Deadly Blessing (1981)

Starring: Sharon Stone, Ernest Borgnine, Michael Berryman and Maren Jensen
Arrow Films
RRP: 12.99
Certificate: 15
Available 29 October 2007

Jim Schmidt is the first Hittite to leave the community and go away to college. When he returns with his new wife Martha, he finds they are shunned by the modern-technology hating religious group. When Jim is killed in a so-called "accident" involving his own tractor, Martha turns to two college friends who arrive to comfort her. Practically threatened into accepting an offer for her house and land from Isiah, the leader of the community, she steadfastly refuses. However, when one of the older boys is stabbed to death whilst spying on her house, Martha learns there is a multiple killer at large in the area, who could very well have links to Jim's death...

Wes Craven is legendary in the field of horror; even many mainstream filmgoers will know this. Perhaps best known for A Nightmare on Elm Street, he also has The Last House on the Left and the original The Hills Have Eyes - as well as a handful of other contemporary classics to his name. Deadly Blessing was his third feature, and proves less memorable for valid reasons, particularly the fact that it succeeds in some aspects, while failing miserably in others and concluding rather messily.

Ernest Borgnine is impressively intense as the Hittite leader and Jim's father, Isiah. To his considerable acting credit you find yourself hating him instantly. Because the Hittites are so strict and hateful it becomes obvious that the killer can't possibly be among their number. However, this does work reasonably well as a murder mystery; it just can't decide whether to be a thriller, a teen slasher or a Amityville-type ghost story.

There are lots of Steadicam point-of-view movements around Martha's house, reminiscent of the opening scene in Halloween. The ultimate motive for these killings is to protect a secret which in the great scheme of things isn't really that important.

Furthermore, there are a number of set-pieces which really don't make a great deal of sense come the conclusion of the film. And talking of the end, it comes out of the blue and, although it can be called original, it simply makes you think "What?!!" Apparently, this ending was cut for the original UK theatrical release.

Ty Power

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