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Religion is much more fun in movies than in real life. Actual churches just don't have the payoff and mostly stick to the tedious aspects of mysticism. Although some are capable of great acts of violence, they never show off any real magic. Often they seem to want to be involved in our love lives but never in a good way. From my perspective, if you are going to devote your life to some fictional nonsense, it should be entertaining, at least. There are interesting faiths out there, and they're not all bad, I guess, but the cinematic counterpart is always more exciting. Take satanism, for example.  As far as dogmas go, they have an eye-catching style. I won't be signing up or giving anyone my money because it's all bullshit to me, but you can't beat the overall motif and decoration choices. I haven't ever been brave enough to wear a cape myself, but I have always secretly wanted to. Robes are awesome as well, and it goes without saying that I'm a fan of spooky shit. While the theology comes in a variety of flavors, some a little more tolerable than others, it's almost never boring. However, the fact remains, the movie version of the belief is much more… intense.
Ana (Mariana Karr) and Andres (José María Guillén) are a happy (gullible) young couple with plans to take a vacation. One day, while out for a drive with their dog "Blackie" they are stopped in traffic by Bruno (Ángel Aranda) and his wife, Berta(Sandra Alberti). Instead of asking for some kind of mustard, Bruno claims to be an old chum from college, but Andres has no recollection of him. After seeing a picture depicting the two as students, the forgotten friendship is humored, and the lovers are invited by their new/old pals for a sleepover and possible wife swapping. Enticed by Bruno and Berta's remote home, they accept, having been undecided on what to do with their time off. Upon arriving, the couple shares a drink before the lady of the house breaks out a fancy Ouija board. That goes less than alright, but the hosts have many occult games to play, and they are just getting started with their guests.
Satan's Blood is a deli-salad of occult ritual, nudity, and bizarre social skills that presents with a ritualistic sacrifice before the title credits hit the screen. As the main couple is first introduced to the mysterious supposed acquaintances, the film borrows a few notes from Rosemary's Baby (1968), particularly the 1968 film's introduction of the Castevets. However, it shakes most of that in lieu of some gung ho swinger vibes. Much like with Debbie from Friday the 13th Part III, it is mentioned early on (in the subtitles) that Ana is pregnant, and later that is wholly forgotten. Because this detail never comes to fruition in the plot (in the English version anyway), I can only assume either Satan just likes pregnant ladies or it was an arc lost in the tales evolution. The story itself is thin and perfectly confusing, essentially amounting to Satanists doing horrible things in a spooky house to a couple who don't know when to leave. That alone would be absolutely fine by me, but the tale is adorned in functional detail which elevates the trip on several levels. These touches flush out the would-be cliche horror and make the dark, entertaining ride a complete package of sleaze, terror, and art. Don't get me wrong, it's a mess of random tropes, and it doesn't make sense. I have no idea why the main characters don't just leave, but while you're actually watching, it's too engaging to care. 
Along with providing surface-level blood, tits, and Satanic thrills, it's a movie that rewards those paying attention. Closely watching is not integral to enjoying, however, and just adds bonus flavor to the filling dose of atmospheric supernatural horror and tantalizing taboo.
The film parts-out it's explicit content in healthy chunks placed into the run-time and often stops for long, strange setups. Following a showcasing of life in the late 70s and wearing relaxed business wear, the remainder pulls together a greatest-hits of religious/occult references and objects. The people responsible for The Conjuring Universe could make a whole series out of all the spooky shit that shows up in this movie. They could squeeze at least a couple films out of the doll that plays Where's Waldo for a while in the background before it comes to life as one of the more actually scary evil toys in my memory. There is enough sex to be categorized as softcore porn, although it primarily happens in one long chunk. It's basically a rule for the genre to involve some sexy time, but it gets extra points for holding on to the film's drug-trip pacing. Plus, everyone knows that the Dark Lord loves a sweaty foursome. Uncharacteristically, there is little bloodshed on screen. When it does throw out the gore, it quickly showcases with some gruesome displays that, while heavily stylized, pack some bite. Fair warning--the dog dies in this one, and while it fits with the rest of the terrible atrocities going on, I'm pretty sure it's the most fucked up part of the movie. But I cried at the end of The Fly II (1989), so take that as you will.
The movie puts an excess of pentagrams and arcane objects to work with a bright, colorful 70s palette. It stays relatively lit through all of the spooky and grim events, dressing them in an almost psychedelic fashion. Even in the darkness, the characters are illuminated with one of the uncountable fires in the mansion or a stage-like spotlight. As a part of an overall effective atmosphere, there are recurring visual themes and symbolism that can be both beautiful or overdone, with some interesting overlap. This all comes together with a pairing of strong camera work and (mostly) smooth editing. Outside of a few seemingly out of place cuts, the construction is meaningful and done with purpose. It's not groundbreaking, but here in the States, in these modern times, I've often seen similar 70's genre film cut to pieces then re-purposed and reconstructed, so it stands out that it made it to me in this form. 
For all of its outrageousness, the entire film is small in scale. There are no more than ten characters involved, and it is set almost entirely in one location. The few scenes outside of the mansion take the time to utilize the beautiful Madrid locale. The home of the nefarious Bruno and Burta is like a Halloween store mixed with a drug dealer's villa. Honestly, even after watching it serve as a circus of the damned, I would still live there in a heartbeat. I don't know if I would sell my soul or anything, but my goals definitely involve having a mansion that says I'm a creepy dude who also throws good parties.
The film was initially released as Escalofrío in its native country before being retitled Satan's Blood for American theaters and “Schock” in Germany. For the UK and on video in the US, it was dubbed Don't Panic, a seemingly unconnected phrase that only serves to remind me of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Along with being an entry of the era's international "satanic horror" trend, the work's explicit nature could also be seen as a mark of a Spanish cinema's freedom from the censorship of Francoist dictatorship (ending in 1975) and its grip on media. It was written directed by Carlos Puerto and released the same year as his dramatic thriller El Francotirador (1978), which starred Paul Naschy. The two movies were his first full length features following work in television as a producer/writer and two short documentaries. Juan Piquer Simon, the man behind such exploitation classics as Pieces (1982) and Slugs (1988), served as the film art producer and reportedly served as an uncredited co-director. This involvement came on the heels of Simón's schlocky take on Journey To The Center Of the Earth, Where Time Began (1977), and was closely preceded by the zany superman knock off Supersonic Man (1979). The film's score was provided by Librado Pastor as his first credited film project. After helping along Satan's blood atmosphere substantially, he would continue to work alongside Simón, putting music to Extra-Terrestrial Visitors (1983) and the original Spanish cut of Pieces. 
The beautiful Argentinian soap star Mariana Karr plays Ana. In the same year, she was a cast member of the show Un Mundo de Veinte Asientos and continued to work in television until her death in 2016. Another Spanish language TV star José María Guillén is her on-screen husband, Andres. A few months before Satans's Blood, he appeared in the comedy ¡Vaya par de Gemelos!, while up to that point he was mostly known for his smaller parts on TV dramas. Sandra Alberti, the film’s Berta, had a busy 1978. She shows up in five releases, including León Klimovsky's Violación fatal (1978). The following year she would have a part in Historia de 'S' before leaving film altogether until the 2010s when she would pop up again for a few voice acting gigs. Bruno is realized by Ángel Aranda, while in the twilight of a hearty career stocked with exploitation films. This includes spaghetti Western I Do Not Forgive... I Kill! (1968), crime thriller The Underground (1970) and sci-horror Planet of the Vampires (1965). Recognizable actor Luis Barboo shows up in the film in a small role labeled only as “Guarda.” Even With over 140 roles to his name, I can't help but think of him as "Red Hair '' from Conan the Barbarian (1982).
Satan's Blood (1978) is a solid example of sleazy, supernatural European horror, that stuffs a menagerie of entertaining evil into a swinger's wet nightmare. Think-- the legacy, and a singalong-less Rocky Horror, banging one out with some friends while Rosemary's Baby plays in the background. Even though it has its dips in action, it is engaging, and there is more symbolism than the cover of a Led Zeppelin album. I have a lot of fun with this one, and it compliments any "Prince of Fornication '' marathon night I might be having. The depiction of ritualistic satanism is a fucking blast, but I wouldn't call it fully representative of the real Satanists I have met. All things considered, though, that's probably a good thing.
1h 22min | 1978
Directors: Carlos Puerto (with Juan Piquer Simón)
Writer: Carlos Puerto


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