Deadly Blessing (1981)

deadly blessing

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Murder in bible country.

When her husband is killed in a mysterious tractor accident Martha (Maren Jensen) must try to forge on alone while living on an isolated farm surrounded by a religious sect known as The Hittites who show great disdain towards her due to the fact that she is not one of them. Lana and Vicky (Sharon Stone, Susan Buckner) are two of her friends who come to visit and offer solace. Soon more deaths and strange events begin to occur convincing them that the feared incubus, which is a male demon who descends onto female victims as they sleep, may soon be approaching.

This low budget foray, which was filmed in both Ohio and Texas and directed by Wes Craven, is competent enough to hold the viewer’s attention despite a convoluted story that goes on longer than it should. The best part of the film is its female cast, which to date marks the last acting role for both Jensen and Buckner as well as the first speaking part for Stone. Jensen, whose nude scenes were done by a body double, is okay, but Stone is the better actress and looks just as beautiful today as she did back then. In case you thought that actors didn’t earn their pay she certainly does here by allowing a live spider, albeit with its teeth removed, to fall into her mouth during a creepy nightmare segment that I’m not sure I would’ve been up to myself. The film also features Lisa Hartman and the ageless Lois Nettleton as her mother.

The shocks are trite and the creepiness at only a minimum. However, the segment where a large snake crawls into the bathtub while Jensen is in it had me creeped out and the scene involving Buckner having her car set on fire while she is still inside is good too, but both of these segments are similar to ones that Craven used in his later films making me believe that his horror concepts had a definite limit.

The Hittites, which are presumably so strict that they make the Amish look like ‘swingers’, are too one-dimensional and their leader, which gets played stoically by Ernest Borgnine, seems unusually hateful.  I can’t say that there aren’t religious sect leaders that are like him, but I don’t believe they would be so outwardly hostile to people from outside his group and would try to put on more of a kindly façade. I also thought the idea of the Buckner character starting a relationship with one of the Hittite boys, which is played by Jeff East, was unrealistic as they came from such vastly different backgrounds that trying to form any lasting bond or connection would be expectedly slim.

Michael Berryman as one of the more aggressive sect members gives an energetic performance and the fact that Craven advertises another one of his other projects, the TV-Movie Summer of Fear, on a theater marquee during a segment shot in the town, deserves a few merits, but what I really liked was the completely unexpected surprise ending that helps the film rise above the usual ‘80s horror and was something that was forced onto Craven by the producers and not actually of his own devising.

deadly blessing 2

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: August 14, 1981

Runtime: 1Hour 42Minutes

Rated R

Director: Wes Craven

Studio: United Artists

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video

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