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"Master of Horror" Wes Craven has made two genre changing and what I consider to be great films in his career-- A Nightmare On Elm Street and Scream. With Nightmare Craven created a serial killer who preferred stalking his victims in their dreams instead of lurking in the dark or in the next cabin over, and with Freddy Krueger popularized the genre's move away from more traditional, real world slashers to those that looked towards supernatural means for their modus operandi. Even Freddy's main rival in the 1980s Jason Vorhees, who had up until this time been a stalker more in the mold of Halloween's Micheal Myers, would take on the role of an undead killing machine with the first Friday the 13th sequel to be produced after Nightmare's late 1984 release, the 1986 feature Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives. Scream too ushered a change within the horror landscape when it was released in late 1996, bringing with its success a slew of imitators trying to cash in on the newly refound popularity of a revitalized teen slasher sub-genre with films such as I Know What You Did Last Summer, Valentine and Urban Legend just to name a few.

 Deadly Blessing
After these two films, however, his horror filmography is with few exceptions a long list of overhyped, mediocre and simply bad pictures. Last House On the Left and The Hills Have Eyes? Vastly overrated. Shocker, The People Under the Stairs and Swamp Thing? Average...at best. The Hills Have Eyes Part II, Vampire In Brooklyn, Cursed and Deadly Friend (his worst)? The less said the better. In fact I'd consider the Scream sequels (which descend in quality each time out), Wes Craven's New Nightmare and The Serpent and the Rainbow as the only decent, but not great, flicks he's directed besides the aforementioned classics. Sufficed to say I am not the world's biggest fan of Wes Craven's work, especially when his filmography is stacked up against contemporary directors in the genre such as John Carpenter, George A. Romero, David Cronenberg and Dario Argento.

Deadly Blessing falls squarely in the mediocre category, and depending on your own personal tastes and frame of mind when seeing it could easily be regarded as well as the similarly titled Deadly Friend. The story takes place near a Hittite (according to Sharon Stone's character the Hitittes "make the Amish look like swingers") commune, and when a former member of the sect dies in a mysterious accident, his wife Martha (Maren Jensen), who now lives alone and close to the sect’s church, begins to fear for her life and the lives of her visiting friends (Susan Buckner, Sharon Stone). Soon after strange and deadly events begin to happen to each of the women and anyone they come into contact with. Could the leader of the commune Isiah (Ernest Borgnine) have anything to do with it, or is there something more sinister afoot in the countryside? Yeah, it does sound a bit corny and like a number of other pictures that have come since, but it does have a few things going in its favor that make at least one viewing worth it.

For starters you get Ernest Borgnine in subdued crazy mode as head of the Hititte sect and father in-law of main character Martha (Maren Jensen), who after the death of her husband finds herself in distress and very much the outsider isolated on her farm. Borgnine was nominated for a Worst Supporting Actor Razzie for this one, but chances are that had mostly to do with his makeup and costuming than anything else, and if looks really could kill Borgnine's glare of disapproval throughout the picture would have done in most of the cast on sight. It's definitely a one-note performance, but the script doesn't really call for much more than what he gives, and as a possible suspect in all the evil goings-on around Martha's farm he's near perfect in the part. Anyone that has seen his portrayal of satanic cult leader Jonathan Corbis in the 1975 schlokfest The Devil's Rain can attest to the fact that Borgnine playing a one-note villain is a real hoot, and you get much of the same here whenever he shows up on screen (side note: if you haven't seen The Devil's Rain make sure to check it out at some point. It stars Borgnine, Tom Skerritt, William Shatner, Ida Lupino, Eddie Albert and Keenan Wynn. Definitely not for all tastes, but seeing this cast drudge their way through the ridiculous script is entertaining in and of itself).

 Deadly Blessing
I'm also a sucker for movies such as The Wicker Man and the somewhat similarly set mini-series The Dark Secret of Harvest Home (which really needs a DVD release of its own) where much of the tension and horror comes from the clashing of cultures and the fears felt by the stranger in the strange land, and much like Craven's previous efforts The Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes, Deadly Blessing offers plenty of both, but in additional to this it also contains a lot of the dream imagery and supernatural elements that would later come to fruition with A Nightmare On Elm Street and The Serpent and the Rainbow. It's an interesting combination of ideas, and Craven does a nice job of setting up the eerie and ominous mood, features some well drawn characters admirably portrayed by the supporting cast and stocks the picture with plenty of good, old fashioned red herrings, but the individual scenes meant to scare and the ultimate payoff (which was ripped of a few years later by a relatively well known B-grade slasher flick) don't work. Deadly Blessing never provides enough true scares for what is billed as a full on horror picture, and ultimately that's its the biggest failing. Well, that and the obligatory tacked on ending, which is so laughable and out of place with the rest of the picture that it leaves a bad taste in one's mouth as soon as the end credits roll.

Deadly Blessing has only recently been made widely available in the United States via Netflix's streaming service, and seeing as this is the first physical release of the picture here since the days of VHS it's remained a fairly obscure title to many horror fans even though it's from such a well known genre director and has in its cast some pretty big names. Most horror fans will want to check it out at some point, and fans of Craven's other work will certainly want to check out the last of his theatrical features to make it's way to DVD and Blu-ray. If you gauge your expectations accordingly you can have a good time with this one, but if you go in expecting something along the lines of contemporary horror pictures of the time such as John Carpenter's The Fog, George A. Romero's Creepshow, David Cronenberg's Scanners or Dario Argento's Inferno you'll be disappointed.

 Deadly Blessing
Video
Shout! Factory's got another strong looking catalog title on their hands here with a 1.78:1 (OAR 1.85:1), 1080p, AVC-encoded video transfer that will please fans, but isn't going to knock anybody's socks off either. There is some print damage here and there (mostly near the start of the picture), but it's minor stuff that's never distracting and to be expected with a film of this age and budget. The film sports some soft cinematography, and that's represented here, but fine detail is sharp and consistent. Contrast, color and black levels are handled well also, though some of the darker scenes do have a tendency to go overboard on the grain, but this is an element of the original source and not a fault of the transfer. It's not the cleanest print I've ever seen but I couldn't detect much in the may of any digital enhancement going on either, so the transfer maintains a very film like appearance without any banding or aliasing. Overall this is a very good video presentation of the film on Blu-ray and the best that could be expected without a full blown restoration.

 Deadly Blessing
Audio
Shout! Factory has supplied the disc with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track and there isn't a thing wrong with it, but other than meeting the current market expectations I'm not sure why you would go through the trouble of creating one in the first place. It's primarily a front loaded track with minimal use of the surrounds at appropriate scenes, but dialogue and sound effects are clear and concise throughout. Also included on the disc is a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track, and honestly I think that would have served the film just as well. Maybe I shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth and be happy that they've included more options and not less like so many other releases tend to do. Overall this is a serviceable track that isn't going to wow anyone, but it's certainly in step with the feature's age and budget.

 Deadly Blessing
Extras
Now here's the part of the disc where Shout! Factory has excelled at for the majority of their Scream Factory discs, and I'm happy to say the the treatment given to Deadly Blessing here is in line with the best of their releases thus far. First up you get all all-new commentary track with director Wes Craven and Horrorhound Magazine's Sean Clark (who also appeared on their Halloween titles) which offers a candid and informative take on the film. I may not think much of most of the pictures in his filmography, but Wes Craven has always been a great participant on tracks such as this, and though he covers some of the same ground as his previously recorded commentary for Deadly Blessing (from the R2 DVD) he and Clark do a great job of exploring all sorts of aspects of the production and there's never a dull moment. I'd recommend that any fan of the film and/or Craven give this one a listen even if you have taken in the previous commentary track.

Besides the commentary track you also get a little over an hour's worth of high definition featurettes produced by Red Shirt Pictures, and seeing as they're one the best producers of genre related bonus material out there you know you're in good hands. The first feature, "Say Your Prayers!" is a highly enjoyable interview with actor Michael Barryman ( The Hills Have Eyes, Weird Science) who discusses working with Craven on a few projects and about the production of and is role in the movie. He's one of horror's unsung heroes and a genuinely nice guy, so it's a treat to see a good 15-minutes devoted to him here. A similar interview is conducted with actress Susan Bruckner, and the 13-minute "Secrets Revealed" featurette is another piece that fans will want to take in. In it she too discusses the production and her role, as well as her overall career and pregnancy on set.

The longest of the four featurettes, the 20-minute "So It Was Written", writers Glenn Benest and Matthew Barr dissect the film's screenplay an discuss such elements as overall themes, their process and Craven's contributions to the script. This is another nice addition to the disc and looks at the picture from a different view than the interviews of the two actors. The featurettes are wrapped up with the nearly 7-minute "Rise of the Incubus" with creature designer John Naulin, which goes into detail about the film's creature and the fact that the studio wanted something with more oomph at the end. The remaining features on the disc are rounded out with a theatrical trailer, television and radio spots and a photo gallery, all in high definition. Add in a reversible cover for those that prefer the original artwork and you've got a very nice set of extras that you're going to want to check out. With the exception of an outside chance to get Sharon Stone to sit down for a few minutes and discuss her involvement and an interview with star Maren Jensen (as I understand it they did try to track her down but were unable to) there isn't much else that you could want from the special features on this disc.

 Deadly Blessing
Overall
Deadly Blessing isn't one of Wes Craven's strongest efforts and many might find it to be one his lesser ones, but there's enough to like about it that curious horror fans will want to check it out either through this disc or elsewhere. With this release Shout! Factory has added another solid addition to their ever growing Scream Factory line of genre Blu-rays and DVDs. The video and audio are quite good when taking into account the film's age, budget and post release care and the disc sports a very nice selection of quality extras that any horror fan will enjoy. Overall Deadly Blessing is strictly a rental for anyone other than fans of the picture and/or director Wes Craven, who should go ahead and pick up this release without hesitation since it's never been available before in the United States and will likely never be exceeded in terms of quality.

Speaking of stuff finally getting a release--we're at a time when the big studios are more than happy to license out their back catalog titles to streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon rather than release such movies or keep them in print on physical disc, and if they do happen to release something you're lucky to get a trailer included. Deadly Blessing is the eighth title in Shout! Factory's Scream Factory line dating back to last September (previous films include Halloween II, Halloween III: Season of the Witch, The Funhouse, Terror Train, They Live, The Island, and Death Valley), and any self-respecting horror fan should definitely pay attention to what they're doing. I never thought I would see a Blu-ray release of personal favorite Halloween III, let alone one with a great audio/video presentation and selection of extras, but it now exists (seriously, the Tom Atkins commentary track alone is great). The company has several licensed releases from the Universal and MGM libraries arriving on Blu-ray, DVD or both over the next year such as Phantasm II, From Beyond, Lifeforce, The Fog and The Howling just to name a few, and several titles such as Renny Harlin's little seen horror gem Prison and the 1976 thriller The Town That Dreaded Sundown have been, up to now, unreleased in either the United States and/or worldwide. They aren't the only distributor picking up the ball that the big studios have largely dropped, but they're one of the best, and as film fans we've got to support companies like this now. With the level of quality they're selling it's insanely easy to do.

* Note: The images on this page are taken from the Blu-ray and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.

 Deadly Blessing
 Deadly Blessing


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