Shout! Factory’s new horror label, appropriately titled Scream Factory, released a Collector’s Edition of Deadly Blessing. This little known horror film from 1981 was directed by none other than Wes Craven. Yes, the same Wes Craven who brought us A Night Mare on Elm Street. Though, at this point in his career, he was only the director of The Hills Have Eyes and The Last House on the Left. These two films are creepy and would spawn their own remakes, yet Deadly Blessing stands apart.
Martha Schmidt (Maren Jensen) and Jim Schmidt (Douglass Barr) live on their farm called “Our Blessing”. The young couple is very much in love and Jim cannot wait for their first child to arrive. The farm community they live in seems picturesque and it would be if not for the large Hittite Community that is adjacent to their land. What is a Hittite? To paraphrase the movie itself, they make the Amish look like swingers. Another problem for Jim and Martha is that Jim used to be one of the Hittites. His father, Isaiah (Ernest Borgnine) banished Jim for going off to school and falling in love with a woman not from their community. Their dislike of Jim and his bride has turned the whole community against them. The Hittites have even come to call Martha an Incubus and state that she is in league with the “evil one”. They do have regular neighbors in Louisa (Lois Nettleton) and her daughter Faith (Lisa Hartman), who also have problems with the Hittites.
Late one night, Jim investigates a strange noise in the barn and is then run over by his own tractor. Martha is obviously devastated and now has to run the farm and raise their child on her own. Thus begins the mystery of Deadly Blessing. Who killed Jim and why? Martha has two friends from Los Angeles come and help run the farm. Vicky (Susan Buckner) and Lana (Sharon Stone) are not the typical farm girls the community is used to seeing. Quickly, the young Hittite men start poking around.
The strange part about Deadly Blessing is how it leads itself to be nothing more than a murder mystery. Lana claims to have these bizarre nightmares involving men and spiders, but they appear to us, the audience, as nothing more than just dreams. Jim’s brother, John (Jeff East), meets Vicky one day while she is out jogging. Quickly, we see that Jim likes her, yet once Isaiah finds out, John’s problems start to mirror his brother’s. With the introduction of each new character and their subsequent deaths, our list of suspects starts to run thin. Wes Craven really has an elongated tale to tell and it is just too long.
When the finale does arrive for Martha and her friends, we applaud the fact that the story is more or less over. What is fascinating is that when Craven delivers his killers, the sub plot and its development, the film likens itself to to something M. Night Shyamalan would have done a few years ago. The story we initially thought we were going to get, and thus forgotten, arrives too little too late. This illustrates that Wes Craven in 1981 was not yet the master of his craft. Again, I applaud the finale, which was fun and twisted. It was just hard to care about the characters by that point.
All-new audio commentary with Wes Craven
Say Your Prayers! – An all-new interview with Actor Michael Berryman
Secrets Revealed – An all-new interview with Actress Susan Buckner
Rise of the Incubus – An all-new interview with Creature Designer John Naulin
So It Was Written – A look at the film’s screenplay with Writers Glenn Benest and Matthew Barr
Original Theatrical Trailer, TV & radio Spots
A Clip from Deadly Blessing