The Redeemer: Son of Satan!

The Redeemer: Son of Satan!
October 21st 2023

Released nearly simultaneously with John Carpenter’s slasher urtext Halloween in October of 1978, the much more boldly titled The Redeemer: Son of Satan! represents a similar dose of low-budget genre workmanship. Though it has been often associated with the then burgeoning slasher genre, Constantine S. Gochis’s sole directorial effort defies simple taxonomy, offering up a distinctly regional blast of mutated horror conventions.

Shot in a meager four weeks entirely on location in Staunton, Virginia (which would later be invaded by Steve Carrell in Evan Almighty, 2007), Gochis’s film deftly melds elements of supernatural and slasher horror with something akin to a Southern gothic whodunit. It opens with a child rising from a lake and possessing a sleeping priest before setting up the crux of the narrative, which features six former classmates trapped at their 10-year high school reunion and targeted in accordance with the seven deadly sins. If this sounds convoluted, that’s because it is.

The Redeemer is a narratively and thematically dense 84-minute oddity in which horrible people meet their appropriately horrible demise at the hands of a chameleon-esque killer whose bizarre disguises include something resembling a grim reaper, a truly ghastly clown, and what looks like Groucho Marx in a business suit. It’s impossible to pigeonhole and never got the reception it deserves; having been released on video with the generic retitling Class Reunion Massacre surely didn’t help matters. Gochis’s film defies the simplicity that works so well for Carpenter, opting for something decidedly abstract and confounding; a slasher film for the budding midnight-movie set, an audience more attuned to the wavelength of Eraserhead (1977) than whatever passed for drive-in fare at the time.

The Redeemer: Son of Satan! screens tonight, October 21, and on October 27, at Spectacle Theater on 16mm.