[This review is part of the Final Girl Film Club.]
"Your laws cannot crush the incubus. Ours can."
Before I mention anything else, let me get this out of the way, I love the hell out of Ernest Borgnine. Not only was he one of the greatest character actors who ever lived, he was also one of my favorite masturbators.
So I was thrilled when I saw his name in the credits for Wes Craven's Deadly Blessing. No matter what else this movie was, at least I'd get some Borgnine. And thank God I got at least that.
Of course, what can you expect from a slasher movie about the Amish—I'm sorry, hittite. You see, Wes Craven, apparently afraid at the time that all of the Amish who regularly watched his low-budget slasher movies (because they go to the movies so often) would be upset with his depiction of them, decided to rename them hittite. Wes was, in essence, saying, "Hey, Amish, when you drive your cars to the electricity-filled movie theater to watch my depiction of you via the twentieth century art form of film, please don't sue me." What I'm saying is, Wes erred a little too much on the side of caution on this one (especially considering that the hittites don't even turn out to be the actual bad guys—yeah, that was a spoiler).
Honestly, with the movie as a whole, Craven erred to much on the side of caution. Actually, to put it more accurately, Craven erred on the side of, "Eh, I guess I'm making a slasher movie. I'll just do the things one does when one makes one of these, I guess." So, following in Craven's lead, allow me to go through the motions in reviewing this movie.
Jim (Douglas Barr) and Martha (Maren Jensen) are a happy couple with a blessing on the way: she's knocked up.
Life couldn't be better. Except that Jim is a former hittite who has now been shunned for shacking up with Martha, a non-hittite. Which wouldn't be so bad, except the hittites have taken their shunning/taunting of the couple to a new level.
Upset about this, Jim and Martha have sex.
Then Jim gets killed by someone driving his modern (therefore evil) tractor.
Then Martha's friends come to stay with Martha.
Then Martha disrobes. Because.
Then other stuff happens.
The hittites continue to be scary as fuck.
The women are terrified for their lives.
Then Martha disrobes again. This time, for bath.
Faith (Lisa Hartman), the non-hittie painter neighbor, gives the women eggs.
Then, Hittite John renounces hittitism to bang Martha's friend Vicky (Susan Buckner).
They get killed.
But it turns out it was the non-hittite family with the painter daughter that was killing everyone.
So, that means, earlier in the movie, when Faulknerian idiot man-child hittite William Gluntz (Michael Berryman) tried to kill the girl...
...he was right to do so.
And the ol' psycho peepers hittite was just trying to kill the real bad guy.
Oh yeah, it also turns out that demons are real. They pull Martha down into the bowels of hell.
OK, movie, you got me; here this whole time I thought them hittites were behind them shenanigans and whatnot, but it turns out they were just warning the good farm folks of the dangers that the demons next door posed. Yep, after that twist, everything's wrapped up nice and neat.
Except wait, no. You see, the inclusion of this twist just introduced a whole bunch of fucked up unaccounted for by Craven. First of all, if Borgnine et al. were just trying to warn Martha and Jim about the chicken-having, 70s-shaggin-wagon-mural-painting-producing demons next door, why didn't they just come out and say, "hey, your neighbors are trying to kill you," instead of, you know, scrawling 'Incubus' on the wall of their garage like goddamn ritualistic, religious-themed serial killers.
Also, let's not forget: even if Borgnine was right in warning Martha, he was still a goddamn douche. If you'll remember, he still shunned his son for marrying outside the family. And he, oh yeah, severely, ritualistically beat the knuckles of a child (in front of his congregation, no less) for disobeying him. What this movie is saying, essentially, is restrictive, physically and mentally abusive religious patriarchy is necessary. Because demons. I know lots of us horror fans like to think of these pictures as subtly subversive attacks on the status quo, but many of them traffic in the sort of regressive, retrograde politics that would make Puritans tsk tsk in disapproval.
But, honestly, all of that would be forgivable if the movie was at least interesting.