Written by: Michael Den Boer on October 18th, 2011
Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1981
Director: Wes Craven
Writers: Glenn M. Benest, Matthew Barr, Wes Craven
Cast: Sharon Stone, Ernest Borgnine, Michael Berryman, Maren Jensen, Susan Buckner, Douglas Barr
DVD released: November 14th, 2011
Approximate running time: 98 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: 15 (UK)
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
DVD Release: Arrow Video
Region Coding: Region 2 PAL
Retail Price: £15.99
Though he may be known more directing the Scream films, The last House on the Left and the first A Nightmare on Elm Street film, my own introduction to the cinema of Wes Craven actually came via one of his lesser known films, Deadly Blessing. And in the years since I first viewed Deadly Blessing, my opinion about this film has not wavered. In this humble reviewing opinion, Deadly Blessings is one of Wes Craven’s more durable films.
My initial fascination to this horror oddity came about because of the way it centered the main plot around a religious sect referred as the Hittites (who bear a striking resemblance to the Amish), right down to the way both live simplistic lives that are free of any modern technology. And while most viewers will be quickly able to make these connection between the Hittites and the Amish. It should be pointed out that Wes Craven has on at least one occasion commented that the Hittites were based on a ancient kingdom of people that once existed. With this being it is still difficult to believe that the Amish and the culture had no influence on the development of the Hittites in Deadly Blessing.
When discussing the films of Wes Craven the one area that immediately springs to mind is his effortless ability to build spine tingling moments of suspense via atmospheric visuals. A few of this films stand out moments include the husbands being killed by a tractor, a spider crawling down from the ceiling and landing into a woman’s mouth and a snake slither through a woman’s legs as she lays in a bathtub. This last visual motif would find its way into another Wes Craven film (albeit slightly altered) A Nightmare on Elem Street, when Freddy’s razor blade glove reaches up from the water as a young woman baths.
Content wise, Deadly Blessing like the majority of Wes Craven’s films is deeply rooted in the horror film genre. And yet it is unlike anything that he had done before or since, some of this can be attributed to the supernatural leanings of the story at hand, which for a the most part do a very good tying everything together considering how this films plot often defies logic, even by horror film standards. If there was a area that this film just does not gel, no matter what way you try to approach it, that would fall squarely on the shoulders of this films finale.
From a pacing stand point, there are no real lulls as each new revelation are starched out for maximum impact. The death scenes and moments of terror are all well executed. Performance wise there is not a performance that is lacking, with Maren Jensen (‘Battlestar Galactica’) in the role of this films protagonist Martha Schmidt, the young woman who husband is killed by a tractor early on the film. Sadly this would mark her final appearance in a film and she has since retired from acting. It should be also noted that the cast features many recognizable faces like, Sharon Stone (Basic Instinct), Lisa Hartman (Where the Boys Are ’84), Ernest Borgnine (Escape From New York) and Michael Berryman (The Hills Have Eyes).
Note: This review is based on a test disc and may not be representative of the final product.
Arrow Video presents Deadly Blessing in an anamorphic widescreen that retains the film’s original aspect ratio. There are no problems with compression, colors look nicely saturated, flesh tones look healthy and details look sharp throughout.
This release comes with one audio option, a Dolby Digital mono mix in English. There are no problems with background noise or distortion. With this being said, I do have one minor gripe about the audio mix is that the dialog sounds to tiny at times.
Extras for this release include a introduction to the film and a interview with actor Michael Berryman (26 minutes 30 seconds – anamorphic widescreen) and a interview with co-screenwriter Glenn M. Benest (13 minutes 17 seconds – anamorphic widescreen). A few topics covered in Michael Berryman’s interview include how he got into acting, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and working with Wes Craven. Topics covered in the interview with Glenn M. Benest include the origins of the screenplay, the cast and Wes Craven, whom he had previously worked with on the film Summer of Fear. Also included with this release two Easter Egg’s (which can be found on the main menu), a reversible sleeve with original and newly commissioned artwork by Rue Morgue art director Gary Pullin, a double-sided fold-out artwork poster and a collectors’ booklet featuring brand new writing on the film by author and critic Kim Newman. Overall Deadly Blessing gets a good DVD release from Arrow Video.