REVIEW: Blood on Satan’s Claw (2018)

An Audio Drama

It’s funny that whilst I was going on bit of a folk horror kick, I discovered that Audible had a re-imagining of one of the all-time classic films in that genre. Blood on Satan’s Claw was a 1971 film that has garnered a reputation for being quite controversial in many ways. It was violent, scary, and contained many uncomfortable scenes that shocked filmgoers fifty years ago. It was the film that originally was the basis for the concept of “folk horror” to be noticed, and the term was coined in reference to it. That said, this full cast audio drama is not merely a reading of the film’s screenplay, nor is it the exact same storyline. The plot has been completely re-imagined for the medium by Mark Gatiss and Reece Shearsmith (The League of Gentlemen), and in my opinion improved upon greatly.

An Audible Original drama adapted from the original screenplay by horror writer Mark MorrisBlood on Satan’s Claw stars Mark Gatiss (SherlockDoctor WhoThe League of Gentlemen), Reece Shearsmith (The League of Gentlemen), Alice Lowe (SightseersPrevenge), John Heffernan (Ripper StreetJonathan Strange and Mr Norrell), Ralph Ineson (The WitchThe Office), Thomas Turgoose (This Is England), Rebecca Ryan (Shameless) and Philip Hill-Pearson (Good Cop). 

“Seventeenth-century England, and a plough uncovers a grisly skull in the furrows of a farmer’s field. The skull disappears, but its malefic influence begins to work in insidious ways upon the nearby village of Hexbridge. First, the cows stop milking and the fruit turns rotten on the trees. Then, an insolent ungodliness takes hold of the local children, mysterious fur patches appear on limbs and people start disappearing….Something evil is stirring in the woods. Something that is corrupting the village youth, who retreat to the woodland deeps to play their pernicious games. Hysteria spreads as it becomes clear that the devil has come to Hexbridge, to incarnate himself on earth.

Lynda Hayden returns, but in a different role

To many, the plot of this audio drama may seem like an old tired storyline, but keep in mind when this was originally written for the screenplay there wasn’t much like this. In many ways, while not the first film considered to fall under the folk horror banner, the original Blood on Satan’s Claw was one of the most influential. As I discussed in my review of a recent documentary on the genre, most horror movies do nothing for me anymore. I don’t find that slasher films have aged well, and “jump scare movies” are nearly unwatchable and boring. I’ll take a good story of modernity vs tradition over any of that because sometimes ancient evils once thought stamped out are more “scary” than a loud noise or a flashing light.

This audio adaptation is marvelous in just about every way. The film is great cinematically, but lacks almost any real character building aside from the bare minimum. These kids are evil, these kids are God-fearing Christians, and everyone else is belligerent and yelling at each other. It’s a classic for sure, but the movie is far from perfect for this very reason. The script for the audio drama adds the human element back into the story. We see characters try to deal with the horrors that have befallen their small village together. The new dialogue and character situations really flesh the plot out considerably and improve it in every way.

Characters like Angel Blake are fleshed out far more, making their turn to evil more complicated for the listener. Should one feel any sort of sympathy for her since she was brainwashed by a demon? (the answer is definitely no) Characters like The Judge are more likeable since they aren’t just barking orders and acting belligerent, and you get some real shocks when characters end up getting killed even if you know what’s coming. Even the most minuscule characters get some sort of characterization which is good.

Audible’s Blood on Satan’s Claw is a relatively short drama in at around two hours, and it’s packed full of all the scares of any horror film. Great care was taken to not lose the plot of the source material, while making this something entirely new. This production has a great cast and solid sound design resulting in an unsettling atmospheric mood that most audio productions would hope to replicate. If you like horror and listen to audiobooks, I would definitely recommend this for fans of the original and newcomers alike.

If you are interested in this audio drama, click HERE

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