review for Deadly Blessing on AllMovie

Deadly Blessing (1981)
by Donald Guarisco review

This film finds director Wes Craven in a transitional phase between his hard-hitting early work and his later commercial successes. As such, Deadly Blessing is an "all over the map" experience for viewers. The script veers back and forth between shock setpieces and an earnest exploration of religious repression, never truly committing to its genre until the last thirty minutes. At that point, it goes haywire with more than a few bizarre plot twists and a shock coda that feels tacked on. That said, Deadly Blessing is quite watchable for Craven fans despite these problems. The schizoid nature of the story ensures that it never becomes dull and the film distinguishes itself from the pack by offering a storyline that focuses on female characters and allows them to drive the plot. In terms of acting, Maren Jensen's lead performance is a bit flat at times but she gets nice support from Susan Buckner as a resourceful friend and Jeff East as a young sect member who finds his burgeoning adulthood bringing him into conflict with his religion. There are also scene-stealing turns by Ernest Borgnine as a brimstone-minded religious leader and Lois Nettleson as an eccentric neighbor (trainspotters will also notice a young Sharon Stone in there as Jensen's other gal-pal). Best of all, Wes Craven directs his unusual narrative with confidence, giving it a distinctive "American gothic" atmosphere and handling a number of creepy setpiecies with great skill: highlights include a skin-crawling nightmare involving a spider and a tense sequence where a snake slips into Jensen's bathtub while she isn't looking. In short, Deadly Blessing might be a mixed bag but its got enough eccentricities and stylish flourishes to make it worthwhile for fans of vintage horror.