Amazon’s subscription streaming service may not have as many high-profile hits as Netflix… but they certainly make up for it with an impossibly huge back catalog of filmic ephemera: thousands upon thousands of forgotten exploitation movies, lunatics’ labors of love, backyard-shot slasher flicks, and other indescribable oddities.
99% of these movies richly deserve to be exiled to cinema’s slagheap… but there are some slimy gems hidden among the vast mountains of garbage, movies that are just too damn weird to find an audience… or too strange to believe they even exist. I like digging them up, watching them and telling you about them, so allow me to indulge this masochistic hobby… and hey, who knows? You might just find a bizarre little item you’d be willing to endure. If not, at least you can laugh along with me.
Let’s kick this column off with a little taste of Satan’s handiwork… or at least somebody’s idea of what Ol’ Scratch was up to during the wave of “Satanic Panic” paranoia that swept through the US (and a few other countries as well) in the ’80s and ’90s. I’m talking about the 1980 “documentary” Revival of Evil.
This Christian-made documentary is a fascinating time-capsule collection of the bullshit certain self-righteous groups were afraid of… as well as a look at the religious shysters willing to con them out of a few bucks by telling horror stories about SATAN.
Told through interviews with self-proclaimed “reformed occultists” and illustrated with amazing stock footage, Revival of Evil is a virtual clearinghouse of “Terrible-Things-Proper-Christians-Should-Be-Afraid-Of,” including:
- Oujia Boards
- Dungeons and Dragons
- Anton LaVey
- University Professors
- Jethro Tull
- “Trance mediums”
- Drug trips
- “Space Brothers and UFOs”
- “Sensual aspects of the occult”
- Transcendental Meditation (do not repeat the mantras from Swami Rama!)
- Eastern Religions
- Black Oak Arkansas
- Everything else, really.
The highlight of Revival of Evil is the interview with “concert promoter and studio musician” Mike Putini. Through his career in rock music, Putini says he learned firsthand about the evil going on at Jethro Tull concerts, the astral projection techniques of Rainbow lead singer Ronnie Romero, and the satanic things that happen at… punk rock shows?
“The majority of punk singers say, ‘If you like us, cut yourself for us!’” Putini says, “and the kids get up and they literally cut themselves!” Myself, I find the majority of punk singers tend to say “We’ll be playing in City of Industry tomorrow with Cat Flinch. We have merch for sale in the corner. Subscribe to our Insta!”) Putini ends his spiel with a promo for a Christian rock alternative to all this devil music is par for the Christian course: “Don’t buy that rock music; it’s evil! Buy this rock music!”
Revival of Evil’s ringmaster is Dave Hunt, a smarmy fundamentalist radio preacher, who couldn’t seem less sincere. Hunt’s dismissal of swamis, UFO cultists, and trance mediums seems driven more by newcomer religions cutting into his market share than a real concern for anyone’s immortal souls… and that’s the genius of Revival of Evil: It sends exactly the opposite of the message it intends to.
Through their tales of gaining mastery and power through Satanism and witchcraft, Revival of Evil’s interview subjects make the occult world seem way more interesting than it actually is. Like, I wish a KISS concert featured chanting to Beezlebub, ritual bloodletting, and literally selling your soul, instead of a bunch of old geezers in heavy makeup.
A better documentary to scare kids into going to church would show real occultists, like maybe some goth teens hanging at the mall, or a part-time Wiccan reading fortunes with Tarot cards she bought at Barnes and Noble. That’ll keep asses in pews.
Stephen Johnson writes about weird cults, horror video games, murderers, and other real-life terrors. He has written for Blumhouse, G4TV, Gawker, FearNET, Offspring, and countless other outlets. An award-winning filmmaker, his short films have screened at the Sundance Film Festival, Palm Springs International Film Festival, and many others. Stephen’s lifelong obsession with the esoteric and outré causes no end of consternation to his friends and family.
[Editor’s Note: Opinions expressed by our contributors do not necessarily reflect the views of Tom Holland’s Terror Time, its Management and the Editorial Team.]