Written by: Glenn M. Benest, based on the novel by Lois Duncan
Directed by: Wes Craven
Starring: Linda Blair, Lee Purcell, Fran Drescher, Macdonald Carey
- Director and Cast Filmographies
- Running audio commentary by director Craven and producer Max Keller
Released by: Artisan
Anamorphic: N/A; appears in its original 1.33:1.
My Advice: Rent a better Wes Craven movie.
The loving and happy Bryants take in their niece Julia (Purcell) after her parents die in a mysterious car accident in the Appalachians. At first shy and a little frumpy, Julia transforms into a vivacious and beautiful creature. Everyone in town is charmed by her, especially the menfolk. This doesn’t please Rachel (Blair), the Bryants’ daughter. Rachel loses her family’s affection, her boyfriend and her peace of mind due to her cousin’s enchanting presence. Rachel thinks Julia is a total witch. (Remember this is 1978, you couldn’t say bitch on network TV.) With evidence piling up and events taking a deadly turn, Rachel may be more right than she knows. Will it be enough to survive the Summer of Fear? (Cue dramatic music)
This is a very lucky movie. There are two reasons that it hasn’t been consigned to a dusty vault in some studio somewhere. It’s because it stars Linda Blair and was directed by Wes Craven. It’s not because it has good acting or writing. Poor Linda Blair hadn’t realized at this time that she was a one hit wonder and I can’t find any of Craven’s directorial style in this movie. But what do you expect from a TV movie from 1978? The plot’s features all the clichÃ©s: the expert on witches just happens to live down the street, the evidence is ‘hidden’ where Rachel can find it, and there’s the climactic girl fight and car chase. The scary thing is we still have movies like this today. This is just mildly entertaining filler to put in the schedule when a series gets cancelled.
Surprising enough, there’s a commentary to this film. This project was Craven’s first studio production and he says he learned a lot about professional movie making from working on this. So he remembers the experience fondly. We learn that this was Blair’s first role after some time in rehab (and does she look it) and the main reason she took the part was because of all the horse riding she could do. Unfortunately, there’s too much of Craven and Keller trying to remember what various actors and crew are doing now. The DVD producers should have taken some of the time they used preparing the commentary and used it on the video transfer. In several places the image seems to shift and shake. I expect some problems with old film stock, but this should have been correctable. Wes Craven did move on to bigger and better movies. Rent one of them instead of Summer of Fear.