The Killing of Satan (Efren C. Pinon, 1983)

Drafthouse Films LogoMove over, Jesus! Lando San Miguel saves!  The Killing of Satan is a Filipino fantasy movie that tells the age-old tale of God vs. Satan.  That is if God entrusted his battle to a diminutive man named Lando who wore a jean jacket and hi-top sneakers and Satan was an even more diminutive man with a plastic red pitchfork and a goatee.  Like all genre films from the Philippines, this one throws logic and sanity out the window.  In their place, we get laser battles, manimals, zombies, boobs, and face mutilation.  It’s a psychedelic blast of gory absurdity, an epic example of Christian exploitation filled with dead-serious emotions and dead-serious hilarity.  All in the name of God’s revenge.

Special Features:

  • Interviews with the King of Amulets, actor Ramon Revilla, and director Efren C. Piñon
  • Trailer Gallery of Efren C. Piñon and Ramon Revilla Films
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • 16-page booklet featuring photos, production stills and interviews

Coronado Edition – Package Includes:

  • The Killing of Satan on Blu-ray or Standard DVD with a new HD restoration plus bonus material
  • High Quality 720p Digital Download Available on Street Date
  • Marvelous 27″ x 40″ one-sheet poster designed by Mondo Artist Francesco Francavilla
  • 48 Rubber Rainforest Snakes

We could use this space to recount the plot of The Killing of Satan.  We could try and explain that Lando San Miguel is the chosen savior of his uncle’s village and is armed by God himself with a magical staff to do battle with Satan and his minions, including the Prince of Magic (sporting red tights and demi-cape), scantily clad female servants, and hooded hellmonks.  We could marvel at the moustachioed manliness of the heroic Lando (Ramon Revilla), smirk at the overly stereotypical portrayals of Satan by not one but two actors, wonder at the extensive yet boring depiction of female full frontal nudity, and wince at the face-tearing, chest-bursting, body-squishing gore.  We might wonder if bitch-slapping a snake is truly the best way in incapacitate it, if a forcefield should extend far enough to protect your clothes as well as your body, if a red and black, Lugosi-esque Dracula outfit is proper battle gear, or if a half-day boat-ride is enough to bring closure to your son’s murder such that it need never be mentioned again.  We might do this and much, much more, or we might simply watch Mike Matei’s Cinemassacre review.  Yeah, let’s just do that.

[Oops!  Not available anymore!  Booooo!]

Pew!  Pew!  Pew!  Crazy.  The Killing of Satan is chock full of so much weirdness that we’re almost surprised its trailer didn’t make it onto Drafthouse’s Trailer War disc.  Spiraling elbow energy, demented staring contests, spinning heads, squiggly lasers, costume-themed Prince of Magic clones (our favourite being Buccaneer Prince of Magic), shape-shifting satanic brides, and green holy energy – these are the hallmarks of sleazy Catholic exploitation cinema, a religious fantasy/horror genre entirely unknown to MMC! until The Killing of Satan.  Enumerations of the film’s various boss battles and its consistent randomness are easily found on the web and observable in the videos provided above, so let’s instead spend some time considering two other reasons why The Killing of Satan is a masterpiece of goodbad.

Most importantly, The Killing of Satan is a sincere film.  Like Miami Connection, it’s made with the best of intentions, designed to both edify and entertain.  Pastiches and parodies of low-budget trash almost never find the same frisson that exists with their lowly inspirations.  It’s the earnestness of these films, their ability to tell a tale that may not need telling in a manner inappropriate to its own success, that enlists the viewer.  Filming a movie is no small task, and achievements in goodbad occur because the film becomes something of an underdog that the viewer roots for, watching as it improbably proceeds against all limits of skill and production value to its eventual dénouement.  Each stilted performance, clumsy special effect, plot hole, and unmotivated shift in tone is another hurdle to be reveled in and overcome.  The more egregious, salacious, and novel these deficiencies are, the more entertaining the film becomes and the more we as participants are drawn in, provided the filmmaker’s efforts remain genuine and unselfconscious.  There can be little doubt that The Killing of Satan is intended as a Christian fantasy epic, the story of a man against the forces of evil, called forth and granted powers he neither asked for or understands.  It’s not his fault the Prince of Darkness looks like the demonic maître d’ of Pinoy Hell’s best wood-paneled, ruby red, 1970s Italian restaurant.

Most discussions of The Killing of Satan focus on its ostentatious elements.  These reviews emphasize the bizarre costumes, weather, special effects, and narrative choices that propel The Killing of Satan forward, but these more obvious elements exist within a faulty cinematic grammar that always places us at arm’s length from Piñon’s film.  They are the misaligned tracks on which we observe The Killing of Satan‘s ongoing near derailment.  In particular, The Killing of Satan has that unusual quality to goodbad films of feeling too long (full of unnecessary scenes or sequences that go on too long) and too short (with scenes that transition too abruptly to feel naturally resolved in their own right).  Of all the scenes offered by The Killing of Satan, our favourite example is the seduction of Lando by Satan’s shape-changing harem girls.  The scene is entirely incongruous with the rest of the film (not that the rest of the film is a smooth, rich tapestry on its own).  Lando enters a opulent manor dressed in the trophies of game hunting where he is enticed by 3 seductive women in sheer outfits.  There is no establishing shot of the mansion.  As near as can be told, it’s inside one of the film’s many caverns.  He’s attacked by the each of the three women in sequence.  The first transforms into a snake which Lando defeats by tossing it aside.  The second behaves like a feral cat who Lando defeats by tossing her aside, at which time she changes shape into a house cat.  The last transforms into a dog that attacks Lando until he tosses it aside.  The scene immediately ends and we next see Lando wandering around outside without the staff given to him by God (something “The Chosen One” should probably keep better track of).  Where he was, what happened to the evil women, how he left, and why he forgot his staff are all questions that are not just left answered but apparently never asked in the first place.  The Killing of Satan proceeds in this manner throughout, behaving by its own logic (Elbow magic?  Sure, why not?) and comfortable in shifting gears as is convenient (Elbow Magic?  No good against the Prince of Magic!  Unless it is!).  The whole thing feels like an error in obtaining suitable coverage to abide by the conventions of classical editing, which may be true, but the resultant tension over what might possibly happen next and how we might get there is also exacerbated by the Christian values that root Piñon’s film.  We might criticize a film like The Killing of Satan for its inconsistencies, as Lando’s magical powers are never really set out and appear as seems convenient to the plot, yet the film is itself one big deus ex machina, with God’s will continually working on and through Lando until Satan is killed and the credits can roll.  Dead?  Drowned?  Defenseless?  No matter how hard Lando tries to get out of this movie, God is there to pull him back in and put him to work on the side of righteousness.  Perhaps The Killing of Satan is not merely goodbad, but actually divinebad.

Killing of Satan PosterAnother favourite of the Alamo Drafthouse programmers, The Killing of Satan could comfortably find a place among the line’s other rep picks.  The film is consistently surprising, full of enjoyably primitive special effects (you gotta love those sequences running film backwards to achieve unusual movements by the performers, particularly for the tiny snake man Lando battles!), and is a definite crowd-pleaser that begs for communal viewing.  A decent DVD edition exists from the Substance label, but Drafthouse could do so much better and turn this little known slice of cheese into a true cult classic.  Luckily, the film actually has poster art to utilize for a spine numbered, hard media release.  Amazingly, the one sheet isn’t even that far off of what the film actually offers!

Francesco Francavilla Clash of the TitansCredits:  Not much to say about the package presented here.  Revilla was a Senator in the Phillippines following his acting career and is best known for taking Alec Baldwin to task for some comments about Filipino mail-order brides.  Not shy of the spotlight, we’d hope Revilla would be happy to speak about his career and the film.  Piñon continues to make films in the Phillippines, so hopefully he’d be available to discuss the film as well.  Francesco Francavilla was chosen to provide the reversible cover art given his place as a Mondo poster artist and his knack for fantasy adventure and inhuman monsters, as evidenced by his posters for Creature from the Black Lagoon (Jack Arnold, 1954), Highlander (Russell Mulcahy, 1986), and Clash of the Titans (Desmond Davis, 1981).  There are a number of blow-by-blow reviews of The Killing of Satan online.  The cover summary is largely inspired/derived by Joseph A. Ziemba’s synopsis for the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema’s Summer of ’83 program.  Those interested in exploring the film further should check out Garrett “Hydrogen” Neil and Sean “Trillaphon” Neil’s discussion at Something Awful, Todd’s analysis at The Merry Frolics of Teleport City, and John Cribbs’s review at The Pink Smoke.

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