18th Mar2013

‘Deadly Blessing’ Blu-ray Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Sharon Stone, Ernest Borgnine, Michael Berryman, Maren Jensen, Susan Buckner, Douglas Barr | Written by Wes Craven, Glenn M. Benest, Matthew Barr | Directed by Wes Craven

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Undoubtedly one of Wes Craven’s finest overlooked masterpieces, Deadly Blessing is a film that was at the time of its production beset by a number of issues that fortunately did not have too much of an impact on Craven’s finished movie (bar the amended ending), which is an atmospheric chiller set deep in the heart of Hittite country that sees the clash between modern life and the simpler Hittite lifestyle turn deadly…

In an attempt to distance himself from the strict religious Hittite community in which he was raised – one that rejects all the trappings of modern life – Jim Schmidt (Douglas Barr) has married a headstrong city girl, Martha (Maren Jensen), and left the sect. When Jim is involved in a tragic and highly mysterious accident, the close-knit community shuns Martha leaving her to seek the comfort of two old college friends, Lana (Sharon Stone) and Vicky (Susan Buckner), who come to stay with her during her time of mourning. As the three friends begin to unlock the mystery surrounding Jim’s death, it becomes apparent there is a diabolical killer in their midst who may be hiding deep within the local God-fearing community.

Deadly Blessing was, at least for a time, one of those films that stuck somewhere deep in my movie-loving subconscious – a mysterious film that I caught on TV late one night whose title I didn’t know but whose strange ethereal, dream-like set pieces stuck firmly in my mind. It wasn’t until years later when, on a quest to watch all of the back catalogue of director Wes Craven, that I found it – a VHS copy of the film whose scenes of a snake in the bath and a spider (almost) in the mouth had haunted me for years. Now I knew the title…

Cut to years later, and following a DVD release by Arrow Video back in November 2011, Deadly Blessing is getting a new “deluxe” Blu-ray edition, which features (as per Arrow’s other releases) a shedload of special features including: a brand new audio commentary from director Wes Craven; an introduction by star Michael Berryman; “Craven Images: The Horror Hits of Michael Berryman” – an interview with Deadly Blessing’s iconic star; “The Deadliest Director” – and interview with Wes Craven; “Deadly Desires” – an interview with screenwriter Glenn M. Benest; original trailer; easter eggs; reversible sleeve with original and newly commissioned artwork by Rue Morgue art director Gary Pullin and a collectors’ booklet featuring brand new writing on the film by author and critic Kim Newman.

Best of all? The film looks superb on Blu-ray, possibly the best it ever done. Presented as it is in the original 1.78:1 aspect ratio and original mono 1.0 audio, Arrow Video’s Blu-rau is like seeing the film through fresh eyes, and gave me a new found appreciation of the film and the work that Craven and company put in to it.

An old-school horror film that eschews gore in favour of building skin-crawling tension and atmosphere, Deadly Blessing is definitely worthy of a second look by fans of Wes Craven and the genre. The film is released on Blu-ray on March 25th, courtesy of Arrow Video.

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