Let’s go back to the 1980s.
I reviewed the remake of this film a while back and had never seen the original, so here we are.
Before I begin, I suppose I should talk about my relationship with 1980s horror. I tend to not enjoy horror out of the 80s as much. Stilted acting and ethereal soundtracks make everything feel like a dream, which can work well (see Phantasm) but it doesn’t always work. I might be biased against this one just because of my opinions of the period, so take this review with a grain of salt.
Satan’s Slave follows a young family after their mother passes away. Tommy and Rita, brother and sister, each deal with the death in their own ways. In their own ways means Tomi acts weird and Rita seems nervous all the time. Granted, the two are perhaps being haunted by a demon, but they are a bitoff before anything off happens.
Grief in film isn’t something that isn’t easy to portray. Tomu seems more panicked than sad, and Rita just seems oblivious. Part of this is the directing, which fragments the conversations and intrudes on each scene with purposeful zoom ins and outs.
Our characters are just so damn weird it is hard to connect with them. We get some talk of Satan and spirits, but most of the time it is just Tomi staring into nothingness and being a jerk. No one seems to act in accordance to how humans actually react to events. For example, Tomi tries to strangle his sister, but when the phone interrupts them, they never bother returning to the topic. Shouldn’t there have been some sort of reaction?
There is an attempt at worldbuilding. We see crowds and groups of friends of each of the characters, but it doesn’t really go anywhere. I’m not entirely sure what the father’s name was despite having just watched the film.
The biggest sin of this movie is that it is just boring. We spend too much time with nothingness. The effects are interesting and there is a creep factor in some of the scenes, but the lion’s share of the film is just nothing. You could cut down the running time by at least 50% and have the same story, perhaps even more (Did we need any of that dance sequence?)
I imagine fans of this would say the slow pace and oddities create a tone of dread and weirdness, which I can begrudgingly accept. However, it is still a boring tone. Maybe we’ve just become too critical of viewers, but what is happening and what is going to happen is simply too obvious to hold intrigue.
Poor lighting and sound quality detract from the scenes as well. There are some night shots where I couldn’t tell what I was supposed to be focusing on. The sound is perhaps more problematic—the film is loud. Car horns, phones, and voices are louder than they need to be. The odd mixing was probably done after principal filming, but we don’t have all the sounds in place. Sometimes interactions with the world produce a noise and other times they do not, which is just weird.
I never invested in the characters. Our primary protagonists aren’t likable enough to care about. With everything else being underwhelming I found this to be a slog to watch rather than any sort of enjoyment. The remake was okay and aspects of it worked better. I think this one is just a relic of the past.