The Redeemer: Son of Satan (1978)
It seems appropriate that what ultimately saves this obscure late-’70s proto-slasher is a memorably theatrical performance by T.G. Finkbinder as the title character. That’s right: The Redeemer redeems The Redeemer, but it’s a close call, because one-time director Constantine S. Gochis commits more than his fair share of cinematic sin before the end credits roll.
In a plot that predates the similar Slaughter High by eight years, six assholes are tricked into attending their 10-year high school reunion, only to discover that they have actually been gathered to be fatally punished for their supposed sins against humanity: specifically, their avarice, vanity, gluttony, haughtiness, licentiousness and perversion.
Unfortunately, as written, the victims are all so clearly guilty of their “sins,” it’s hard not to assume the filmmakers are on the killer’s side, which is especially disturbing when you consider that the “pervert” The Redeemer punishes is simply a woman in a normal (albeit clandestine) lesbian relationship.
But what confuses the potentially ugly moral stance is the revelation that the killer is actually a priest working as the personal hand of the subtitular Son of Satan. What are we supposed to make of this? Is organized religion really a front for the devil? Is the idea that the victims’ supposed “sins” are so minor and commonplace that any one of us could find ourselves at the mercy of The Redeemer? And why is the adolescent Antichrist busy punishing earthly sinners, instead of encouraging them like a more typical Antichrist would?
Thinking about it all makes my head hurt, but — as mentioned above — the movie’s confused themes are made bearable by the presence of its antagonist, who manages to walk that fine line between campy fun and genuine creepiness. Both ahead of its time and unfortunately retrograde, The Redeemer is a highly flawed, but interesting film that deserves a place in the slasher canon its obscurity heretofore has denied it. —Allan Mott