Saturday, August 29, 2015

Films in the Attic Special Edition: Deadly Blessings with Exclusive Quote from star Jeff East and writer Glenn M Benest

Welcome to a very Special Edition of Films in the Attic.

Title: Deadly Blessing
Directed by: Wes Craven
Written By: Glenn M. Benest, Matt Barr and Wes Craven

Recently Quentin Tarantino publicly came out as shall we say not a fan of "Scream" the 90's film that re-sparked the horror genre. While I am a QT fan I gotta disagree here.

However It got me to thinking about Wes Craven and his body of work. Maybe the most underrated is 1981's Deadly Blessing. Its gotten alot of criticism over the years but in this review i`ll hopefully help you see that its a classic just begging to be re-discovered.

Growing up in the country and living close to Lancaster Pa I can tell you this, the country is a beautiful place and is the closest thing to getting back to a time before the internet, phones and the countless things that distract us in our fast paced every day life. But it can also give you a feeling that underneath the surface of the picturesque landscape lurks something evil and even unholy. "Deadly Blessing" really taps into this.

Plot: Doting wife Martha (Maren Jenson) and Jim Schmidt (Doug Barr) are living the simple life on a farm and own a pretty house complete with white picket fence and a charming sign "Our Blessing" The dominate religion in these parts are the"Hittties" a strict religious sect "that makes the Amish look like swingers" Jim was once apart of this group until he broke away went to college and married Martha. The leader Isaiah (Ernest Borgnine) Schmidt and father of Jim shunned him for his actions. Now cut off from everyone in the community including brother John (Jeff East) he is known as the "Incubus"  a devil. Faith (Lisa Hartman) a young girl and her mother Lousia (Lois Nettleton) are also thought to be such devils as they too are outsiders. In fact William Glunz (Michael Berryman) constantly harasses Faith and smashes up her painting (which are very strange and foretelling) It seems anyone who is not in the Hittites are thought to be evil. Shortly after the couple celebrate there one year wedding anniversary tragedy strikes when a farming "accident" claims the life of Jim, leaving Martha a widow and the house and property. Friends  Lana Marcus (Sharon Stone in a early film role) Vicky Anderson (Susan Buckner) rush from the city to visit there grieving friend.

 After William is found murdered by person(s) unknown the blame is cast on the outsiders of the community and Martha isn't so sure that her late husband simply died from an accident. Its also a fact that Leader Isasih wants to house and the land for his people which she refuses to sell. Is it the community trying to drive her away or is there really a supernatural force at work?

The voice over at the beginning of the film gives it a grim fairy tale ton and indeed the hyper surreal nature supports this.

The year "Deadly Blessing" came out a host of knife wielding psychos were unleashed on a ticket paying public. But while mostly all went onto become classics among die hard horror fans sadly this more unique film got shunned. What sets this film apart from the countless others is the seamless blend of horror and slasher with religious zealous overtones which was a trend decades ahead of its time. Craven seems to have learned alot from his previous films and is really in his element of fright. It amazes me that some of the most tense scenes takes place in the day time. For example the scene with Sharon Stones character getting locked in the barn and the way he uses simple tricks to really ratchets up the tension and fear ending with the discovering of Williams body. Its a master class in directing a great scene in a horror film. This film also gets a huge boost from its beautiful cinematography by Robert Jessup. He really captures the stark beauty contrasted with the eerie  which I had mentioned in my introduction. Famed award winning composer James Horner (Avatar, Titanic etc) does the score and you can really see the roots of his genius and why James Camoron would later use him on numerous films.

Another way this film stands above the rest is the strong female characters that are portrayed. When Martha is attacked by a snake, she doesn't run and hide or worse yet get a man to take care of it, no she takes a fire poker and kills it. Another scene that highlights this is when the girls are teaching themselves how to fire a weapon. Now i`m not saying this is the first horror film to feature strong women however its a refreshing change from all the women victims in the other films of the decade.

But whats a good film without a good cast, and Deadly Blessing has a great one indeed. Ernest Borgnine, Sharon Stone, Jeff East and with character actors like Michael Berryman and Lois Nettleton. Critics have sighted Borgnine for his over the top acting style and I agree its abit much but on the other hand it adds to the hyper surreal grim fairy tale element. Jeff East (Pumpkinhead,Superman The Movie ) is also great, and perfectly cast as John the sweet and shy brother of Jim. This movie is also well known for being a early film of Sharon Stone who would of course go on to mega stardom. She has pretty good range here and really takes this material seriously. The scene with her and the spider is classic. Lois Nettleton also gives a over the top performance that really works in the films favor.

Craven along with the writers really give you a sense of thick dread and religious delirium that has gripped this community.The film spirals into a fast paced fright fest with some tasty surprising twists.

Even if you don't like this film I think you should at least respect it for the fact that its different than the slashers that dominated the horror landscape in the 80s. Featuring a refreshingly interesting story in a very real and spooky location and with females who were much more than just fodder for the killers knife. A perfect film to watch alone in the dark.....

Star Jeff East And co-writer Glenn M Benest were kind enough to take time and give us an exclusive quote about the film.

Jeff EastBest experience with three gorgeous women and terrific supporting actors.Susan Buckners a doll Sharon Stone is a cool lady! Loved working with all the actresses and Wes Craven is very kind

Co-Writer Glenn M Benest:
"Deadly Blessing" was the first feature I wrote with my writing partner, Matt Barr. We went through a number of directors before we met Wes Craven, who directed a TV movie I adapted from a novel, "Summer of Fear." It was titled for NBC: "A Stranger In Our House." Once we hooked up with Wes everything went well. He wasn't well known at that time, but he was on the way up. Once he was attached, we got the film made. Wes is the great master of horror, along with John Carpenter. He taught me a lot about how to create scares. There is really no one better.

This blog is dedicated to James Horner who did the music for this and went on to do many other wonderful films. He passed away earlier this summer.

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