DEADLY BLESSING (1981)
While I wouldn’t say Wes Craven’s Deadly Blessing is one of my all time Halloween Favorites, I would say it’s a film that holds sentimental value being one of the films seen at my beloved Oritani Theater in Hackensack, N.J. and if you’ve been coming to this site for a while you know that was a special place for the movie geek in me and holds a lot of equally special memories. Having recently revisited this creepy thriller thanks to Scream Factory’s gorgeous blu-ray, I found that not only was it still very enjoyable, but has some really nice 80s nostalgia attached to it now, too!
Deadly Blessing tells the story of young couple Martha (Battlestar Galactica hottie Maren Jensen) and Jim (Douglas Barr) who live on a farm near the rustic and religious Hittites of whom Jim is family, but was exiled for marrying a woman not of their clan. Tragedy strikes, as a horrible accident…or was it…leaves Martha a widow and soon she is joined by loyal friends Lana (Sharon Stone) and Vicky (Susan Buckner) who come to console her. Someone or something is watching the young women and soon Jim isn’t the only body turning up on Martha’s land. The Hittites, lead by the strict Isaiah (Ernest Borgnine), say that it is the work of the Incubus, a seductive demon come to temp all to sin and damnation, while Martha and her friends believe it is the work of someone far more down to earth…but who and why?
While Craven…who co-wrote the screenplay with story writers Glenn M. Benest and Matthew Barr…would really hit his stride with A Nightmare On Elm Street three years later, he still delivers a solid little horror thriller here that is actually an entertaining and well made film. It has some spooky sequences and keeps you guessing while presenting us with some likable characters to fear for and some other characters to be suspicious of. Craven gives the film some nice atmosphere, accented by some beautiful cinematography by Robert Jessup and a nice score from James Horner.
The cast are fine. Jensen is a bit wooden, but not enough to sink things. Stone is good as the emotionally troubled Lana and Buckner makes a crush-worthy and perky Vicky…and a big crush on her Vicky I had upon seeing this flick in 1981. Borgnine is perfectly menacing and just over-the-top enough as clan leader Isaiah and genre favorite Michael Berryman is equally effective as a Hittite man with an eye for his pretty neighbor. Also good are Lisa Hartman as Faith and Lois Nettleton as her mother Louisa, who live near Martha and who appear nice enough, if not a little odd.
There is a body count, but not a large one, as this is more a mystery thriller then a slasher. The bloodshed is moderate, as is the violence and Craven has his usual fun with dream sequences…one involving Sharon Stone and a spider is still goose-bump inducing even today. There are also a few scenes and lines that almost seem to foreshadow Mr. Krueger’s appearance a few years later, now that we are familiar with that classic and it’s legendary boogeyman.
The film isn’t perfect. As said, Jensen is a bit wooden and there are some weak bits of dialogue throughout. And while it is enjoyable, the last act, including the film’s big reveal, does skirt very close to going over-the-top and becoming silly. The final scene is an unnecessary shock ending that does come across as more silly than scary. It almost appears like it’s tacked on from another movie.
Overall though, Deadly Blessing is a nostalgic and fun early 80s horror that may seem tame by today’s standards and even the standards of Craven’s later work, but it shows the director of the brutal and shocking Last House On The Left, the vicious The Hills Have Eyes and the comic book-ish Swamp Thing (which came after Blessing) was continuing to show his versatility and could handle something on a more subtle level that didn’t require the heavy violence or over the top theatrics of his previous films. A very entertaining and delightfully 80s horror from one of the genre’s greats.
As said, this cult classic is now available from Scream Factory including a beautifully restored print along with some nice extra’s including fun interviews with genre favorite Michael Berryman and sassy lead Susan Buckner who both have amusingly different versions of how well…or not…the three leading ladies got along. Fun stuff!