You might not be familiar with the term 'Z-Movie,' but if you grew up in the 90's, chances are you've seen one. They're the beyond-low-budget monstrosities that teased you from the walls of the mom-and-pop video store. Usually, the films themselves could never live up to the pictures on the videotape boxes (because this was way before your fancy 'Digital Video Discs' and 'Blu-Rays') but occasionally you'd find something truly unique. 'WEIRDO FLICKS' will clue you into some movies which 'unique' doesn't even begin to describe...
'The Redeemer: Son of Satan!' (aka 'Class Reunion Massacre') - 1978, Directed by Constantine S. Gochis
While the slasher genre didn't really take off until the mid-80's with the first few 'Jason' and Halloween' movies, there were plenty of 60's and 70's films that basically had the right idea. There were also several ugly ducklings, like this one, that had a few right ideas and a lot of wrong ideas.
That's not to say 'The Redeemer' isn't enjoyable, because it most certainly is. It's just executed very bizarrely, and is almost as confusing as your average surrealist flick.
The plot isn't really that important, because it is sort of generic, but it was probably quite revolutionary before all the 'high schoolers get murdered' films of the 80's. You've got your sadistic madman who has cooked up a wholly unbelievable trap, and the stupid yuppies who fall into it completely. This time around, it's a fake class reunion that only 6 people have been invited to.
Strangely, even though most of them seem to have contact with other members of their graduating class, they didn't work out that something was amiss until they actually arrived at the reunion. Even when the caretaker of the now-abandoned school tells them there's no reunion, they don't seem to care too much.
A few minutes later, however, upon realizing all the doors are locked, and the phone lines have been cut, they start to gather that something is up (!). There is an excellent scene where one of the girls tries to open a window, only to realize it has metal bars on it, then sees a man walking in the grounds outside. She calls to him for help, but once he gets closer, it is clear that he is wearing a skull mask and waving a knife. Enter 'The Redeemer.'
Our anti-hero has set a variety of odd traps throughout the school, including a remote control flamethrower, and he seems to be everywhere at once, killing one person then turning up on a different floor to kill another. He also has a variety of odd disguises, like a horrifying clown costume and some kind of theatrical getup. The latter appears when he gives a 'performance' to the obligatory former drama nerd, then kills him with a marionette.
So, why is The Redeemer murdering these chosen six? Did they pick on him in school? Not to their knowledge. Actually, it's much more complicated than that, and this is what makes the film a truly strange beast.
The Redeemer is either one of two people: A deranged, Commandment-obsessed priest who has singled them out for their various sins (which he knows about, somehow) or a young boy who is actually Satan, and has taken control of said priest's mind. The ending leaves this quite unclear.
This young boy makes his first appearance early on, walking out of a lake(!) and catching the bus to school. Later on, we see that the priest has two thumbs on each hand, and can transfer this 'power' to the boy for some reason. Although the killer also has two thumbs, like I said, it is unclear WHO he is, or even if he is one of these two.
Add to this a dreamlike atmosphere, some truly over-the-top kill sequences, and loud, woozy synth music, and you have a cult classic.
I won't attempt to pick apart all the religious undertones here, or the various plot holes, but suffice to say, this is a very unique and dreamlike proto-slasher flick.
VHS photo by Toby Hudson.