When Jim Schmidt (Douglas Barr) moved away from his rural Hittite background to go to college, he always planned to return, but when he did he found himself rejected by the fiercely religious sect who saw him as tainted. Nevertheless, farming was the life he knew, and he brought his new wife with him, Martha (Maren Jensen), who was willing to fit into his chosen profession and home, and now she was in the early stages of pregnancy with their first child. However, the superstition in this community runs deep, and there is much talk of the so-called Incubus amongst them - could this affect Martha's contentment?
Well, as this is a horror movie directed by Wes Craven, it's safe to say that would be the case. Deadly Blessing was a variation on the then-popular slasher movie craze of the early eighties, something that he had helped to start with Last House on the Left, but had found the genre getting away from him as many of his contemporaries did. Craven found his feet doing this kind of thing in the eighties with A Nightmare on Elm Street, but was less certain in this case, apparently more interested in creating starkly beautiful bucolic imagery than concentrating on gory special effects sequences. Indeed, what violence there was in this film was surprisingly muted for its auteur's reputation.
Even the first murder features a trickle of blood on the victim's face, leaving the rest up to the imagination of the viewer. That first victim being poor old Jim, who goes out to investigate the noise of his tractor starting in the barn, only to find a mysterious killer running him over with it once he ventures inside. Martha is distraught, but cannot think of anything to do other than stick with the farm and manage it alone, having given up her previous, city existence. But her friends are not going to abandon her, and both Lana (Sharon Stone) and Vicky (Susan Buckner) drive over to stay at her home and offer moral support. Naturally, with a killer about Martha needs all the support she can get.
And Craven needs all the victims he can get, as if his mind was wandering and every so often someone nudged him in the ribs and said, hey, enough of the rolling fields, this is supposed to be a horror movie. This leads to sequences of the trio of not unattractive ladies (Stone rarely looked better and became the film's poster girl) being menaced by unseen forces, with Lana not only dreaming of spiders but getting trapped in the barn with the body of one of chief adherents to the Hittite cause, which sends her into a fragile state of mind for the rest of the film. Vicky is made of stronger stuff, and makes moves on Jim's younger brother John (Jeff East) who is starting to reject the ways he has been brought up with, partly due to sexual frustration as Vicky brings out the lust in him and looks to be available, which his virginal fiancée is not.
Ernest Borgnine plays his father and the head of the community in a surprisingly restrained performance, only raising his voice a couple of times, but making plain his pious fury through his stifled - and stifling - personality. But here's the problem: Craven took a script of religious intolerance and in tinkering with it made it look as if the bigots were entirely correct in their opinions, and all because he wanted a shock ending (or two). So while we are on the side of Martha and company all the way, for the sake of springing a plot twist on us it turns out that Borgnine's fervent belief that Satan is abroad in his land was absolutely jusitfied, therefore making an intriguing study of how an insular society can turn against its outsiders for entirely spurious reasons thanks to widespread and constantly self-maintained ignorance into simply another silly shocker where anything goes as long as there's a splashy finale. There's an interesting film in here somewhere... Music by James Horner.