“…warping the mind of a generation,
teach children to worship Satan!” -The Dwarves, The Crucifixion is Now
I went to a screening, at the historic Tampa Theater, of the ‘official premier’ of “Satan’s Children”, last weekend. Originally filmed in Tampa, in 1974, by a Joe Wiezycki. This screening was, ostensibly, the first time the film had been seen since 1974 and Fangoria magazine was there to document it. Later I learned that the claim: this was the “premier” of the film, was very specious…anyway, onto the film…
‘Satan’s Children’ is an odd film, no doubt. It has the distinction of being both a film that is clearly a product of it’s time and yet, a film slightly ahead of it’s time and out of step with it. How so? Well, firstly it’s a product of it’s time by the fact that on the surface it has pretty much all the elements of your standard seventies low-budget horror film. Someone at the premiere said it was like a “Florida version of “Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things”, which is pretty accurate (I think it’s better actually) but it’s also a little misleading. It’s a little ahead of it’s time and breaks with the usual tradition in B-horror films, because it has a very strange story arc, which goes something like this…
It starts with a young man, named Bobby, mowing his family’s lawn somewhere in Florida. We see he has a stern father and a peculiarly incestuous relationship with his sister. This is the first peculiarity. It’s pretty salacious really (one of many in this strange little film). The sister seems to take great delight in both sexually exciting him, then tattling on him and getting him in trouble with his father. She’s basically a tease and a bitch. Bobby’s obviously tormented and made uncomfortable by his sister’s sexual teasing and his father’s over bearing attitude towards him. His father treats him like utter shit and favors his daughter over his son. Put it this way, Bobby is a very unhappy little camper!
At supper, Bobby’s sister places her bare foot (under the dining room table) onto the boy’s crotch and softly grinds it into him (this reminded of Russ Meyer films, though I doubt the filmmakers had it in mind) and, before he gets a chance to stick her foot with his fork, she rats the poor boy out to his father about the ‘bag of grass’ (very 70s movie!) in his room. Feeling bullied and ganged up on at home, Bobby decides to leave. Well, if Bobby didn’t like being ‘ganged up on’ or ‘bullied’ at home, things are about to get FAR worse.
He wanders the dark streets of Tampa that night and winds up at a local watering hole. There he’s first approached by a porcine, unattractive, middle aged man, clearly trying to ‘pick him up’. Again, our hero is uncomfortable. But, no fear, another young man, a little older, ‘cool and tough’, kicks the ‘old queen’ out (the film has a lot of anti-homosexual angles, while at the same time a lot of homosexual references, there’s a strange duality here) and then he sets out talking to Bobby like a peer, like an equal and he seems to be very friendly to Bobby. This is the first time Bobby has been treated this way by someone he can look up to. Needless to say, Bobby is easily charmed by the guy and the dude has a motorcycle too! Our hero agrees to ride on the back of the guy’s bike back to his place. We’re now subjected to long front shots of the two driving through downtown Tampa. This shot has some of that odd homosexual reference I was talking about. Before long the two arrive at the older guy’s pad. At his place the guy offers the boy a beer and some ‘grass’. The boy accepts, naturally. However, things are about to turn real quick. For some odd reason, the ‘biker’ pulls a knife approaches the young man and forces him to undress. Things get pretty damn perverted here. Another part of the film that seems outlandish for it’s time and another strange homosexual method. The young boy is hog tied, while the biker calls his thuggish friends. His friends take the young boy out for a ‘joy ride’. Our hero is in the middle of the car, lying horizontal, his head near the dashboard, his feet in the back seat. Bobby’s naked and hogtied. Two men are in the front seats, two in the backseat on either side of the boy. The two up front take turns beating him, while the two in the back seat take turns (seemingly) punching their fists into the boy’s buttocks. All the while they drive around town laughing and drinking beers. This scene is particularly perverse. Yet the whole film has this strange feeling of perversion, it’s hard to describe, but it’s palpable. Eventually, they dump the boy’s naked, raped and beaten body on the side of a rural road. This road also happens to be the location of a strange Satanic Cult. The cult is like something between The Manson Family and…Anton LaVey’s Church of Satan? This is where the bulk of the film takes place. Things just keep getting weirder!
Before long, Bobby is found by the cult and chosen by the female ‘head’ of the cult as her lover. The two then begin to make really awkward and uncomfortable looking sex with each other (which I don’t think was the intention, but that’s how it looked). When the real leader of the cult arrives, who looks like a young Boyd Rice, he tells Bobby he’s ‘too weak’ to be a Satanist, after all, he says, “you turn the other cheek” with pun fully intended after mentioning his rape. Weird film, right? He then goes on to provoke the young man by saying he’s a perpetual victim, not at all the kind of person this satanic cult would want as a member. Also the ‘satanic cult’ leader (and the cult in particular) seems to have no tolerance for homosexuality, but wouldn’t they embrace homosexuality? Christianity is the one that vehemently opposes those acts. Every other part of this Satanic cult is pretty much a mockery or inversion of the usual Christian moral code, so I had to wonder why it was portrayed that way. Who knows?
Okay, so now comes the part that really separates this film from the rest of its ‘kind’. As its principally a story about a young man who changes from a wimpy, passive victim of violence into a perpetrator of violence on those who’ve tormented him. It has a strangely satanic message to convey, not at all the usual Christian (or humanist) moral code one finds in most of these b-horror films. I mean, our hero goes on to murder, dismember and sex traffic and we’re clearly meant to be following him as the ‘hero’ of this fiilm. Perhaps this is an early horror film ‘anti-hero’. Like I say, it’s a really peculiar film.
I don’t want to give the impression that this is a ‘lost masterpiece’. It’s not. The film has many flaws. Only one of which is a scene in the middle of the film that seems to drag on far too long. Also, the print I saw of the film, though it feels nostalgic and looks very seventies, is also REALLY poorly tattered and torn. Maybe this is the best negative of the film that exists? So I can’t really complin. It would need to garner some really heavy duty fans in order to raise the money to thoroughly restore this film. But, I suppose if this films gets around to people, I could see it developing some cult fans and there is nothing better than horror film fans; they’re a super dedicated group. Horror fans pay!
I suggest people watch this film, at the very least it’s a fun ride. I’d say it’s well worth the price Something Weird Video was selling the DVD for… ten dollars! Here’s a link to buy the DVD…satan’s children