Retro-review: New on Blu-Ray from the Scream Factory!

SUPERSTITION (1982)

Directed by James W. Roberson
Written by Galen Thompson (screenplay), Michael O. Sajbel, Bret Thompson Plate, Brad White (story)
Starring James Houghton, Albert Salmi, Lynn Carlin, Larry Pennell, Jacquelyn Hyde, Robert Symonds, Heidi Bohay, Maylo McCaslin, Carole Goldman, Stacy Keach Sr., Kim Marie, Billy Jayne, Johnny Doran, Bennett Liss, Joshua Cadman, John Alderman

SUPERSTITION feels much more like a slasher film than a supernatural one. The setup where people are introduced and killed off one by one and the mystery behind who is doing all of the murdering feels like it could have occurred somewhere outside of Crystal Lake. It attempts to combine subgenres, but I kind of wish it would have picked one and stuck with it.

The old abandoned house outside of town has been acquired by the church, and Reverend David Thompson (James Houghton) has been assigned to get it ready to house some new owners. But the property seems to be haunted by some kind of curse and as the bodies start piling up, it seems the problems stem from an age old curse from a witch killed in the lake by the villagers of the small town.

First the good. There are quite a few nicely paced scenes where one person after another makes their way through the dark house and ultimately meets their end by unseen forces. The film, which starts out as cliched as they come, seems to have taken quite a few pages from films like FRIDAY THE 13th and the giallo films of Argento and Bava, setting up some elaborate death scenes and some solid effects. The film also proves to be quite ballsy as the killer doesn’t seem to care whether or not one is an innocent, giving this film a rather wicked edge over some more moralistic films. It’s also fun, in a skin crawlingly creepy way, to see our hero Reverend Thompson stare a little too long at the teenage girls who reside in the home. No one is completely clean in this film and it’s kind of refreshing to see that in such an early pseudo-slasher film.

At the same time, this story is all over the place. Flashbacks are sandwiched in at inopportune times. Characters who seemed nice, all of a sudden become assholes for no reason other than to further the plot. Red herring killers are propped up just to disappear in the latter acts. It almost feels as if this were a film made by a committee that didn’t agree on anything. It seems to want to be a combination between FRIDAY THE 13TH and THE AMITYVILLE HORROR, but never really replicating the best aspects of each. The acting is also all over the place, making it really hard to find someone to root for. Still, SUPERSTITION has a lot of low level scares, some ballsy kills, and some hammy dialog that makes it hard to be mad at.