Thursday, October 22, 2020


SCARE-A-THON Totals to Date:

Total Movies Watched: 21
Total First Time Views: 12 
Amount raised for BOXVILLE: $1,518.72

The Redeemer (aka Class Reunion Massacre) (1978) d. Constantine S. Gochis (USA) (83 min) (2nd viewing)

The most unusual thing about this most unusual fright flick is that while the plotline (six former classmates show up at their 10-year high school reunion, only to find themselves hunted down by a vengeful killer) seems to come straight out of the 1980s slasher handbook, The Redeemer actually predates such classics as Halloween and Friday the 13th, as well as their countless brethren, including Terror Train, April Fool’s Day, Slaughter High, Prom Night, etc., yet seems to go to inordinate lengths to avoid the clichés it couldn’t have possibly known were just around the corner.

Our killer’s methods are unusual, employing everything from blowtorches to shotguns to full-size articulated marionettes to bouncing a victim around a shower before drowning them in the sink. Just as expansive are his wardrobe and makeup choices (clown, hunter, Grim Reaper, and so on), which is interesting considering that we never really discover what his connection is to the six “sinners” he has targeted, so why would he need to keep his identity a mystery? (The audience is fully aware of his identity, so there’s no mileage to be gained by concealing his face from us, either.)

So, yes, let’s discuss our mad masquerading maniac. He’s an unnamed fire-and-brimstone preacher, billed only as The Redeemer in the credits (T.G. Finkbinder in his sole credited screen role), who is introduced literally shouting down the heavens to his attentive congregation. Following his encounter with a strange youth (more on that in a second), he takes it upon himself to orchestrate an elaborate plot to punish these half-dozen “deviants,” guilty of the mortal sins of adultery, greed, lust, bearing false witness, vanity, and, well, more lust.

Now, being the intolerant self-righteous dickweed that he appears to be from his sermon, this might seem an extreme but logical extension of his own personality. However, it’s only after his supernatural encounter that he feels liberated to act, and one doesn’t get the sense that said encounter is necessarily a godly one. (In fact, the film was often released with the subtitle, “Son of Satan!” So, who’s driving the bus here, the Man Upstairs or Downstairs?)

Further thickening the stew are the “sins” of which these victims are guilty, including being a self-preoccupied actor, a married and divorced woman now playing the proverbial field, a former football stud horsing around with the local drive-in carhop, a closeted lesbian, and a lawyer (boooooooo). We’re not talking about having accidentally murdered anyone during rush week, you know? As such, it’s hard to get a bead on whether we are supposed to view these individuals as jerkwads getting their just desserts or if we’re watching a string of right-wing conservative fantasies play out before our eyes. Screenwriter William Vernick and director Gochis (both delivering their one-and-done contributions to the cinematic pantheon) are none too explicit about their feelings on the matter, leaving us to stroke our chins and ponder.

However, that mildly adrift feeling is nothing compared to the “WTF???” reaction elicited by the head-shaking wraparound that bookends the entire affair. The film opens with our aforementioned young lad walking out of a lake and boarding a school bus to serve in the Redeemer’s choir. Wait, did you just say “walking out of a lake, AC?” Why, yes, yes, I did. Oh, and did I mention that he has two thumbs on his left hand? Because he does. Until he doesn’t, because now the Redeemer has two thumbs on HIS left hand, signifying… what, exactly? Who knows? But don’t be surprised if after the Redeemer is done Redeeming, the double-digit look suddenly goes out of style and LakeBoy, er, Christopher (Christopher Flint) hitches a ride back to the water’s edge.

I know, right?

"Whut did he just say...?"

These brain-melting twists and turns, along with several memorably vicious kills amidst the admittedly amateur-hour acting and dialogue, make for an intriguing, peculiarly prescient entry into the slasher field that’s well worth checking out. 

TRIVIA: While most of the cast never appeared in another film, Jeannetta Arnette (aka Cindy, she of the loose morals) would go on to appear as secretary Bernadette Meara in TV's Head of the Class!

The Redeemer is available now on Blu-ray from Code Red (with no special features) and can be ordered HERE:

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