Directed by Wes Craven
Distributed by Arrow Video
“The Amish are not to be trusted” is the mantra that this early Wes Craven production seems to live by. Pretty much forgotten up until this new Arrow Video treatment, I’m sure that general expectations for this one are a tad low – just as mine were. Personally, the bitter aftertaste of Scream 4 still lingers so you, Mister Craven, have a lot of making up to do — and no, that’s not your cue to scurry off and shit out a Scream 5. Oh, you’re already doing that? Oh well.
Exactly why this murder mystery was set in an Amish community boggles the mind as it really could have been set anywhere. Perhaps an excuse for Ernest Borgnine to mug at the camera for a solid ninety minutes? Anyway, a murder on a small farm sets off alarm bells in the surrounding Amish community – their fingers pointing squarely at city girl Martha (Jensen), whom they have long dubbed ‘Incubus’ for marrying one of their own and leading him astray. Martha finds comfort in her two visiting friends, Lana (Stone, in her first film role) and Vicky (Buckner), who decide to move in with her to help her grieve her husband. Things are soon rotten in Denmark when the group are meticulously menaced by an unseen villain. Is this the work of the God-fearing Amish folk led by religious fanatic Borgnine, or is it something far more sinister?
Craven has always been a dab hand at putting together a taut chase scene – a simple thing that a lot of horror films neglect – and he pulls it off as well as usual here. We get some pretty darn decent stalk and scare chase scenes – precursors to some of the best moments in A Nightmare on Elm Street and the original Scream. One bathtub scene stands out in particular with a very naked Martha dozing off as an unseen hand lowers what appears to be a very real snake into her bubble bath. If you can hang on through the half baked back story and characterisation, there are definitely some solid chills to be had here.
Even the structure of the film has obvious echoes of Scream – the murder mystery, the red herrings, the twists, the ‘shocking’ reveal – they’re all here. Perhaps old hat and clichéd to us, the modern audience, but when considered this was when the ghost-face chronicles and his meta slasher antics were not even a sparkle in Craven’s eye, it’s a little surprising this was received so negatively by critics way back when. Sadly, it really is only Borgnine that stinks up the entire affair – his hammy head of the family snagged him a Razzie award for worst supporting actor, bless him. Back to “Airwolf” with you!
Deadly Blessing is definitely not the weakest work on this horror legend’s resume by any means. If you have a spare twenty pounds to burn and you have a hankering for retro slashers, then it could be a surprisingly wise purchase.
This being his second collaboration with Craven (the first being The Hills Have Eyes), Michael Berryman has a very strong presence on the impressive array of extras on show on Arrow’s disc. A lengthy sit down with him goes deep into the film production and release, while screenwriter Glenn M. Benest also shares some retrospective insight – even touching upon THAT ending. Altogether a very good DVD transfer that looks and sounds fantastic to boot, also sporting the usual physical extras that make Arrow Video packages so top-class. Unfortunately, the booklet was not provided for review.
3 out of 5
4 out of 5