Blood on Satan’s Claw; or Homestyle Horror

Hello and Hallo-welcome to #TBT Terror, where we pay attention to those films that you might have missed, making sure to pay our respects to the films that paved the way for modern chills. You join your bloggers, Andy and Lilly, as they take a stroll through the idyllic countryside, hoping that they need only fear a rainy day and not the coming of Satan.

Today’s film offering: Blood on Satan’s Claw

He could just wash his hands, but nope.
He could just wash his hands, but nope.

Lilly: Today’s film is one that we (spoiler alert) seriously love, so don’t be alarmed by the gushing.  

Blood on Satan’s Claw is a lesser known folk horror film (in the same category as The Wicker Man) that keeps you feeling creeped out until the very last scene. A gem we found after watching A History of Horror  (hosted by Mark Gatiss–go and find it and watch it!), the film tells the story of a community that is menaced by the threat of the devil himself coming to town. 

Andy: Or at least, it might be the Devil. It’s never made explicit what it is, exactly. The local children all seem to be getting a bit weird too, and hanging around an old abandoned church…

Lilly: Nothing is really explicit in this film, which makes it a lot of fun. You go from scene to scene of the town’s people dealing with this situation, and each new development is mysterious and weird and icky and great. 

Andy: Plus, thematically, it makes so much sense. These are 17th Century farmers, most of whom probably can’t even read. Why should they grasp the horror that’s unfolding around them? For that matter, why should we? Some of the best horror movies have very, very little exposition – it’s a very modern obsession that everything should be explained away. (If anyone claims they can explain everything that happens in The Shining, that person is a liar or hasn’t paid attention).

Lilly: Jumping right into it, I want to point out that this film really gets the importance of a soundtrack that is on message. The main theme of Blood on Satan’s Claw is one that is charmingly haunting, and that is so very fitting to this film. It has sweet little flutes and sharp violins, and it is really just the sound of a gentle countryside tale being intercut with terror.

Another thing I love in older horror films is the earnest seriousness of the tale, none of this tongue-in-cheek stuff you get nowadays. Not that I don’t like that as well, but it makes the story that much creepier when it is approached in a way that makes you as an audience just sit and watch the confusion and fear build in the town without comedic relief or ‘eh? eh?’ moments.

And ANOTHER thing I really like is the absolutely weird way the devil makes himself known in the town. It’s gross and would be so terrifying if you had no way of knowing what it was using modern tests or what have you (modern devil tests?) and yes.

Anyway, this film is one that plays on the usual trope of ‘she’s a witch!’ but takes it further, and you watch as the village is torn apart bit by bit by each supernatural event. Trust starts to dissolve and no one is safe from one another’s doubt.

Andy: It’s essentially a Puritan Witch-hunter’s worst nightmare come true. This isn’t some Salem-esque hysteria – there’s something seriously wrong, and the local clergy are virtually powerless. It’s a dreamy, dark descent into a communal collapse, all to the backdrop of a bucolic maybe-never-existed rural paradise, and the lilting, descending notes of a terrifying soundtrack.

It’s pretty much one of my favourite horror films, is what I’m saying. It genuinely baffles me how obscure it is.

Now, there is one scene that is potentially troubling, involving the rape and murder of a very sympathetic character. As always with horror, your mileage may vary, but for me it underlies the terrible wrongness at the heart of this film, and is treated as a very serious event by other characters. Other than that though, I will not only recommend this film, but aggressively push it on anyone who expresses even a vague interest. You NEED to watch this.

Lilly: Agreed. It has a slow pace, and the scene mentioned above is a bit of a shock to the system compared to the rest of the film’s tone, but that’s sort of what makes it so, so scary and great and good. So go, watch, and let us know what you think!

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