Director: Constantine S. Gochis
Code Red DVD

THE REDEEMER: SON OF SATAN may look like your typical 1970s “demonic child” offering judging by Dimension Pictures’ poster art and advertising campaign (which opted to compare it with THE OMEN), but if you’ve never seen it, you’ll soon think otherwise. Carrying a 1976 copyright date but not released theatrically until 1978, this homegrown horror film is actually quite unique for what it is, and contains elements pre-dating several stalk and slash films (TERROR TRAIN, HOLLOW GATE), that seemed to have imitated it. If it weren’t for the disco-era hairstyles and outfits, and a passing physical resemblance to Alfred Sole’s superior ALICE SWEET ALICE (shot the same year), you would almost swear this was a 1980s horror flick.

A young boy (Christopher Flint) raises his hand from a lake, soon rising above the body of water dry and unaffected. A bus arrives out of nowhere to deliver him to a church where he encounters a preacher (T.G. Finkbinder), who while in his slumber, materializes a second thumb on one of his hands. As the boy fits himself in as a member of the choir (and is threatened at knifepoint for not laughing at a joke, something which will bite the intimidating bully on the ass later), the preachy preacher is now the hell-sent Redeemer and is about to execute a wicked master plan (which starts with him taking a scalpel to a handful of photos in a high school yearbook).

Killing a vacant high school’s caretaker and making a mold of his head to create a mask for a disguise (!), the Redeemer awaits the arrival of six singled-out graduates of the Class of ’67, reunited for a bogus 10th year high school reunion. These six men and women (Damien Knight, Michael Hollingsworth, Nick Carter, Jeannetta Arnette, Gyr Patterson and Nikki Barthen) show up stag, and soon realize they’re the only former students present. After the horrible discovery of the maggot-infested caretaker in one of the classrooms, any means of escape is ineffective, as the six are held prisoner within the confines of the school grounds. One by one, the Redeemer will execute them for the sins they’ve committed.

Also known as CLASS REUNION MASSACRE, THE REDEEMER; SON OF SATAN is a fairly unique, independent offering (shot in Virginia) with some good ideas (merging the congested satanic and slasher genres rather effectively) within its ambiguous wraparounds involving the emergence and departure of the Son of Satan. The six main characters are guilty of such immaterial “sins” as vanity, gluttony, promiscuity and homosexuality as they are offed one at a time by an assailant who has no direct relationship to them or any particular reason for his extreme behavior, other than being called to do so by an evil entity. With a possessed man of the cloth being the deranged culprit of avenging these so-called wrongful deeds, there’s a lot of religious subtext involved, which is probably what screenwriter William Vernick had in mind (you’ll note a shot at a banquet resembles “The Last Supper” painting for one thing).

The Redeemer (played in an overly theatrical, hammy manner by Finkbinder, an English teacher today, in his only screen credit) is condemningly vocal when passing judgment on his victims and exercising punishment, sporting a number of different guises which include a redneck hunter, circus clown, grim reaper and a repulsive magician assisted by a disturbingly large marionette) and the slayings allow the film to get graphic with some notable gore effects, considering the film’s budget. Most of the cast (as well as the director and the screenwriter) didn’t do much else except for recognizable actress Jeannetta Arnette, who had already appeared in the exploitation pic TEENAGE GRAFFITI, and would embark on a highly successful television career that continues to this day (you might remember her as part of the cast of the hit late 1980s ABC comedy, "Head of the Class").

As THE REDEEMER has been available on several bargain “public domain” DVD labels under its alternate title, Code Red has an onscreen disclaimer at the beginning of the presentation, aimed at said labels that the film is indeed copyrighted. The disclaimer also relates that the best 35mm elements were found (after a six year search), and the quality is below the company’s standards, but that fans demanded this release regardless. The print source has numerous blemishes in dirt, debris and emulsion lines, and reel changes are rather rough. The 1.66:1 anamorphic presentation has excellent detail, though a lot of the colors have faded (with some scenes having color that appears absolutely fine). The mono English audio track has some pops and hiss, but is fairly clear and undamaged otherwise. The only extras on the disc are an original trailer for the film, as well as Code Red trailers for NIGHTMARE, THE VISITOR, THE CARRIER, HORROR HIGH and SLITHIS. (George R. Reis)