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(aka "The Redeemer: Son of Satan!" or "Class Reunion Massacre" )

 

directed by Constantine S. Gochis
USA 1978

 

Six old friends have been invited to an exclusive class reunion at their old high school (which has been deserted for years). Their host is "The Redeemer" (T. G. Finkbinder), a hammy (extremely so) pastor with a second thumb on his left hand. The friends have been selected because of the sins they embody: there's avaricious lawyer John (Damien Knight), licentious Cindy (Jeannetta Arnette of TEENAGE GRAFFITI and a large resume of subsequent series television), gluttonous philanderer Terry (Nick Carter), greedy Jane (Nikki Barthen), vane actor Roger (Michael Hollingsworth), and lesbian Kristen (Gyr Patterson). Soon, the six discover they are locked in (bars have been added to all of the windows) and they are stalked and slaughtered by The Redeemer in various disguises (along with a creepy psycho puppet clown) until only one remains. It is not entirely fair to call this a "body count" movie since it was made before the HALLOWEEN/FRIDAY THE 13TH templates were established; as such, it is also unfair to commend it for breaking with certain conventions (staying together isn't any safer than splitting up, although they are quick to separate). THE REDEEMER seems intentionally disjointed. It does not seem compromised and thrown together in post-production out of unfinished bits. It seems like a completely-off-the-wall-yet-deliberate moral conception of director Gochis and/or screenwriter William Vernick (the previous Trattner/Tromberg production TEENAGE GRAFFITI was a tad conservative but nowhere near as bigoted as their followup), especially considering the relatively tame sins of the chosen victims (the film might be ideally paired with the thematically familiar though tamer A DAY OF JUDGMENT [1981]). "The Redeemer" himself is seen in the yearbook along with the six victims as those "most likely to succeed" so it appears as if he too is a sinner (pride, maybe, a la the end conceit of David Fincher's SE7EN). It may be that the director and writer were not on the same wavelength as the priest is credited as "The Redeemer" in the end credits but the opening and closing texts suggest that the boy (Christopher Flint) - first seen rising from a water-filled quarry - is the titular character (as does the subtitle "Son of Satan" that appears on the advertising but not on the print), although he may be acting through the priest (as a shot of the boy's shadow over the priest's sleeping form might suggest). Maybe I'm overthinking things but it's one thing to have a movie about a nutty fanatic, and quite another for the film's tone to seem to share his worldview. That said, THE REDEEMER is diverting fare for stalk 'n slash fans and essential viewing for fans of obscure low budget American horror films. The location (the Staunton Military Academy, closed down at the time, but now the Mary Baldwin College) is atmospheric, most of the killings take place in brightly lit locations (the bathroom death scene is fairly harrowing without shedding a drop of blood), there's a fair amount of blood (and some maggots), a touch of humor, and a couple creepy images.

Eric Cotenas

Posters

Theatrical Release: 7 April 1978 (USA)

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DVD Review: Code Red - Region 0 - NTSC

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for the Review!

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Distribution

Code Red

Region 0 - NTSC

Runtime 1:22:42
Video

1.66:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 5.54 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate

Audio English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono
Subtitles none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Code Red

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.66:1

Edition Details:
• Theatrical Trailer (4:3; 1:19)
• Trailers for NIGHTMARE (4:3; 2:38), THE VISITOR (4:3; 3:15), THE CARRIER (4:3; 1:40), HORROR HIGH
• (16:9; 2:18), SLITHIS (4:3; 3:01)

DVD Release Date: 19 October 2010
Amaray

Chapters 11

 

Comments

Both the case and a card of prefatory text apologize for the source print (the best of five 35mm prints) but it doesn't look that bad. Sure there are some vertical lines, some spots, a little fading, and some scratches but overall I would say the source is on the right side of "Grindhouse-y" in that the presentation is not disrupted (no dialogue-dropping splices, tears, or muffled audio). The image is interlaced, but the softness has more to do with the source than any sort of reduced resolution (some bits may have been photographed in soft focus or with cheap lenses). The film would have been matted down to 1.85:1 theatrically but the 1.66:1 ratio chosen here is nicely balanced (and adds to the arty feel the director was going for). Dialogue is always audible and the droning score seems undistorted.

The cover and opening text also call out unnamed DVD companies on their unauthorized editions of the film (derived from the early eighties Continental Video tape release retitled CLASS REUNION MASSACRE) and display the copyright information. The only extra is a copy of the theatrical trailer ("from an old 1981 3/4 inch tape!"). It doesn't look great but no worse than any other copy of the trailer I've seen. Trailers for other Code Red films (labeled "Pointless Code Red Trailers") round out the package.

  - Eric Cotenas

 



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DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

 

Distribution

Code Red

Region 0 - NTSC

 

 




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