Deadly Blessing, 1981.
Directed by Wes Craven.
Starring Maren Jensen, Sharon Stone, Susan Buckner, Douglas Barr, Jess East, Ernest Borgnine and Lois Nettleton.
When Martha marries into a close knit sect she finds herself shunned as an outsider by its fanatical members, but when her husband dies mysteriously while riding a tractor expressly forbidden as a tool of the devil, things take a darker turn.
Wes Craven’s long and illustrious career in horror has seen him craft many an iconic film. Some have become franchises such as A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream, and others have simply been iconic enough to receive the modern remake treatment like The Hills Have Eyes or The Last House on the Left. With so many iconic creations it’s sometimes easy to overlook certain films in Craven’s back catalogue. He’s done a lot of very enjoyable horror films. Deadly Blessing is possibly Craven’s most overlooked movie.
Unlike the more iconic films of his earlier career, Deadly Blessing was a fairly big studio movie. In part it may have lacked a certain uber low budget charm or cult attraction. That said those yet to discover Deadly Blessing will definitely find plenty of Craven staples. Still this one seemed to drift in and out of the movie going consciousness without much notice and only now is it being treated to a solid Blu-ray release courtesy of Arrow (whose releases are always very good, even for movies that aren’t so good).
Set in a small Hittite (like the Amish but more extreme) community, a Hittite man Jim (Douglas Barr) and his new wife Martha (Maren Jensen) have been ostracised from the community with Jim’s father, and community leader Isaiah (Ernest Borgnine) believing Martha to be an Incubus who’s turned Jim to the dark side. A mysterious figure kills Jim. Soon after more people die. Martha’s friends Vicky (Susan Buckner) and Lana (Sharon Stone’s first major role) come down to look after her, and matters become more dire as Lana is tormented by a seemingly supernatural power whilst Vicky cause problems by becoming an unwanted temptation for Jim’s brother John (Jess East). Everything becomes clear as the film leads towards a deadly finale.
If you like horror you’ll like this. Craven is a master at the genre first and foremost. This has plenty of good horror staples. There are snakes, spiders as well as a few Craven iconic touches that would later be made more famous in his more successful films, notably a bathtub scene here mirroring the one in A Nightmare on Elm Street. The film is also wonderfully shot. It looks fantastic. James Horner in one of his earlier films also provides an effective score.
The cast are good, particularly for this sort of movie. Jensen leads well, whilst Sharon Stone is memorable in her first major role. Ernest Borgnine is reliable as ever, all wild eyed as the stern master of the Hittites. Horror keeps will also enjoy seeing Michael Berryman appear.
Deadly Blessing builds nicely, though a little slowly, to its conclusion with a cracking finale and some decent surprises. The film does sadly succumb to what is now known as “The Carrie Ending.” It’s the last shot twist/shock but it feels thrown in here and needless and only acts to negate much of what happen in the film. Technically the moment is expertly delivered but it’s not needed. Despite this, Deadly Blessing is a harshly forgotten, very well crafted horror. A long way from being Craven’s best work, but it’s a worthwhile entry into his canon with plenty of standout moments.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★