Mention British folk horror and most film enthusiasts will automatically strike up The Wicker Man into conversation, or perhaps The Witchfinder General. But where both these features were lifted by icons in the genre, Sir Christopher Lee and Vincent Price, The Blood on Satan’s Claw doesn’t have the weight of talent on display. It does however, like its counterparts, boast a cult following. And for good reason, as it marks an identity of its own with a unique tale spun by writer Robert Wynne-Simmons (The Outcasts) and director Piers Haggard.
At its core, the tale that is woven is one of demonic possession in early 18th Century England. The oddities begin when Ralph (Barry Andrews) unearths a deformed skull from the ground, but despite his proclamations of the devil’s work, when it comes to proving his case before the local Judge (Patrick Wymark), the skull in question mysteriously vanishes.
Furthermore, when Peter (Simon Williams) brings home his ill-matched fiance according to social status, Rosalind, she suddenly screams through the night, falls ill and is then committed to by the Judge.
TBOSC has a way of getting beneath your skin in a curiously appealing way and when Peter starts to question his own sanity following an attack by a creature in the night only to find that he has severed his own hand. It also plays with the pack mentality too with a menacing presence led by some of the local youths, who gang up and hunt down their prey in the name of the prince of darkness.
There is so much going for this film and it lures you in with its quirky simplicity and lifts the maniacal pandemonium that arises in a small town without any sense of order, led astray by their frenzy and beliefs in a greater power. Witchcraft is not a loose term in these times and with some strange happenings, decisions are made to stoke the flames of the occult.
The mob will eventually rise armed with flaming torches to bring down the blasphemous brood, but will it be too late?
TBOSC deserves its place in British Horror hall of fame, and if you’re a fan of folk horror, this is well worth your time and is not surprising that it has influenced many filmmakers for holding true to its identity and not shying away from making its mark on the celluloid soul
- Saul Muerte