It seems that America has recently become fascinated with the Amish for some reason. There was a pretty good doc on the Amish tradition of Rumspringa called The Devil’s Playground from a few years back. Then there was a pretty bad (and possibly faked) TV show Breaking Amish. Now there’s the laughable sounding TV show, Amish Mafia. So it’s no surprise that in the middle of all this Amish love that Deadly Blessing, one of the first movies about Amish-like people (they call them ‘Hittites’ here, but come on, they’re Amish) to be made has been released on Blu-ray for the first time. Yes, even before Harrison Ford’s Witness, there was this Wes Craven horror movie. So is this new HD release from Scream Factory a quick cash-in just to ride the Amish wave, or is it a solid old school fright film that’s been out of print for way too long? Well hurry up and read this review quick, because we’re off to Amish country and they don’t cotton to this here internet thing.
Deadly Blessing was horror master Wes Craven’s third theatrical movie and while not bad, it’s obvious that he’s still learning his craft as a director here. His direction here is effective, but it’s not at the same level as A Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream, or even The Serpent and the Rainbow. As for the story, it is about a young Amish man who leaves his faith to marry a non-Amish woman. They still live right next to the Amish community and therein lay the problem, as the Amish folks think the meddling wife is a no good sex demon known as a succubus. Then the husband dies in a mysterious “accident” and things really get icy between the widow and her Amish in-laws. To help their friend in her time of need, two young and beautiful women, one played by Sharon Stone in her fist named role, go to stay with the widow on her farm. Yep, three beautiful women living right next door to an extremely sexually repressed group of people, whatever could go wrong with that?
Well there is someone slicing and dicing people like something right out of a slasher movie, although this really isn’t a slasher film. There are also supernatural overtones that pop up from time to time to reinforce the succubus connection, although this really isn’t a supernatural horror story. There’s also a surprising number of spiders in this flick for some reason, but Arachnophobia, this movie is not. What this film is, is a bit of a thriller/melodrama with the occasional knifing, nudie bit, or shades of the occult to liven things up. However it is also a bit draggy at times as not a whole lot happens for far too long in this movie.
That is not to say that this is a bad flick. Far from it, I really enjoyed it. The old saying of “they don’t make them like this anymore” is true here. Sure this movie takes its sweet time to do things, but I’ll take that over the MTV style editing, Zack Snyder slow-mo abuse, or J.J. Abrams lens flare fetishism. Furthermore, while what I said at the start of this review is true and this isn’t Wes Craven at the top of his game, it’s still very good. The acting is solid for the most part, with a special shutout going to Ernest Borgnine as the bible thumping, fire and brimstone patriarch of the Amish community. Ernest is fun in everything he does and this movie is no exception. While the kills are largely bloodless, there is some of the red stuff here, not to mention some nice stalk and slash for the slasher fans. There are also moments of genuine suspense and dread, which is all but gone from most modern horror movies. However, it must be said that the ending of this movie is easily the weakest thing about it. I won’t say what happens during it, only that it comes out of nowhere, makes little to no sense, and reeks of producer meddling. It doesn’t ruin the movie, but it is just sort of ridiculous.
Now on to the extras the mighty Scream Factory has blessed us with for this new Blu-ray release. First and foremost there’s a pretty good director’s commentary with Wes Craven and Horror’s Hallowed Ground’s Sean Clark giving the occasional question or gentle prod to the horror master from time to time. This commentary was both informative and amusing so it’s worth a listen. Then there are a whole bunch of interviews to be seen here. There’s a 14 minute interview with Michael Berryman, the weird looking guy mostly known from Wes’ other fright flick, The Hills Have Eyes. Michael has a small but memorable role in this movie. There’s a 13 minute interview with one of the three girls in danger, Susan Buckner. There is a short interview with veteran the special effects man, John Naulin, who designed the thing from the out of left field ending that I mentioned earlier. Finally there’s a 20 minute doc/interview with writers Matthew Barr and Glenn Benest on the screenplay they wrote for Deadly Blessing. In addition, there is a nice sampling of the usual trailers, TV/radio spots, and a photo gallery, not to mention a return to Scream Factory’s physical extras like a slipcase and double-sided art for the BD case.
Deadly Blessing is not the best example of Wes Craven’s work, but neither is it the worse. It’s a bit draggy at times, but has enough ’80s horror charm in it to win this ’80s horror fan over. If you’re looking for a quasi-slasher with quasi-supernatural elements in it, with a vintage look, a very young Sharon Stone as eye candy, and a one-two punch of WTF at the end, then Deadly Blessing is the movie for you. It gets a solid recommendation from me. You can pick up this latest Blu-ray from Scream Factory on January 22.