Summer of Fear (1978)
Review by ScottC

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


Released by: Artisan
Rating: PG-13
Region: 1
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 doesnít please Rachel (Blair), the Bryantsí daughter. Rachel loses her familyís affection, her boyfriend and her peace of mind due to her cousinís enchanting presence. Rachel thinks Julia is a total witch. (Remember this is 1978, you couldnít 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 hasnít been consigned to a dusty vault in some studio somewhere. Itís because it stars Linda Blair and was directed by Wes Craven. Itís not because it has good acting or writing. Poor Linda Blair hadnít realized at this time that she was a one hit wonder and I canít find any of Cravenís directorial style in this movie. But what do you expect from a TV movie from 1978? The plotís features all the clichťs: the expert on witches just happens to live down the street, the evidence is Ďhiddení where Rachel can find it, and thereís 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, thereís a commentary to this film. This project was Cravenís 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 Blairís 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, thereís 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.

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