In the pantheon of Wes Craven movies, “Deadly Blessing” never seems to get much of a mention. Perhaps it’s because when you say “Deadly,” everyone immediately thinks the next thing you’re going to say is, “Friend,” and they either run away or punch you in the mouth.
It’s a shame too, because Deadly Blessing is pretty good. It’s weird and nonsensical at times, but if you’re willing to go into it and cut it as much slack as you would an Italian horror movie of similar vintage, there’s plenty of good things within.
As the film opens we discover a group of Amis…Menon…I mean Hittites, working the land as a girl works on painting of the farm next door and its occupants. William Guntz (the always awesome Michael Berryman) doesn’t approve of her painting, tears it up and chases her around a bit. Seems the man next door, John (Jeff East), used to be part of the sect and now lives a secular life. The Hittites, led by Isaiah Schmidt (Ernest Borgnine in the either the best or worst fake beard ever, depending on your predilections.), do not approve of this, and blame his wife, Martha (Maren Jensen), calling her an Incubus and refusing to allow anyone to associate with her in any fashion.
John has an unfortunate run in with a tractor and leaves Martha a widow. Her two best friends, Vicki (Susan Buckner) and Lana (Sharon Stone) come over to stay at her house and console her. Soon Martha and crew are being menaced by strange nightmares and very real stalker. Hittites and ladies alike start getting killed, as Martha tries to uncover who is behind it all.
There is a palpable sense of dread throughout the movie, something Craven has always excelled at doing. The stalk and slash moments are kept very simple but manage to build enough tension to keep them interesting. Martha and her friends are under assault both in their waking lives and when they sleep. Interestingly enough, their harassment at the hands of an unseen person are much stranger when they are awake, including a snake in the bath and a coffin full of chickens.
Of course there is the infamous spider swallowing scene which was a heavy part of the advertisements for the movie. I remember that ad running on afternoon television when I was 7 and scaring me senseless every time I saw it.
You can really see where the seeds for “A Nightmare on Elm Street” are beginning to grow in Wes Craven’s mind. There are references to a mysterious dream stalker, the creepy dream reality, and even a familiar shot of one character relaxing in the bathtub. Even the final shock moments of both films are very similar.
The end of this film is either
a) A muddled mess where they tried to tie up a bunch of loose ends and failed miserably
b) A twisted nightmare logic finale.
After a few viewings, I’m more partial to b than a. A killer is revealed who doesn’t quite fit with what has been going in the past 90 minutes, and then something just plain crazy and seemingly out of the blue happens. It doesn’t make a lick of sense but it does seem to feel right at home with the proceedings.
It’s a solid Wes Craven movie, and much more worth your time to hunt this down than say, “My Soul to Take.”