned savings bonds. But for all their barrel bottom boundaries, these are two films that actually take their man-goat very seriously. Most movies turn a ritualistic sequence involving the Devil and his followers into a blasphemous Sha-Na-Na, featuring John "Bowser" Bowman as a "grease for peace" Dark Prince. But not William Girdler. The manic mind behind Asylum wanted to make his Belial bash so believable that he approached Anton LaVey and his Devil church to consult on the film. The end set piece, where Lucina is prepared for sacrifice, is the closest you will get to seeing an actual black mass on film. It disturbingly centers a narrative that has otherwise loped all over the fictional field. Children, on the other cloven hoof, is less professional, but more passionate in its Lucifer leanings. The prayers and paganism have a real bohemian Beelzebub quality and the makers are not afraid to use and linger on gory, twisted violence to underscore the wicked nature of the satanic dogma. Sure, both films corn the place up with their acting and dialogue, but when it comes to a realistic portrayal of Devil worship, Asylum of Satan and Satan's Children deliver the demonic goods.
Thank goodness the praise of the Dark One is the only aspect of production that the makers made sure was realistic. Asylum of Satan has a thrown together casualness, wanting us to accept its tale of an elegant pianist locked up in a broken down haunted mansion as frightening, especially when she is being catered to and crazed by a local Louisville TV host playing multiple roles. Girdler does milk some effective eeriness out of his locations and compositions. But for every shot of a creepy ghoul or decomposing head, there's Thingmaker bugs on a string and a beefy Packer fan named Nick Jolly chomping on the scenery like it was dairy tour sample cheddar. Only the final festival of filth works as provocative horror, but then a monkey masked Moloch has to show up to undermine the realism. True, Asylum may not always be convincing, but at least it doesn't support the Rev. Donald Wildman when it comes to alternative lifestyle choices. Satan's Children wears its horrendous homophobia on its outdated, flared slacks. A pretty decent drinking game could be devised out of the number of times gays are ridiculed, cursed and degraded. And this raises an interesting dogmatic dilemma. If God thinks hot same sex action is a sin, then doesn't that then make it perfect damnation candy? So why would Satan be so PO'ed at sissies? Wouldn't he be greeting them with open loins? This kind of ultra-conservatism crapola makes Satan's Children an intolerant treat. The horror elements are fine. The ideology is really fudged up.
Both movies on this disc are presented in full screen transfers that feature age, print and restoration defects. They are satisfactory, but the overall quality is not as sumptuous as other SWV titles. There is also a new trend to note with Something Weird DVD. The crazier the movies are, the nuttier the extras. Unfortunately, this means that the Asylum of Satan/Satan's Children package is a little sparse in the superfluous stuff department. There are seven minutes of deleted footage from Asylum, which shows comely star Carla Borelli (grrrrrrr!) rehearsing and performing a "lost" devil dance. There's an unsettling short which features an elderly stripper molesting herself while half dressed like a dapper, Van Dyked demon. Then there's a disorienting featurette called The Soul Snatcher, which appears to be an edited highlight reel from a longer, racier film. While it features a pair of golden shoes from Hell, it's rather boring. Even the famous trailers are out of the slick '70s school of Last House on the Left hard sell, with none of the campy charm of previous collections. Along with a now getting tired tour of horror comic books, a fan may think that this is a SWV title worth skipping. And if you did, you'd miss one of the best commentaries ever. Purported to be Jeffery Hogue talking to and with Girdler specialist Patty Breen, it's really an all out rambling, raucous Breen feast, as she pours her passion for Asylum and its misunderstood maker out in sarcastic, hilarious sound bites and stories. She is a wealth of information, and while a tad smarmy at times, this track is one of the best SWV has placed on disc. Asylum of Satan / Satan's Children is like watching Marilyn Manson's home movies. They're enough to make even the most Goth gal or guy drop the dark for a little '70s polyester.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Something Weird Video
• Commentary by Majestic International Films' Jeffrey C. Hogue and William Girdler biographer Patty Breen
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