Monday, July 29, 2013

The Hills Have Spiders



Somewhere between the dog eating charms of The Hills Have Eyes and the blood-spewing beds of A Nightmare On Elm Street, Wes Craven directed a pre-Basic Instinct Sharon Stone, post-Devil’s Rain Ernest Borgnine, and a few stunt tarantulas thankful not to have worked on Kingdom of the Spiders in 1981’s Deadly Blessing.

It’s pretty weird.

Quick Plot: In the rural part of America, there lives a religious group of humble folks called the Hittites who, according to locals, “eat brimstone for breakfast and make the Amish look like swingers.”


Naturally, they’re led by Ernest Borgnine who naturally gets the best lines. Sharon Stone might have proven herself with Casino, but I’d still prefer my gems like “You are a stench in the nostrils of God!” to come from her costar. Especially since her orifices are being filled in other ways.


The Hittites live next to a farm run by former son Jim, a handsome young fella who renegaded from his family’s strict (read: lame) ways to marry pretty young Martha. All the sweet glances in the world aren’t enough, however, when Jim is ominously (and verrrrrryyyyy slooooooooowwwwlllllyyyyyyyyyy) killed in a freak tractor accident. Now widowed, Martha invites two of her city gal pals to spend some time being judged by her neighbors/in-laws and help her cope.


There’s not much to do in the country circa 1981. Pal Vicky starts flirting with a confused Hittite, much to the chagrin of a bearded Borgnine and the Hittite’s cousin/fiancĂ©. Lana (Stone) has recurring arachnophobic nightmares, while Martha entertains creepy visits/egg gifts from her wacky non-Hittite neighbors. Over in the more religious parts of the land, man-child Michael Berryman calls everyone an incubus before meeting his own slow motion end and sparking the real mystery of who or what is hunting locals.


Deadly Blessing bares the strangely ironic qualities of being rather boring yet batshit insane. Craven gets decent-to-strong performances out of his cast, but the actors are hampered by mediocre dialogue. The story chugs along slowly, occasionally pausing for bursts of weirdness (Berryman screaming “INCUBUS!” for two minutes straight, for example) before its truly bizarre twist (we’re talking The Initiation levels here) followed by an even SILLIER coda.

But hey, much like the not-at-all-similar Silent Hill series, there’s something fresh and different about Deadly Blessings when compared to its horror brethren of the time. The story wanders, but even if you see a good part of the ending coming (since it’s screamed at you early on), there’s still something special about the weirdness of how it plays out. In an era of dead teenagers, it’s always nice to have slightly older characters to follow. While it’s never quite explored to its potential, the Hittite angle offers a lot of promise and helps to make some of the less significant characters at least have some kind of identification.


This is a problematic film and I imagine for some, a very dull one. But for someone who enjoys some good spider-in-the-mouth dream sequences, children crying at Ernest Borgnine, and gender-confused serial killers with no real bearing on the story, one could do a lot worse.

High Points
It’s occasionally a little much, but the frantic, perhaps fully orchestrated maniacal score helps to amp up the already crazed finale with energetic success

Low Points
Look, I understand that all humans have different body temperatures, but I’m rarely wearing five layers of flannel while my friend in the same room is drinking iced tea in a tank top and panties. I realize it’s a petty point, but the lack of consistency in season REALLY irked me 


Lessons Learned
Faith is spelled F!-A!-I!-T!-H! (!!!)

Cars are WAY better than horses

After shooting and *maybe hitting an insane killer responsible for the deaths of at least two much larger men, the best course of action to immediately take after the body disappears is to throw your still-loaded gun on the floor. OBVIOUSLY



Craven a Calling Card
It looks like SOMEONE was toying with a few pending trademarks, including:
-nightmares
-German shepherds
-Michael Berryman
-Pretty brunettes taking baths only to have something devious crawl between their legs*


*Also, as a note, it’s much more effective when said devious something crawls between a woman’s legs when she’s not wearing underwear. I’m not saying I (of all people) was looking for bottom nudity, but a snake being released at a woman’s special place loses some of its power if she’s got at the very least, a cotton barrier

Rent/Bury/Buy
Deadly Blessing is streaming on Instant Watch, and those with that service and a free 90 minutes will certainly get some fun out of a viewing. By no means is the film a classic, but it’s interesting to see a young Wes Craven at work, even if he’s weighted by a fairly crappy script.



9 comments:

  1. HA! That gives new meaning to Crotch Critters...

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hooray! I've always liked this one despite the slow pace and stupid ending. In fact it was the only movie I wrote up last year: http://pearceshorrormoviereviews.blogspot.com/2012/08/deadly-blessing-1981.html

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great minds TOTALLY think alike!

    Would you agree that there were two stupid endings? At least the first stupid ending made me chuckle.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Yeah, the whole identity of the killer was totally out of left field. If Wes Craven was smoking pot when he made Last House on the Left (as he's claimed), what the hell was he on when he made this?

    ReplyDelete
  5. Watching this movie just made me want to see the OTHER Ernest Borgnine cult movie, "The Devil's Rain."

    ReplyDelete
  6. Ahhh, The Devil's Rain. So much nonsense. So many future stars. So much Borgnine mugging. So much blandness. So much melting.

    ReplyDelete
  7. It's been a while since I've been over here. Hope all has been well at the Doll House!

    I'll have to check out this one. I have The Devil's Rain on DVD and what a riot. I can watch Ernest Borgnine chew forestry all day.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Always glad to see you Burgundy!

    Few men could chew their surroundings quite as well as Borgnine. He's not quite as all-out as Devil's Rain here, but he does get to do some fun fire and brimstoning.

    ReplyDelete