There is something inherently frightening about religious fanaticism meeting delusional violence. The monsters of these stories are real. These aren’t creature features or supernatural tales of paranormal sightings; no, this is an evil that thinks it is in the right, doing the ‘Lord’s work’ to cement their place in Heaven. From classics like The Wicker Man up to modern masterpieces like Saint Maud, this subgenre of faith-based chills has birthed some of the best horror stories in cinema – and the wholly underrated Beware My Brethren needs to be discussed in these ranks.
Also known as The Fiend, Robert Hartford-Davis’ 1972 horror merges the above with the popular early 1970s sexploitation genre, resulting in a darkly disturbing thriller based around a fundamentalist religious sect called “the Brethren”, led by the charismatic Minister (Patrick Magee, A Clockwork Orange). Overbearing mother Birdy (Ann Todd) and her troubled son Kenneth (Tony Beckley) are devoted members of the congregation, with the film’s horror largely following Kenny’s killing frenzy that he feels is retribution for his victims’ Godless ways.
With elements of Psycho’s doting, murderous son and Peeping Tom’s lustful kills, this Brit chiller is a film ripe for reappraisal. Despite some hammy performances and dated editing, the film largely holds up as a genuinely compelling and uncomfortable horror film. Tony Beckley’s performance is especially disturbing, as the murderous Kenny. Patrick Magee’s Minister is a loud, commanding presence who rules over the Brethren while Suzanna Leigh and Madeleine Hinde are surprisingly good as the sisters who attempt to bring the sect down.
Beware My Brethren was cut for the American market (in the form of The Fiend) but 88 Films’ divine new Blu-ray release boasts a 2K restoration of the original negative. The film looks impeccable, with minimal print damage and strong detail – it is a surprisingly solid transfer for a low-budget sexploitation horror like this. The 2.0 LPCM Stereo track is as good as it needs to be. A wealth of special features – two commentaries, multiple featurettes, and a trailer – compliment the film, while the first pressing matte laminate slipcase and insightful booklet offer further incentive to add this one to your horror collection.
Beware My Brethren is a compelling and disturbing chiller that deserves to stand confidently alongside The Wicker Man as another essential faith-based horror of the 1970s. Praise be to 88 Films for this definitive, must-own release.
BEWARE MY BRETHREN (AKA THE FIEND) is available on Blu-ray from 88 Films on July 25 2022, and can be purchased direct here