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Satan's Cheerleaders (1977)

VCI
Blu-ray Disc Released: 11/7/2017

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 11/10/2017

Modern technology has changed the face of filmmaking, creating an environment where very low-budget movies can look like high-end efforts. Digital photography can render crystal-clear images. Computer editing programs can allow directors to have tightly paced films. These same computers can be used to create simple, but impressive visual effects. It's not like the old days when you could spot a low-budget movie from a mile away, and not just because they looked different from their Hollywood brethren. Some of these movies were in a completely separate league when it came to overall quality, and there's no better example than Satan's Cheerleaders.

The Huskies have four cheerleaders -- Patti (Kerry Sherman), Chris (Hillary Horan), Debbie (Alisa Powell), and Sharon (Sherry Marks) -- who are looked after by their coach, Ms. Johnson (Jacqulin Cole). These girls loves to have a good time, and don't shy away from a game of football at the beach! But, they are very excited about the big away game, as they pile into Ms. Johnson's station wagon to make the trip. However, the car breaks down on the way. Fortunately, the school's janitor (Jack Kruschen) happens by and offers them a ride. However, he has no intention of taking them to the game. Instead, he takes them to a rural area where a coven of witches is awaiting the arrival of a young maiden for a sacrifice. Can the girls escape from this evil plan?

OK, first-things-first, Satan's Cheerleaders is a great title for an exploitation film. It's unusual enough to get your attention and it implies that this will be a unique movie. But, nothing can prepare for just how weird this movie is...and not in a good way. Let's start by examining the afore-mentioned low-budget nature of the movie. As noted, there are only four cheerleaders. That seems like an awfully low number doesn't it? We don't get to see any football game and the only action on a football field is a water-balloon fight. (More on that in a moment). The cheerleaders' uniforms are merely t-shirts with their names on them, which is good, as it enables us to keep track of the characters (despite the fact that there are only four of them). The bulk of the film takes place in the daytime, even when the girls are being menaced by the cult. Why? Because it costs less to light during the day. The cult's "sacrificial alter" is simply a board next to a post on which a goat mask has been hung. We are supposed to get the sense that the girls have been taken to a place which is unnaturally deserted, and yet we can see cars passing on the highway in the background. Every moment of this movie screams "we didn't have much money". Now, a low-budget doesn't guarantee a bad film, but the overall cheapness here robs the movie of any credibility.

Not that this movie seemed to be going for any sort of credibility given it's incredibly odd tone. Satan's Cheerleaders was released in 1977, a time when horror movies were gritty, violent, and dark. And yet, this movie is, for the lack of a better word, goofy. The film opens with a game of touch football on the beach and then moves to the water-balloon fight which was mentioned earlier. Ms. Johnson is overly perky and naive, and her character is clearly here for comic relief. The coven is never scary and they come across as more inept then anything else. There is no real gore or violence here. Is this supposed to be a comedy? If so, it's not funny, and it's certainly never scary or creepy. However, it does play into horror cliches, as the girls keep running away from the highway, where we can, again, see cars, and seek help in the woods. The title may imply that Satan's Cheerleaders is something akin to early 70s softcore efforts like The Swinging Cheerleaders, but save for a few brief glimpses of T&A in a locker room scene, there's no sex here either. Although, we do learn about a rape after it has occurred.

So, if Satan's Cheerleaders is neither scary nor funny, then what good is it? It will be praised by those who enjoy Mystery Science Theater 3000-type fare. This movie contains enough stupid moments and on-screen bloopers to keep those who like to cast aspersions on movies busy for multiple screenings. If nothing else, the movie has to be seen to be believed. Pretty girls? Check. Evil cult? Check. It seems that one would have to go out of their way to take this formula and make a movie which has no truly redeeming features. Then Director Greydon Clark (who would go on to make another classic bad movie, The Uninvited) must have been exhausted after this.

Satan's Cheerleaders does get a lot of mileage out of a wind machine on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of VCI. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. This transfer is a new 2K scan taken from the original 35mm negative. The image is sharp and clear, showing only mild grain and no distracting defects from the source materials. We does get obvious haloes at the edges of the screen. The colors look good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The picture does get soft, but the depth is OK. (The "original transfer" is also included here, which shows spots and scratches on the image. The Disc carries a Linear PCM Mono audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an constant 1.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. We don't get any dynamic effects here, but the actors are always audible and the sound effects and music don't drown them out. There's no popping or hissing on the track.

The Satan's Cheerleaders Blu-ray Disc contains a few extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Greydon Clark. This is followed by a second COMMENTARY from filmmaker David DeCoteau and film historian David Del Valle. The only other extra is a "Photo Gallery" which offers some behind-the-scenes stills.

Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long