Reviews

Satan War (1979)

It is an indisputable fact that Satan War is the greatest title in motion picture history next to Violent Shit. It is also an indisputable fact that someone in Satan War is attacked by a kitchen chair.

Let the war begin!

Louise and Bill Foster are newlyweds who are moving into a new house. We know this because a narrator tells us, and also because we watch them unpack for ten minutes. Through the magic of voiceover, Louise says, “I thought it was heaven. But our first day in the house, we almost got a divorce.” Louise and Bill argue about bad smells and badder feelings. A cross turns upside down. Coffee turns into goop and makes a mess on the stove. The kitchen is overrun by green slime. After Louise is sexually assaulted by a ghost, the couple drives to a beach and has a conversation about the incident:

Bill: “If he tries it again, just tell that ghost that rape, sex, and molestation is my department!”

Louise: “Well, he did have nice hands . . . “

A psychic named Evelyn visits the house. She reveals that someone once committed suicide in the master bedroom of the house. Bill’s newspaper catches on fire! A figure wearing a black robe walks around with a knife! Eventually, Louise and Bill get in their car and drive away.

Every copy of Satan War should include a complimentary tab of acid. Because that’s the predominate aesthetic of the movie. Made by Texan TV actor Bart LaRue and never released on home video in the U.S., Satan War warps elements of The Amityville Horror (haunted house) and The Entity (sexually deviant ghost) through the look of a Super 8 snuff film and the sounds of Lucifer’s birthday party. While the plot of the movie feels like an extended episode of In Search Of, the execution teleports us beyond the fourth dimension. And when it comes to movies that feel more medicated than someone in the middle of a root canal, that’s exactly where we want to be.

Satan War floats across the screen on a bed of primitive synthesizers, crude visuals, and dark themes. William Eucker’s droning, bass-heavy synth score is heavily reminiscent of Mort Garson’s “Black Mass: Lucifer” LP. And it’s also relentless. The synths usually drown out the deranged post-dubbed dialog, while the camera captures slice-of-life happenings with film stock that looks like it expired in 1957. Because of this, I’ve never been more riveted by someone doing the dishes. Meanwhile, we watch scenes of Louise coping with sexual trauma. Like a true asshole, Bill treats the situation like a joke. He refuses to leave the house after Louise pleads with him to do so. We feel for Louise, and hope that she’ll be able to move on with her life. Not every no-budget haunted house movie is capable of communicating such complex emotions. Whether that was intentional or not, it’s impressive.

To be clear, Satan War is a slowburn discourse on the state of satanic panic in 1979. Halfway through the movie, I pressed stop and took a nap. Satan War is both agonizing and fascinating. It’s a movie for no one, unless you can appreciate something that feels like a quiet precursor to the madness of Boardinghouse . . . in which nothing happens. Luckily for me, I can.

After Louise and Bill leave their house for good, the narrator says, “The oldest war in the universe carries on towards its eternal conclusion.” Then we watch an unrelated Voodoo ceremony for fifteen minutes.

I’ve watched Satan War three times in my life and I don’t regret it.

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