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Satan's Blood

The opening scene of the 1977 Spanish horror classic Satan's Blood likely won't encourage those hoping for a step up from the usual sex and gore. In the first five minutes, a woman is led into a room full of black-robed devil worshippers, who strip her naked, kiss her from neck to crotch, then stab her with a long knife. But when the movie repeats a version of the scene later, it isn't so run-of-the-mill anymore. Credit an intervening hour in which co-creators Carlos Puerto and Juan Piquer Simón take full advantage of their Madrid locations and the relaxed censorship of the post-Franco era. Satan's Blood is the kind of movie where a zestful married couple (played by Ángel Aranda and Sandra Alberti) spend an afternoon sipping café au lait and going to see Star Wars before joining a couple they just met for a weekend of greased-up four-way sex on a pentagram rug.

Satan's Blood goes slack too often, and it lacks any real satirical point, but Puerto and Simón pepper the film with memorably creepy moments and a pervasive Euro-sleaze atmosphere. It starts as a mildly weird sleepover in a creepy old house where the hosts eat raw meat out of dog bowls, and a freaky china doll sits in judgment with its dead red eyes, but it becomes a nested, Luis Buñuel-esque nightmare, as Aranda and Alberti keep trying to leave and keep ending up back inside the house with their clothes half-off. Eventually, people start turning up dead, and then the same people come back to life and have to be re-killed. Through it all, the heroes try to act relaxed and hip, even as a doctor comes to examine a corpse and gives his version of the last rites: "Take thy servant into the world of darkness." If anything sets the movie apart from routine '70s drive-in fare, it's the overwhelming sense of swingers' guilt. Aranda and Alberti are just out for kicks, but they wake up in a bloodbath and wonder "What the hell did we just do?"

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Key features: An alternate opening that puts the titillation in a Biblical context, and an excellent short documentary in which Satanic priest Gavin Baddeley expounds on the history of his religion.

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