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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Deadly Blessing: Collector’s Edition DVD Review

Deadly Blessing is a horror film that takes place on farmland where a cult called the Hittites brushes against the surrounding townspeople, resulting in murder. It was directed by Wes Craven, who had previously directed The Last House On The Left and The Hills Have Eyes. While Deadly Blessing isn’t nearly as scary as those two films, it does a great job of maintaining a creepy, unsettling atmosphere throughout. And there are some good scares (the snake in the bath tub seriously freaked me out).

The Hittites are an Amish-like group who have shunned the modern world. But of course their land borders on a modern farm, which is owned by a couple – Jim (Doug Barr) and Martha (Maren Jensen). Jim is an ex-Hittite, and was the first from the cult to go away to school. When he returned, he was with Martha, and was ex-communicated from the cult, which is led by his own father, Isaiah (Ernest Borgnine). Isaiah calls Martha the incubus (which is interesting, as an incubus is traditionally thought of as a male demon).

Soon Jim is killed in his own barn. We then see some of the Hittites sneak into the barn, including William (played by Michael Berryman, from The Hills Have Eyes). Earlier we saw William frightening Faith (Lisa Hartman) while she was painting.

After Jim’s death, two of Martha’s friends -- Lana (Sharon Stone) and Vicky (Susan Buckner) -- come to visit her, to comfort her. This is essentially Sharon Stone’s first film. Before this, she had been basically a featured extra in Woody Allen’s Stardust Memories. So yes, this is long before Sharon Stone learned how to act (but she looks great).

William spies on Martha through her bedroom window while she changes. It’s very creepy, mostly because he seems so childlike. Then suddenly he’s killed. So now who’s spying on her through her window?  As viewers, we come to suspect a lot of people could have been responsible for Jim’s murder. However, oddly, the authorities don’t seem to be investigating it at all. In fact, they really only come around again when William has been killed. We even suspect Isaiah after he tells Martha his son’s land should be with his people.

Farms are always a bit creepy, and cults are always very creepy (yes, that includes you, Scientologists). We do get a scene of an official cult meeting, where Isaiah dishes out punishment to a young member. It’s effective at showing the type of person Isaiah is, and how the others are obedient, and it also sets up the scene where he later punishes his own son, John, who has taken an interest in Vicky.

As I said, the film has a great atmosphere, and a good look. And some of the cast is really strong. Plus, you get to hear Ernest Borgnine shout, “You are a stench in the nostrils of God!

Special Features

This Collector’s Edition disc has quite a lot of special features. There is a commentary track by director Wes Craven. Wes Craven tends to do really good commentaries. For some reason, this one is moderated, but the moderator does a good job not imposing too much. Wes talks about how he did a pretty thorough re-write on the script. And he tells some interesting tales about the film. The producers interfered on only a few points. One was that Wes Craven was told that Sharon Stone had to be cast, and that she had to wear lingerie. Also, the ending was tacked on at the insistence of the producers. The story about Sharon Stone’s reaction to the spider is also interesting. Wes talks about some of the things that interested him in this project (though he also admits it was the paycheck), including the fact that he was raised as a strict Baptist, and so knew about repression. He talks about how his father was frightening, and that he died when Wes was young, and how that has led to some of the figures in his horror films. He tells the story of Borgnine being injured on this film, and talks about shooting in Texas. I was completely appalled by what Wes Craven said about the crew’s reaction to John Lennon’s death, which happened at the time of the production (they applauded – one more reason to dislike Texas).

This disc also includes several interviews with cast and crew.  Say Your Prayers! is an interview with actor Michael Berryman, in which he talks a bit about The Hills Have Eyes, but mainly, of course, about Deadly Blessing. He talks about his character, the location, the other actors and about the hanging scene. This feature is approximately fourteen minutes.

Secrets Revealed is an interview with actor Susan Buckner, in which she talks about her start in the industry, about Grease, and about the other actors in Deadly Blessing. She was pregnant during the shooting, but didn’t tell anyone. This feature is approximately thirteen minutes.

Rise Of The Incubus is an interview with creature designer John Naulin, who talks about the design for the creature at the end of the film.  This is approximately six and a half minutes.

So It Was Written is an interview with writers Glenn Benest and Matthew Barr, who discuss the Amish, and the idea of a repressive religious cult. They talk about re-writes, about being on set during production, and about the added ending (which they didn’t like). This feature is approximately twenty minutes.

This disc also includes the film’s trailer, three television spots, five radio spots and a photo gallery.

The Collector’s Edition of Deadly Blessing was released on January 22, 2013 through Scream Factory (a division of Shout! Factory).

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