31 Days of Horror: “Deadly Blessing” (1981)





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Posted October 23, 2016 by

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After the successes of “Last House on the Left” (1972) and “The Hills Have Eyes” (1977), it was clear that Wes Craven was on his way to becoming a maestro of the horror genre. In 1982, he would begin to cement that legacy, with “Swamp Thing”, but first he would set his sights on something a bit different. Craven set aside his gritty, unflinching style and made a truly unique thriller, set in the farm fields of middle America. “Deadly Blessing” is not Craven’s finest work, but it is certainly not his worst, and is often referred to as his most underrated film.

Set in a quaint, American farming community “Deadly Blessing” tells the story of Martha (Maren Jensen) who has married Jim (Douglas Barr), and moved to a farm near where he grew up. They tend to their farm, and live a carefree life of marital bliss. That is until Jim’s father Isaiah (a ridiculously over the top Ernest Borgnine) and the rest of the local, Hittite community (who “Make the Amish look like swingers”) begin to harass the newlyweds. If that isn’t bad enough, Jim and Marthas’ neighbors on the other side of their land are a crazy Mother (Lois Nettleton) and daughter (Lisa Hartman) who pop by whenever they please and say a bunch of awkward/inappropriate things about hating men and throwing babies in rivers.

deadly-blessing-3When Jim dies in an “Accident” involving his tractor, Martha believes the locals have something to do with it, and invites her gal pals Lana (Sharon Stone in her first speaking role) and Vicky (Susan Buckner) to come stay with her and help her through the grieving process. They come prepared, packing enough liquor and lingerie to last an eternity, and try to get Martha to relax while trying to convince her to go back, with them, to LA.

Meanwhile, Isaiah blames Martha for Jim’s death (and basically any other bad thing that happens anywhere near his land) and accuses her of being “Of the Incubus”. That makes little to no sense, because an Incubus is a male demon that has sex with unsuspecting women. I think he should have been saying “Succubus”, but I digress.

Isaiah’s other son John (Jeff East) begins to have evil desires for Vicky, and that only enrages Isaiah more. “You are a stench in the nostril of God!”, Isaiah screams, after John upsets his cousin Melissa (Colleen Riley) who he is promised to. Then, when hittite simpleton William (Michael Berryman from The Hills Have Eyes) winds up dead, in Martha’s barn, Isaiah goes full beast mode. Meanwhile, a bunch of strange things happen to Martha and her ladies in waiting, including snakes in bathtubs, dreams of creepy voices and men who are spiders, and shadowy figures jumping out and screaming at them in the dark.

The last 10 minutes or so, of the movie, are absolutely insane. There are multiple, scream-filled girl fights, a surprise sex change, and zombie chickens. It is almost as if Craven got near the end and just said “Oh to hell with it… let’s do a bunch of crazy stuff and call it good!”. It is discombobulated, but it is also wildly fun. You get to see glimpses of many of the tricks Craven would use in later films, and an ever-escalating series of random events that will have your jaw on the floor. If you are a Craven fan, an 80s slasher fan, or just like watching over the top craziness, “Deadly Blessing” is one you should not miss. Not because it’s super good… just for the fact that it is damn entertaining. M8DDEBL EC001




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