Midnight Offerings (1981) (TVM)

Midnight Offerings 1981 TVM poster.jpg

Witching hour again! And this time it’s a witch-off between Little House on the Prairie‘s Mary Ingalls (Melissa Sue Anderson) and The Waltons‘ Erin (Mary Beth McDonough), a battle that has an incendiary ending.  Anderson is Vivian Sotherland, the spiteful Mean Girl at Ocean High CA who intimidates male teachers sexually and if they don’t succumb she murders them – we enter as she casts a spell that causes one to crash his car, saving her quarterback boyfriend Dave (Patrick Cassidy) from flunking and thereby keeping him on the team. New (motherless) girl Robin Prentiss  (McDonough) has read about his drunken misdemeanour in the local freebie paper but likes him despite her dad’s objections. They’ve moved from Connecticut following a series of unfortunate events – she has powers too, but no idea how to control them. Vivian can’t read her and starts to attack her dad and Dave and nearly kills Robin in a house fire. Dave is on to her scheme and brings Robin to Emily Moore (Marion Ross, Mom from Happy Days!) to help her ward off evil. Mrs Sotherland (Cathryn Damon) didn’t abort Vivian to stop breeding the 7th daughter of the 7th daughter and blames herself for allowing her to go off the rails so she must intervene before another murder occurs … This is clever, intelligent stuff, as you would expect from long-time Rockford Files writer/producer Juanita Bartlett, responsible for the screenplay. Anderson is very well off-cast in the lead but it’s McDonough who has the more expansive role and she is very good. A newly blonde Kym (Sound of Music‘s Gretl) Karath is the hobbled cheerleader and this is a point of interest – she made her debut in Spencer’s Mountain as a three year old, a film that was the first adaptation of Earl Hamner’s book that of course became … The Waltons. And look fast for Vanna White too. Excellent stuff, thanks to the Horror Channel for resurrecting it. Directed by veteran TV helmer Rod Holcomb.

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Summer of Fear (1978) (TVM)

)Summer of Fear movie poster

Aka Stranger in Our House. You know how your parents preferred an interloper to you when you were growing up – and they took over your bedroom, your stuff, your best friend, your boyfriend, your dad … sheesh, it happens to us all. YA author Lois Duncan (I Know What You Did Last Summer) took it to another level in this movie’s source novel bringing a bereaved cousin into the frame. Weirdly this TVM was directed by Wes Craven and you really wouldn’t know it: he made it between The Hills Have Eyes and Deadly Blessing. It’s a tale of middle class upset with a serious subtext. The book is straightened out to fit small screen requirements by Glenn Benest and Max Keller so you don’t get the full thrust of horror credentials that the provenance would suggest. The bad acting doesn’t help things with both Blair (fresh off both Exorcists and a drugs bust) and her nemesis Lee Purcell (Big Wednesday and 30 when this was shot!) mercilessly upstaged by sidekick Fran Drescher (yikes, that accent!) in a small role while Jeremy Slate is woeful as the besotted dad. But what a joy to see Macdonald Carey (Shadow of a Doubt and TV’s Days of Our Lives) in the role of the university prof who suspects something awry. Craven allegedly shot this to feel like a Polanski paranoia-fest and the dayglo locations in Hidden Hills just emphasise the comfortable nature of the home invasion by this inbred Ozark freak because aside from the horrible scene with the horse the most frightening thing is Blair’s hair.