The Satanic Path(1983) -courtesy of Gorgon Video
A young woman named Jamie, after just turning 18 years old decides to leave her cushy Midwestern upbringing after her mother dies from mysterious circumstances. She moves to Europe in order to search for her biological father whom she has never met. Her search leads her to a small village in the River Avon valley named Hedonshire where she encounters a mysterious and beautiful older woman called Zans who tells Jamie she knows the young woman’s father and that she can lead her to him, but for a price. That price? Jamie’s eternal soul?
The Satanic Path works off the whole “Satanic Panic” fears of the 80s beautifully by incorporating the loss of innocence with also the liberating possibilities of “finding oneself” through spiritual, sexual, and even self-destructive means. The protagonist, the innocent and naive Jamie, knows there’s something dark and mysterious about her mother’s death and the man who is Jamie’s biological father whom her mother kept secret all these years. But after Jamie’s mother’s funeral Jamie comes across a letter hidden in a locked cedar chest in the basement of her grandmother’s home. A letter written to her mom by a man named Ezekiel. Ezekiel speaks of a forbidden love and of rituals, blood sacrifices, and wanting to see his daughter, whom Jamie realizes is her. The return address is Bristol, England, which is Jamie’s first stop on a journey for the truth. She finds the truth; as well as a coven of witches, Satanists, a demonic monastery, killer lesbians, a portal to an alternate universe, horny backpackers, a possessed church organ, dim-witted occultists, and a gateway to the “Dark Realm” where all of Jamie’s deepest, darkest desires come to life, but at a very steep price.
The Satanic Path was written and directed by Roberto Bava, the famous Italian B-movie director of such lurid(and at times X-rated) horror and occultist films The Dead In Your Bed(1965), Souls For Sale(1969), Bravo, My Dear(Fear Eater)(1973), and his game changing My Lesbian Summer(1976). The Satanic Path marked Bava’s return to the genre he helped to define after several softcore film adaptations of Shakespeare plays in the late 70s and early 80s and one catastrophic, orgy-filled production of A Midsummer’s Night Dream that played one time and one time only at the Herzog Theater near his home in Cologne, Germany.
The idea for The Satanic Path came to Bava after dropping his daughter off at her private school in the Swiss alps. He immediately returned to Cologne and spent the better part of September of 1981 writing. After securing funding from Spanish film producer Diego(Diablo) Garza and a small group of Italian investors filming began in the summer of 1982. Shot on location in both Columbus, Ohio, the River Avon Valley, and Zurich, Switzerland, the film was complete and edited within a mere 3 months.
The biggest change with The Satanic Path in regards to Bava’s previous work was with the film scoring. His brother-in-law, the famous German film composer Herman Wagner, had scored nearly every Bava picture since his 1959 debut Sisters, Lovers. With Path, Roberto Bava felt he needed to step away from the romantic, wind-swept drama of Wagner’s more traditional approach to scoring and he instead went with the mysterious Pentagram Home Video. He wanted the film to have a more modern feel, so the cold, detached sounds of analog synthesizers seemed to be the way to go. Pentagram Home Video would go onto to score the cult film Who’s Out There(1986) and most recently the short Slumber(2015). But with The Satanic Path, Pentagram Home Video would create a dark and foreboding aural companion to what might be Bava’s best work(it was his last as he died in 1985 at the age of 73 in a boating accident.)
PHV went about creating the musical pieces for The Satanic Path much like they created dark, dance floor ambient techno they used to perform in the dingy, smokey clubs of London in the late 70s and early 80s. Their approach is a minimal one, but one that pulls maximum reaction. With just simple synth lines and programmed beats, Pentagram Home Video can create a sense of dread and dark emotion. Pieces like “A Satanic Perspective On Youth Television”, “A Problem For The Occultist”, and “The Black Mass Part I/II/Leviathan” build upon Bava’s moody scenes, set designs, and help to fill the gaps that are apparent in Roberto’s sometimes thin script. PHV’s “The Parallel Realm” exquisitely captures the luridness and dark sexuality that surrounds Jamie’s quid pro quo near the end of the film. The music turns what could’ve been an exploitative scene of dark lust and sexual shock into something far deeper.
Overall, Pentagram Home Video helped turn Roberto Bava’s swan song of a film into something far richer, deeper, and compelling.
The Satanic Path will not make someone who’s not a fan of the genre a fan. It’s still lurid, exploitative, hedonistic, filled with sex and nudity, and can be quite shocking when it wants to be(Hell, what’s not to like about any of that?) If anything, it may have you searching for those old Pentagram Home Video soundtracks, as they’re absolutely stellar albums. The Satanic Path is one of the best. Look around, you may be able to find a copy…if you’re lucky.