Directed by Ethan Gomez Zahnley [Other horror films: N/A] & Jack McDermott [Other horror films: N/A]
I have to admit to having rather mixed feelings about this lower-budget film. On one hand, I appreciate some of the performances and dialogue in Satan’s Servant, for all it’s awkward glory, but on the other, I really wish I loved the base story a bit more.
Certainly I find the film a bit of a mixed bag. Still, considering the extraordinarily low score on IMDb (at the time of this writing, it boasts a 2.5/10 with 126 votes), perhaps such a mixed reaction should be seen in a positive light. I mean, compared to some films I saw from 2020 (such as Tokyo Home Stay Massacre, Wolfwood, and I Think We’re Alone Now), this was downright spectacular.
Also, I won’t lie – I had fun with a lot of the first three-fourth’s of the film. It’s labeled on Prime as a ‘coming-of-age slasher’, and while I don’t buy that description, it does deal primarily with teenagers, meaning we get uber-beast teen slang (such as the word ‘sus’ and ‘swear’, as in ‘Swear, what’s the move now?’). Also, ‘damn near the move’, ‘bust the mission’, and ‘vibing’.
I’m not making fun of the film – I’m guessing this is what modern-day teens talk like, and I found it fascinating, along with a little amusing. I mean, I say ‘bro’ and ‘brah’ a lot, and sometimes use ‘hella’ ironically, but it almost feels like a third of the words used here.
So yeah, I found a lot of the film fun just for the fact it centered around some teenagers in California (this was likely filmed near Kensington, California, on a side-note, given how Kensington Hilltop Elementary School was seen in a couple of scenes). I’m almost 30, so I have no idea if it’s a realistic portrayal of teens nowadays, but did I have fun? Yes, sir.
The performances were, as you can imagine, shaky. Some definitely lacked the appropriate emotion for the situation. That said, there was only one performance I actually disliked, being Emily Maya Keyishian, who was just a bit over-the-top comedic at times for me to fully buy into.
Ironically, the younger actors and actresses here all kept me entertained. I absolutely loved Sean Okimoto’s character, who spent most of the night trying to fight Satanists while faded as fuck. I dug that performance a lot. Josephine Thompson had some weak moments, but I generally thought she did pretty well. Though she had shorter screen-time, the same can be said for Erin Wynden. Carlos Noreña didn’t seem to have as much character as Okimoto, but he was an okay lead, and Garrett Bush had a moment here and there.
Also, while the gore here isn’t great, they at least try. Someone gets their arm ripped off, and a throwing knife flung at their skull. Another unfortunate soul gets stakes through their wrists. There are two different decapitations, along with a slit throat. None of these scenes are great, but I admit, I did like seeing someone get their arm torn off, so no complaints.
What I did find more problematic was the comedy. Sometimes, it totally worked, such as the scene in which James (Carlos Noreña) and Tyler (Sean Okimoto) were discussing how to get past a lock. Other times, though, I didn’t think it landed. Mostly, this happened toward the finale, which I found overall rather unsatisfactory, if I’m being honest, and that purification scene (“You’re in the splash zone”) was particularly painful.
I don’t doubt that many would look at the lower-budget nature of the film and write it off, which I don’t find particularly fair. I definitely had some issues with Satan’s Servant, but for what they had, I thought they did an admirable job. Oh, and the fact they could film at 2:00 am without pissing off their neighbors is quality praxis.
Satan’s Servant isn’t likely to make many people’s must-watch list, but I definitely found it largely serviceable. I do think it ultimately falls below average, if only because the story sort of loses my interest about half-way through (to be fair, that’s true for many movies with a Satanic subplot), but it was a damn fine attempt, and I had a good time with a lot of it.