So yesterday I wrote about Wes Craven and Deadly Friend, and, just like in the manner with which I went from The 10th Victim to The 7th Victim, I went from Deadly Friend to Deadly Blessing, another cultier Wes Craven effort. Cuz symmetry y’know? Besides, tell me where the hell else you’re gonna find Sharon Stone and Ernest Borgnine together.
In the interest of full diclosure, I’d only seen Deadly Blessing once before–when it came out in 1981. My viewing partner and I had a fair amount of witty MST3K style repartee whilst watching this last night, mostly along the lines of stuff like this:
ME: Huh. I don’t remember this part.
ME: Probably because it was totally not memorable.
CAT: [licks paw]
The plot involves Jim and his wife Martha, their farm, and the local Hittites, a thinly veiled reference to the Amish though apparently far more strict. And weird–their major fear is something called The Incubus. It’s never really made clear what The Incubus is, but it may or may not have something to do with Martha. Or a girl named Faith who lives with her mother next door.
Oh, did I mention Jim used to was one of the Hittites? And not just any Hittite, but the oldest son of the head elder Isaiah. Yeah well, Jim went away to school and came back with Martha and was therefore shunned. I’m not sure how the writers landed on Hittites for this sect since the Hittites were Anatolian, worshipped storm and battle gods like Tarhunt, and their empire was, like, 15th to 13th Century BCE.
But I digress.
I don’t know what to say about the end of this movie other than I’m about to lay some spoilers on you. People get killed, starting with Jim, by various means. There’s lots o’ stabbing. A woman gets blowed up in a Mustang. To say it comes from waaaaaaaaaay out in left field doesn’t do it justice. Not only is it not in the same ball park, it might not even be playing the same sport. Martha, you see, is warned to “Beware the incubus” by her husband’s ghost. She is then snatched into the hoary netherworld by some demon or other.
Normally, any and all of this would be perfectly acceptable except for one tiny but crucial detail. There has been no mention of supernatural forces or entities up to this point except for hintings of The Incubus by the Hittites. And the way those are scripted makes us write the whole thing off as some quaint religious conspiracy theory. You know–“Oh those zany Hittites with their incubus demons. They’re so quirky. I love it” (this of course must be said in Billy Crystal’s voice from Princess Bride).
And yet, there’s some stuff Deadly Blessing has goin’ for it. I gotta admit I started to suspect Faith about halfway through the movie, but I also suspect we’re supposed to suspect Faith and that she is merely misdirection because we also suspect real baddies are, of course, those suspect Hittites. To be fair, this is one of many personal biases I bring to any viewing experience.
Suffering through the emotional torment of being raised catholic has endowed me with a healthy skepticism, suspicion, distrust, and disregard for religion and authority. So any time the plot involves a religious sect of any stripe, my default is to read them as evil. My point is, in this case, that serves Craven well.
Since the spoiler warning is already in place, I’ll go ahead and add that Faith’s big reveal isn’t much to write home about, and the same kind of idea will be used to much more disturbing effect a couple years later in Sleepaway Camp although I’ll tip my hat to several phallic references Craven, uh, inserts.
The only standout character is Borgnine as Isaiah, one of those fire and brimstone, spare not the rod (literally) elder types. Michael Berryman is, of course, being Michael Berryman, and a well-before-Knots Landing Lisa Hartman plays Faith. Oh, and there’s Sharon Stone. For reasons that are never explained she has weird dreams and at one point almost chokes on a spider. Other than that, she’s just kinda there.
So…yeah. It’s pretty slow. The body count isn’t bad but not much in the way of bloodlettin’ for the gorehounds. Still, the plot has its appeal, and Borgnine is kinda fun. Plus, quick reminder, Sharon Stone and a spider. Put it on as background while you’re, I dunno, churning butter or making tallow candles.
BODIES- 7 onscreen, 1 snake offscreen
Free with ads on Tubi, for rent on Apple TV, Google Play, iTunes, Prime, Vudu, YouTube
PS- I love when the scene on the poster actually shows up in the movie!