Deadly Blessing (1981) review

Deadly Blessing posterDirector: Wes Craven

Starring: Maren Jensen, Sharon Stone, Ernest Borgnine, Michael Berryman

“If thine eye offends thee, pluck it out. If thine own hand offends thee… then in God’s name, cut it off.” (Isaiah, Deadly Blessing)

There’s an interesting story told by screenwriter Glenn Benest in Arrow Video’s upcoming DVD release of Deadly Blessing (this review is based on a review copy of said DVD).

The story goes that a young Sharon Stone, in her first big role, had just come from a modelling career and had no idea how to act or what to do.

Like a deer in headlights, Stone kept asking director Wes Craven for guidance and help her with her acting.

The cast and crewmembers looked at each other and Craven explained that he didn’t do that sort of thing, he was more about setting up shots and the like. “GOD DAMN IT,” Stone then screamed at the top of her voice, “WOULD YOU DIRECT ME?”

Sharon Stone demanded this spider have its teeth removed before agreeing to do the scene. Seriously
She also demanded this spider have its teeth removed before agreeing to do the scene. Seriously

In a way it’s a shame that Craven politely declined and had a quiet word with Stone rather than giving her the advice she seeked, because she’s clearly the weakest performer by far in what is an otherwise effective little film.

Deadly Blessing focuses on Martha Schmidt (Battlestar Galactica‘s Maren Jensen), a headstrong city girl married to Jim, a country boy who used to be a member of the Hittites.

The Hittites are a strict religious community (much like the Amish) who feel technology is the work of the devil and constantly warn of the coming of the demonic Incubus. Jim had married Martha to get away from his cultish peers, and they’re not happy with him.

Ernest Borgnine is excellent as the head of the Hiddite community.
Ernest Borgnine is excellent as the head of the Hiddite community

After a mysterious accident kills Jim, Martha tries to get to the bottom of things with the help of her city friends Lana (Stone) and Vicky, who come to stay with her as she mourns.

As more people die and Martha and her friends are continually harassed it becomes clear that there may be a killer in the midst of the Hittites.

Many of the key scenes in Deadly Blessing feel like rough drafts of similar scenes in Craven’s later film A Nightmare On Elm Street.

Sharon Stone’s character, for example, has a recurring dream about a menacing figure and the scene in which she tells her friends about it is very similar to that in A Nightmare On Elm Street where Nancy and Tina discuss their dreams about Freddy.

Perhaps the most obvious similarity however is the scene in which Martha takes a bath and is attacked by a snake, who comes out of the water between her legs in a shot that is replicated almost identically using Freddy’s glove in A Nightmare On Elm Street.

Check out the Nightmare On Elm Street review to see how Craven re-used this shot
Check out the Nightmare On Elm Street review to see how Craven re-used this shot

The film is a little slow-paced and while there are a few memorable moments (like the aforementioned snake in the bath and a scene involving a spider and an open mouth) there’s a whole lot of nothing going on for large parts of the movie.

Despite this, it never really feels boring because these moments are timed to appear just as interest begins to lag.

All seems fine with Deadly Blessing and it seems fairly straightforward until the film’s last three minutes.

First of all the story is resolved in a bizarre manner that fans of Sleepaway Camp will find familiar, and then there’s a ridiculous shock ending that was actually removed from the film when it was first released in the UK because the studio was concerned it’d confuse viewers.

"I'm sorry, what just happened?"
“I’m sorry, what just happened? That’s just fucking daft”

Not only is this mental ending reinstated for the upcoming DVD, it’s also addressed in the aforementioned interview with the screenwriter in which he confesses he didn’t write that scene and was shocked when he saw it in the cinema, noting that it was clearly added to give the film a ‘Carrie‘ ending to end it on a final scare.

Deadly Blessing has separated critics but I enjoyed it. It’s not action-packed by any means but it’s an interesting film that ends with a clever little twist followed by a fucking ridiculous second one.


Arrow Video released Deadly Blessing in a dual format Blu-ray and DVD pack in the UK a couple of years ago. It’s got an interesting 15-minute chat with the screenwriter and a half-hour interview with actor Michael Berryman who discusses the Wes Craven films he’s starred in and then goes on to completely slate the Hills Have Eyes remakes. And, of course, the film itself now has that bizarre twist ending reinstated.


4 thoughts on “Deadly Blessing (1981) review

  1. Pingback: Blue Coaster33
  2. Totally confused about the ending. Most of it took place in a darkened room so hard to see who was doing what. Most interesting was seeing Maren Jensen and Sharon Stone co-starring when they were so young and lovely. I liked the film in spite of its confusing jumps, very Wes Craven and totally scary.

Leave a Reply