Classic British horror directed by Piers Haggard. In a 17th-Century English village, a ploughman discovers the skeletal remains of a demonic creature. Soon after the remains are discovered, they go missing again, which hampers the investigations of the local judge (Patrick Wymark). Meanwhile, strange events are beginning to occur in the village: a young woman inexplicably goes insane and her fiance is later found cutting off his own hand, believing it to have turned into a hideous claw. Then a cult of teenage devil-worshippers emerges, led by beautiful temptress Angel Blake (Linda Hayden), which involves children performing blood sacrifices to bring the skeletal demon back to life…
Piers Inigo Haggard (born 18 March 1939) is a British film and television director, although he has worked mostly in the latter medium.
Haggard was born in London. He is the great-great-nephew of H. Rider Haggard, and is the son of the actor Stephen Haggard and father of the actress Daisy Haggard.
Haggard began his career directing plays for the anthology drama series Thirty-Minute Theatre in the 1960s, later working on the more prestigious anthology shows Armchair Theatre (for ITV) and Play for Today (for the BBC). He directed for a variety of programmes throughout the 1970s, such as The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes and Love for Lydia. In 1971, he directed the feature film Satan’s Skin, also known as Blood on Satan’s Claw. He also directed the horror film Venom.
Probably his best known work came later in the decade. In 1978 he was the director of Dennis Potter’s landmark drama serial Pennies From Heaven for the BBC, and the following year he directed the expensive… read more
Linda Hayden plays evil incarnate and Patrick Wymark an imposing-but-foppish devil hunter who seems strangely detached from the proceedings until the final third of the film (somehow his period wig alternates between ridiculous-looking and severe, reminding me a bit of Christopher Lee's *The Bloody Judge*). The film is always willing to push *further*--Hayden's full-body strip in front of the local priest, or the
revolting rape and murder of Cathy (all the more revolting because of the time spent creeping up to the ritual climax, time during which you think her boyfriend just might make it in time to save her), or the ghoulish way that one of the local "children" mocks the mother of one of the boys they've just killed. It goes on and on.
There are also a number of stylistic flourishes that come unexpected and add to the overall effect--I'm thinking specifically of the final confrontation between Patrick Wymark and the devil, shot without dialogue and slipping in and out of slow motion, or the way that Hayden's facial features are made more and more severe, the more she becomes a willing slave to the devil. Remains as disturbing (also: unnerving) as a film like *The Wicker Man*. Tied for the best British horror that I watched in October.