by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)
I have seen some odd movies over the years, but I don't know if I
have ever seen one comparable to this. What makes it so supremely
strange is that it is a 94 minute black comedy with about 91 minutes
of perfectly serious plotline about some Catholic priests trying to
track down some satanic cultists in order to perform an exorcism. If
you were to watch those 91 minutes, your most probable top-line
reaction would be that it is a low-budget horror movie with some
amateur moments, but that the director did some fairly interesting
things with a budget very close to zero. You would probably not
suspect that it was supposed to be a comedy, although it would
sometimes seem a bit off kilter.
And then there are the other three minutes, which consist of
absurd comedy performed with a straight face, just pure surrealism stuck in the middle of an
otherwise straightforward genre flick. And there's no possibility that
could be unintentional. There
is absolutely no question that those moments are meant to be funny, as
the clip below illustrates:
You have to like the fact that both guys act as if the drawing represented
something perfectly sensible. Although that is a Woody Allen moment, I can't stress enough that the movie
takes itself seriously in general. Well, kinda - at least it chooses to keep all
the humor as deadpan as possible. But then it layers in a half-dozen "WTF?"
moments similar to the one above.
Another example: There is a straightforward capture-torture scene in which an
insane devil worshipper wants a young Catholic acolyte to betray his allies.
When the standard torture methods fail to produce the desired results, the
madman threatens the brave young man with the most painful death of all: being
grated to death with a cheese grater - a death as slow as it is excruciating.
That gets him to talk.
What can you say? Satan's Whip is unique. Apart from the nutty tone shifts, it has various plusses
and minuses. On the positive side, the director managed to get some damned good
performances from a rag-tag cast of nobodies, showed a grotesque sense of humor,
created some atmosphere without spending any money on it, and achieved some good
visual effects by allowing swaths of color to shine through what is essentially a b&w movie
(as you can see from the clip).
That's a pretty good bang for the non-existent buck. On the negative side, the plot
between the punch lines can get tedious, and you may find
yourselves tapping your toes, thinking "get on with it."
Did I like the movie? Damned if I know. I'm still trying to figure that
out. How is one supposed to react? It's not really funny enough consistently
enough to be considered a comedy, and it's not really spooky enough consistently
enough to be a horror film, and yet it really does have a certain offbeat
appeal. Imagine for a moment the first time you read The Tell-Tale Heart.
Now imagine that one of your buddies pulled an April Fool's prank on you and
inserted a half-dozen comic zingers in the middle of it, leaving everything else
intact. That's the experience you get from watching this movie.