Today: February 29, 2024

Deadly Blessing

Deadly Blessing is everything you might expect from a 1980s Wes Craven horror film.

Deadly Blessing is everything you might expect from a 1980s Wes Craven
horror film.
There are twists, jump scares,
shadowy knife-wielding villains, and an audio track that consists almost
entirely of ominous music and screaming women. Oh, and fair bit of nudity
thrown in for good measure. What all that adds up to is a film that’s fairly
silly, often over the top and – most importantly – consistently entertaining.

The film takes place in a small rural community
that is home to the Hittites – an extremely traditional religious farming sect
(‘they make the Amish look like swingers,’ describes one character) with a
crazy-eyed religious leader (played brilliantly by Ernest Borgnine) and a penchant for scaring outsiders. When former
Hittite Tom is killed in a bizarre incident involving his tractor, his newly
widowed wife Martha (Maren Jensen)
and her two LA friends (played by Susan
and a young Sharon Stone)
must work together to fend off an unseen maniac.

The plot sounds like that of a fairly typical
slasher movie (the type Craven would later become well known for with his
hugely popular Scream series), and
that’s pretty much what the film delivers. Like Scream, though, Deadly Blessing
doesn’t take itself too seriously, and this is something that really works in
its favour. In short, it’s a lot of fun to watch; snakes creep into bathtubs
and attack people, spiders drop into open mouths, and there’s a constant
feeling of suspense that not even the silliness of the story can detract from.
In one memorable sequence, Sharon Stone’s character Lana goes to fetch a
toolbox from the barn in which Martha’s husband died. After the door suddenly
slams shut, she goes to prop it open with a stone, only for it slam shut once
more when she’s back inside. The following five minutes is the equivalent of an
on-screen ghost train, with Lana running through the darkness and the cobwebs
in a desperate attempt to escape the barn. The scene is fast-paced, tense, and well
edited, with a culmination that’ll likely cause a scare even if you do guess
what’s coming (and if you’re even a bit familiar with the tropes of the horror
genre, you probably will).

The film’s entertainment factor is complemented
by the acting. Deadly Blessing is a treasure trove of quirky characters, all of
who are played by actors who really throw themselves into their respective
roles. Ernest Borgnine, for instance, is genuinely unsettling as the red-faced
religious leader of the Hittites; one scene in which he brutally chastises a
young Hittite while aggressively preaching – ‘If thy right hand offends thee,
in the name of God, CUT IT OFF!’ – is memorable and unnerving in equal measures.

It would be possible to pick any number of
holes in Deadly Blessing, but doing so would be missing the point somewhat –
the film is an example of a cast and a director who are clearly making the most
of what the horror genre has to offer, and the enjoyment they clearly took in
making it comes across on-screen. Take the film with a pinch of salt, and
whether you end up hiding behind a cushion or simply laughing at the dodgy
effects, you’ll be sure to have fun doing it.

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