Escalofrio a.k.a. Satan’s Blood (1977) Review

EscalofrioThere are so many movies about The Devil and Satanism out there.  I mean A LOT!  Frankly I think it’s a great sub-genre.  Satan movies seem to have lots of the stuff I like in them.  Gore, nudity, weird rituals, occult symbols and rites …. I could pretty much watch this kind of stuff all day (and I have, ask my wife)!

Something I’m not too familiar with, however, are Spanish horror flicks.  I’ve seen plenty of genre pictures from all over the world, but the horror output of Spain has somehow often eluded me.  For instance, I only became aware of Paul Naschy’s existence maybe two years ago, and since then have unfortunately only seen a handful of his films, which is a shame, as the ones I’ve watched have been outstanding, and I want to see more.  I have seen “Pieces,” which was terrific, and actually shares a Producer with Escalofrio, but other than that and the few Naschy films, that is it for me and Spanish Horror.

That being said, I’m glad to have seen Escalofrio.  Called “Satan’s Blood” in the US, then later released under the title “Don’t Panic” for some reason, this 1977 Satanic murder shocker is a terrific little gem.

You guys really know how to party!!

You guys really know how to party!!

This is a movie whose whole is far greater than the sum of its parts.  The plot is nonsensical, the special effects aren’t all that great, and by the end you are left with plenty of unanswered questions.  However you barely notice these things while watching the film; you become so engrossed in the goings-on that they hardly matter.  The acting is solid.  The cinematography is well-done.  Even the cheesy 70’s electric organ music somehow adds to the goodness.

Story wise, we are operating on a more dreamlike and surreal narrative, as opposed to one of logic and rationality.  Like the two main characters, it is almost as if we are trapped in a sensual nightmare.

The plot is pretty simple but there is lots of room for interpretation and discussion :

We open with a black mass, featuring robed cultists, pentagrams, skulls, black candles … the whole shebang.  Our lead cultist is an old dude who is mostly bald and with a killer beard.  He and his pals drag in some chick, cut off her clothes, and then the crusty old cult leader goes to town with the raping.  Then he stabs her.  Yep, typical Tuesday night for any self-respecting Satan worshiping organization.  Then we go into our opening credits, and this little scene is never referenced again.

Cult Leader

The face of modern Satanism.

Next we cut to our main characters.  Ana (who is apparently four months pregnant but is skinnier than most non-pregnant woman) and her husband Andy are out having a nice day when they meet Berta and Bruno.  Bruno says he knows Andy from college, but Andy doesn’t remember him, and the timeline of when they would have attended college is all wrong.  But hey, that’s no reason not to drop everything and head out to Bruno and Berta’s creepy secluded mansion.

Once at the mansion, things get stranger and stranger, and any sane, rational person would have left.  Good thing Ana and Andy are not sane, rational people, because then the movie would have been over.

Berta is seen in the kitchen devouring a blob of raw, unidentifiable meat using the hands and teeth.  There are books on satanism everywhere, and are filled with delightful illustrations.  Berta and Bruno have a dedicated Quiji-board table, which has skyrocketed to the top of my Christmas list.  A giant pentagram is engraved on the floor.  Ana and Andy’s dog disappears.  Berta is increasingly rude to the couple, and Bruno appears to be insane.  Still, after all this, Ana and Andy decide to just stay and keep hanging out.

This isn't just a board, but a table, and I want it so bad!

This isn’t just a board, but a table, and I want it so bad!

A storm pops up (of course) and Ana and Andy decide to spend the night.  Later that night, Ana decides to wander about the house, and is attacked and almost raped by a crazy homeless guy that is now randomly in the house.  She runs to Andy, who is very casual about the whole affair, and decides that rather then call the cops, or wake up Bruno and Berta or anything like that, he’ll “take a look.”  So Ana and Andy then jointly wander about the house, looking for a homeless rapist.  Instead, they find Bruno and Berta, nude, worshiping the devil in the living room.  Rather than getting the hell out of there (finally!) they decide to … have an orgy.  Good choice!

Orgy Time!!!

Orgy Time!!!

The rest of the movie is even a bit weirder, and Ana and Andy finally decide to get the freaking hell out of the house.  However, without spoiling anything, a satanic surprise awaits them back home.

There is a lot to like here, but I will say that you have to be okay with the tropes of most 70’s Euro-Horror.  By that I mean that the plot, and the actions of the characters relies heavily on dreamlike or surreal logic rather than reason and rationality.  Characters make bizarre choices that don’t make much sense and there are lots of strange occurrences that are never explained.  This isn’t a bad thing though; the viewer just has to roll with it and not expect everything to make sense.

Even if you do want your movie to be more straightforward there is a lot to love.  There is lots of nudity and sex (this being one of the first movies to receive Spain’s special “S” ranking for sex), and a bit of gore, though admittedly the stabbings and special effects aren’t that good.  The cinematography is handled well and you can tell what is happening in every scene.  So often a film will be do dark or unfocused and you won’t be able to tell whats going on.

Who wants leftovers?

Who wants leftovers?

More than anything, this film has atmosphere.

It is a hard attribute to quantify, but when a film has it, you know it.  The atmosphere of this film reminds me of a dark, fantastic dream.  Almost like a sexy nightmare, if that makes any sense.  We are taken from our mundane existence and put into a world that seems beyond our control, filled with mysterious and dangerous forces.

I would highly recommend this flick to a number of groups:  Satanism movie fans, 70’s horror fans, Spanish or Euro horror fans, nudity fans, and general weirdness loving fans.  If you are a member of any of those groups, or are interested in learning a little more about about that kind of stuff, then check this out.

 

 

 

 

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