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"GIVE ME MY SKINNN!",
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This review is from: Blood On Satan's Claw - Digitally Remastered Widescreen Edition [DVD]  (DVD)
As a self-confessed genre nut, I have seen a lot of horror movies over the years. Most of my absolute favorites hark back to the 70's and 80's, and a time where horror was often more about mood, tone and being a little subversive and daring without resorting to bad taste. Blood on Satan's Claw is one of these films, and boy, does it deliver that classic Brittish horror feeling in spades.
When a farmer in rural 17th Century England unearths some warped almost-human bones with his plough, he unwittingly unleashes the forces of Lucifer on his idylic county. Before long the local children are displaying an eerie loss of innocence and even their simple games are becoming an outlet for lust and murder. The local Judge seems powerless to defend his subjects, and staunchly denies the work of witchcraft in the land, but in the end becomes convinced the power of the Devil is at work. While he tries to rally the forces of the Light, those of Darkness claim the children as accolytes in a vicious cult attempting to reconstruct a monster with their own bodies as the evil manifests though their blood, bones and skin... can the return of Satan to the world be halted in time?
One thing that stands out in this film is the dreamlike (or nightmarelike) quality it has; the whole movie has an odd, off-kilter quality that stays with you long after viewing. Everything has a soft-focus quality that makes the slow, creeping horror of the story much more disturbing than it might seem to modern audiences. There is also an underlying theme of age vs. youth; the adult characters are intent on forcing their will on the young, declaring who they can and cannot marry, where they can go, what they can say, and almost in response the rising evils encourage their youthful rebellion to terrible extremes. The film also has retained its ability to be shocking; one sequence begins as a mildly sinister (but oh-so-childlike) game, becomes an eerie, Wicker Man-esque pagan pageant, and then tumbles into a carnival of rape and murder. The scene retains its ability to shock and make you feel dirty after all these years and is one of the most effective of its kind I've seen this side of Ken Russell's masterpiece, The Devils. Blood on Satan's Claw has an ability to get under your skin, making you awestruck by its dreamy, invitingly-eerie ritual and in the same moment profoundly repelled by it.
There are a few moments where plot elements seem to begin and then go nowhere, a pretty laughable monster (that thankfully spends most of the movie used in shadows and background which gives it a sinister edge its Muppet looks remove in the cold light of day)and a couple of the performances are a little on the hammy side, but this does not detract from what is essentially a perfect bit of eerie, understated period horror. Linda Hayden puts on a good turn as the obviously-sinful Angel Blake, and Patrick Wymark is every bit the solid actor he always was. Coupled with some other fine performances particularly from Wendy Padbury and Michele Dotrice, Blood on Satan's Claw is an often-overlooked classic of 70's horror, one that still retains the ability to shock and creep out today.