The Brotherhood of Satan

Not your baby, not our baby—Satan’s baby!
★★★
☆☆
Released: 
1971
Director: 
Bernard McEveety
Starring: 
Strother Martin, L.Q. Jones , Charles Bateman, Ahna Capri, Charles Robinson
The Setup: 
Family drives into spooky town, then can’t leave.
Discussion: 

I had read about this move elsewhere and it immediately caught my interest—kids killing their parents, what’s not to love? The first thing we see is a little toy tank, intercut with footage of a real tank crushing a car. We hear the screams of a family while the car is being crushed, but it’s obvious that the car is really empty. Anyway, soon enough a little boy scampers from the wreckage and goes to greet these other creepy kids, one of whom begins to glow and we head right into the credits.

We come back to a couple making out next to a very nondescript and questionably romantic lake / swamp. There are some drips of what appear to be blood on the mother’s face, which turn out to be from their daughter’s sno-cone. Then suddenly it starts raining like mad and they rush to the car. We then go into a LONG driving scene in which they listen to 60’s pop radio as they slowly drive out of the rain, and drive, and drive, and drive some more. I was sort of into the long creepiness of this scene, with the discordant pop music. The radio then slowly dies, and they then happen upon the crushed car and see all sorts of gore from the family trapped inside, and decide they need to go into town to tell someone.

The sheriff won’t answer the door, so they are about to go back to the car when the sheriff and deputy show up and attack them! Then the townspeople come running like zombies and attack the family! They narrowly escape, and drive off in their car, only to hit a girl standing in the middle of the road. You know, ghostly girls standing in the middle of roads seems to be a very common phenomenon… so much so that you’d like the highway authority should install warning signs or something. They could have a little icon that means: “Watch for ghostly girl in road.” Anyhow, it seems that rather than the little girl vanishing, as they usually do, this one was mangled by the impact, as the family reacts with horror to what we must assume was some serious gore [that we never see], and their little girl says “Daddy! Daddy we killed her!”

So dad decides he has to go back into town, which the mom, who apparently has some sort of reservation about being attacked by mobs of strangers in spooky towns, refuses to go, leading to a scene of parental strife that is pointedly witnessed by their young girl. By the way, their car needs serious repairs, a well. So after their snit is resolved, they all walk into town together.

Does it sound to you like a lot of freaked-out stuff is happening without much explanation? Yep, that is pretty much the case, a sensation added to by the fact that the transitions between scenes are somewhat discordant, and often a few minutes into a new scene one has kind of forgotten how we arrived there.

Back in town, Strother Martin of Cool Hand Luke and Sssssss appears as Doctor Duncan, and talks with the cops about the weird stuff going on in the town, which we still have next to no clue about. We cut to a brother and sister playing while we hear the sounds of angry cats [the sound design throughout is very creative and meticulous, by the way]. They go inside, and it seems that their mother is the sister of the woman with the family who was crushed by the tank. She’s upset. Later that evening, they’re sitting around, husband reading bible verses, while Mom has a convulsion a few feet away and dies. Then Dad looks up and there’s a little doll standing in the middle of the room, and soon he’s toast as well. Then the two kids, who had fallen asleep while all this was going on, run off and join the other little evil tykes.

SPOILERS > > >
So by now we’ve gotten a little more information, here and there as to what is happening. It seems that in the past few days about 30 adults have been killed, and the kids have gone missing. It seems that no one has been able to enter or leave the town, which was why the townspeople were so shocked when the new family shows up. Their attack on the new family was actually their rabid attempt to get some information as to what is happening. So anyway, this priest shows up who thinks that there may be something going on with the kids. He is laughed at for like 10 minutes, although by now it seems to me that no one has any useful clues, and it’s abut time for some alternative theories to be explored. In here we also see a bunch of elderly people making a pledge to Satan in order to enter this party, which once inside is like a church social, except for the odd satanic tribunal. Yes, some woman is on trial for sending her grandson to Sunday school [or something], and she begs for her life, but the skull of Satan rules against her, and she gets ripped apart by the others. Harsh! By the way, does it seem like there are about 75 characters you have to keep track of here? There are. And the general looseness of narrative, in addition to the movie’s attempts to keep you from knowing what’s going on, make this thing really hard to follow.

Anyway, it’s all coming to a close. It seems that the kids kill their parents with their thoughts as they [the kids] sleep. One woman as a MASSIVE haunted house-type hallucination, and another guy gets decapitated by a Medieval knight because some kid has a little knight toy. Then these kids, the ones who have been gathering as they vanish from their parents, have this party which is intercut with some really gross and obscene drawings of naked children being abused and killed. Nice!

So the deal is that all those elderly people are going to transfer their consciousnesses into the young kids and thus get a lot more life. The movie ends with this massive and quite long satanic ritual, and ends on note that might seem surprising to some.
< < < SPOILERS END

This one below goes out to the Bears. I'm thinkin' of you, fellas!

I have to confess that I found it well-neigh impossible to stay awake through this entire thing. I tried on three separate evenings to watch the last 45 minutes, finally succeeding, but there’s something about the loose and dreamy way this is filmed, combined with the number of characters and the freaky nature of what’s happening and the off-the-wall sound design that was like Ambien to me. Maybe it’s also the summer heat as well. Regardless, it was a struggle on three occasions to make it to the end, which may be why I am ultimately rather tepid on the final result.

Yes, this is creepy, yes it’s mysterious and dark, yes the dad is hot, but ultimately it all kind of failed to raise my pulse or interest. I liked it well enough, and I was into the whole 70s vibe and air of mystery, but somehow it stays in the B range for me, never quite moving up to an A. Anyway, there you are.

Should you watch it: 

I don’t think anyone would be totally disappointed, although you may not be completely thrilled either.