Much like fellow genre director John Carpenter; Wes Craven’s back catalogue is an eclectic mix of varying efforts. For every Nightmare On Elm Street and Serpent and the Rainbow, there are the likes of Deadly Friend and Hills Have Eyes 2. Deadly Blessing (rather haphazardly) falls into the later category of mediocre Craven features.
When Martha’s husband dies under mysterious circumstances, all of the clues point to his involvement with a mysterious cult. After being persuaded to live in the area by cult leader Isaiah; Martha and her friends soon find out that strange happenings are afoot. When more murders start taking place the women soon find out that this idyllic setting is to be feared.
Prior to Deadly Blessing being released Craven had already made two genre-defining horrors in the space of just a few years (Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes respectfully). When viewed together they are two of the most nihilistic features a first time director could possibly churn out – each as shocking as they could be during their original releases.
A film such as Last House on the Left still has the ability to shock, disgust, leave a nasty in ones mouth and send a shiver down the spine. But a film like Deadly Blessing feels virtually pale by comparison. This fourth feature by Craven is often seen as one of the more lacklustre efforts from his early cannon – everything about it smacks of humdrum.
The tension found within his previous films has all but vanished replaced instead by cheap jump scares and pseudo moments of laughable Giallo references (killer wears black gloves). Even the performances are a new level of awful, with particular reference to a young Sharon Stone who makes it very clear she couldn’t act her way out of an Amish haystack.
This is quite possibly one of the most humdrum horrors – virtually everything about it just feels flat. Admittedly the Hittite setting is an inspired touch for a dash of folk horror, while Ernest Borgnine and iconic character actor Michael Berryman turn in the films only memorable performances. It really is a genuine shame as the first half of the film builds itself up to be a truly interesting folk horror – almost in the vein of Blood on Satan’s Claw.
Ultimately it is the haphazard final third that continues to linger long after the film has ended, becoming an unwanted talking point. What should have been a curiously twisted conclusion ends with a moment of laughable kitsch, detracting from any foundations Craven may have initially laid down earlier in the film.
Essentially it just ends up becoming one of Craven’s many missteps in his prolific career and minus the final moments, it will be forgotten soon after viewing. Even the remastering of the negative quickly becomes one of the worst transfers I’ve seen for a relatively known horror on Blu-Ray. It contains a healthy grain on the image, but all the colours seem muted – rendering this HD transfer as sub-par and unwarranted when compared to Arrow’s previous releases (Zombie Flesh Eaters being their top standard so far).
But this release isn’t a complete loss; the extras help to expand on the ridiculous ending and how it eventually came about. First up is an introduction by actor Michael Berryman, followed by an audio commentary with director Wes Craven. The Deadliest Director is a brief but insightful interview with Craven, while Craven Images is a nice look over the appearances of Berryman in some of Craven’s features.
Deadly Desires is the last interview on the disc and gives a bit more background on the films themes by screenwriter Glenn M.Benest. The release is topped off with some hidden Easter Egg extras, while the release comes with dual cover and collector’s booklet as is standard of Arrow Video’s releases.
For those interested in any of Craven’s less-then-stellar back catalogue, Deadly Blessing might be curious evenings viewing but very little else. Wedged somewhere between his raw early work and his now lauded classics – it had the potential but it unfortunately squanders it in favour of cheap shocks and an overblown finale. Without a doubt this is one that should be missed.
Maren Jensen … Martha Schmidt
Sharon Stone … Lana Marcus
Susan Buckner … Vicky Anderson
Jeff East … John Schmidt
Colleen Riley … Melissa
Douglas Barr … Jim Schmidt
Lisa Hartman … Faith Stohler
Directed By … Wes Craven
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