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Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Stranger in Our House, a.k.a. Summer of Fear (1978)

Let me start off by saying I love Wes Craven. I have several friends who worked for him and they always say such wonderful things about his kind and generous spirit. I also love the iconic and groundbreaking films he directed such as The Hills Have Eyes (1977), A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), and Scream (1996). That being said, I absolutely HATED Stranger in Our House (SIOH). Even if I didn't know that Craven had directed it, I still would have hated it!

Here's why: SIOH is a made for TV movie which means it's going to be a lot tamer film than a cinematic release. Yet TV series such as the Kolchack: Night Stalker (1974-75) proved that TV horror does not need to be boring. SIOH feels like an after school special with very little suspense and a "reveal" toward the end of the film that's laugh out loud ridiculous. I expect more from Craven than this. I'd like to believe his hands were tied by TV executives who prevented him from doing more. That's my story and I'm sticking with it!

Furthermore, screenwriter Glen N Benest struggles to write great dialogue for his characters. He has only has 8 writing credits to his name on IMDB and I can see why! One of my favorite bits of dialogue occurs between the main character, Rachel, and her mother. Rachel says "Have you ever read anything about witchcraft?" Her mom responds "No, not recently." It sounds as if she was initiated into a coven back in the day but just lost interest in it over time. It was an LOL moment.

SIOH is also not helped by its portrayal of modern witches which is absurd. I actually know a number of practitioners of the Craft and, trust me, they don't control the weather or operate cars remotely. Horses are not afraid of them and they can be photographed. This last detail was so preposterous and SIOH made a big deal out of it. Apparently, in their world, witches are like vampires and are invisible when they are photographed. Seriously? Seriously?

Last but not least there's the acting. Linda Blair [The Exorcist 1973] is really bad as Rachel and delivers her lines like she's in a junior high school play. Her mom in the film, Carol Lawrence, is even worse. The bright spot in the acting pool is Fran Drescher [The Nanny] who plays Rachel's best friend. Unfortunately, she's a secondary character so her screen time in minimal. Then there's the "witch," who is played by Lee Purcell. She has potential as an actress but the material she has to work with limits what she can do.

I am surprised at all the positive comments on IMDB regarding this film. I just don't get it. My advice is that you avoid this one altogether.


For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.