Retro Television Reviews: Invitation to Hell (dir by Wes Craven)


Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Sundays, I will be reviewing the made-for-television movies that used to be a primetime mainstay.  Today’s film is 1984’s Invitation to Hell.  It  can be viewed on YouTube!

There’s one rule in life that should never be forgotten.

Any movie that opens with Susan Lucci casting a hex that causes a man’s head to explode is going to be worth watching.

That’s certainly the case with Invitation to Hell, a 1984 made-for-TV movie that casts Lucci as Jessica Jones, an insurance agent who lives and works in an upper class suburb in Southern California. Jessica not only sells insurance but she also runs the ultra-exclusive Steaming Springs Country Club! Anyone who is anyone in town is a member of Steaming Springs! Of course, joining Steaming Springs requires going through a strange ceremony in which you walk into a mist-filled room. Jessica says that the room is called “the Spring” and that it contains everything that someone would need to be happy. However, one need only consider that the film is called Invitation to Hell to guess that Jessica might not be completely honest.

Matt Winslow (Robert Urich) and his family have just moved into the suburbs. Matt’s an engineer whose job involves designing a state-of-the-art space suit. Matt is a little bit annoyed when Jessica starts pressuring him and his family to join the country club. He’s even more perturbed when his wife (Joanna Cassidy), upon returning from the mist-filled room, starts acting and dressing just like Jessica. Matt soon comes to suspect that something strange might be happening, especially after his own daughter attacks him! Fortunately, Matt’s spacesuit comes with a flame thrower, a laser, and a built-in computer that can determine whether or not someone is actually a human being. (Wearing the space helmet means viewing the world like you’re the Terminator.) Soon, it’s science vs. magic as Matt dons the suit and tries to rescue his family from country club living!

Invitation to Hell is totally ludicrous but also a lot of fun. Robert Urich is properly stolid as the hero while the film itself is, not surprisingly, stolen by Susan Lucci. Lucci is totally and wonderfully over-the-top as Jessica, playing the role with the same cheerfully unapologetic intensity that made her a daytime television star. This is a film that has a little bit for everyone — familiar television actors, flamethrowers, space suits, demonic possession, exploding cars, and even a little bit of social satire as the film suggests that living in the suburbs is a terror even without weird country clubs and chic spell casters.

Interestingly enough, this made-for-television film was directed by none other than Wes Craven! The same year that this film was broadcast, Craven directed a little film called A Nightmare on Elm Street. While Invitation to Hell might not be in the same league as that classic shocker, it’s still an enjoyably campy horror flick.

Retro Television Review: Summer of Fear (dir by Wes Craven)


Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Sundays, I will be reviewing the made-for-television movies that used to be a primetime mainstay.  Today’s film is 1978’s Summer of Fear.  It  can be viewed on YouTube!

In this made-for-TV movie from 1978, Linda Blair (fresh from the first two Exorcist films) plays Rachel. Rachel is a teenager who lives on a ranch in California. She loves horses and she loves her boyfriend and she’s especially happy that her cousin, Julia (Lee Purcell) is coming to live with her. Julia recently lost both of her parents in a tragic auto accident. Though neither Rachel nor her parents have ever met Julia before, they’re all planning on welcoming her into their very nice home.

The only problem is that, once Julia arrives, she seems to be a little bit strange. She speaks with a strange accent that no one on the ranch has ever heard before. The horses all seems to be terrified of her. After Rachel discovers that Julia has stolen minor personal possessions from her new family, Rachel starts to suspect that Julia might be witch and that she might be casting spells! Of course, by this point, Julia is no longer as shy and awkward as she seemed when she first showed up. Instead, she’s now glamorous and every man who meets her becomes intrigued, including Rachel’s boyfriend!

Based on a best-selling novel, Summer of Fear originally aired on NBC. If it were made today, it would probably air on something like Lifetime and it would have a title like, “Deadly Spell” or “Dangerous Seductress.” Seen today, it’s a bit of a slow movie and Linda Blair occasionally seems to be trying too hard to come across as being wide-eyed and innocent in her role but it’s entertaining as long as Lee Purcell is giving people strange looks and chewing up the scenery. The more out-of-control Pucell becomes, the more entertaining the film. Summer of Fear does build to a satisfying conclusion but it’s still hard not to wish that the story itself had moved just a bit quicker.  Jaded audiences in 2022 are no longer as shocked at the idea of witch coming to visit as audiences in 1978 may have been.  In the end, probably the most interesting thing about Summer of Fear is that it was an early credit for horror master, Wes Craven. This was his third film and his first “major” production, one that he made in order to show that, after directing two independent films, he could be trusted with a mainstream, studio production.  As such, you can argue that, without this film, Craven never would have gone on to do Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream.  Modern horror would be very different without Summer of Fear.

Ultimately. the film’s a bit too slowly paced to really be successful but if you’re a fan of Wes Craven’s or even Linda Blair’s, you’ll probably want to watch it at least once.

6 Shots From 6 Horror Films: 1994 — 1996


4 Or More Shots From 4 Or More Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

This October, I’m going to be doing something a little bit different with my contribution to 4 (or more) Shots From 4 (or more) Films.  I’m going to be taking a little chronological tour of the history of horror cinema, moving from decade to decade.

Today, we take a look at 1994, 1995, and 1996!

6 Shots From 6 Horror Films: 1994 — 1996

Dellamorte Dellamore (1994, dir by Michele Soavi, DP: Mauro Marchetti)

In The Mouth of Madness (1994, dir by John Carpenter, DP: Gary B. Kibbe)

New Nightmare (1994, dir by Wes Craven, DP: Mark Irwin)

Lord of Illusions (1995, dir by Clive Barker, DP: Ronn Schmidt)

The Stendhal Syndrome (1996, dir by Dario Argento, DP: Giuseppe Rotunno)

Scream (1996, dir by Wes Craven, DP: Mark Irwin)

8 Shots From 8 Horror Films: 1990 — 1993


4 Or More Shots From 4 Or More Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

This October, I’m going to be doing something a little bit different with my contribution to 4 (or more) Shots From 4 (or more) Films.  I’m going to be taking a little chronological tour of the history of horror cinema, moving from decade to decade.

Today, we take a look at 1990, 1991, 1992, and 1993!

8 Shots From 8 Horror Films: 1990 — 1993

Troll 2 (1990, dir by Claudio Fragasso, DP: Giancarlo Ferrando)

It (1990, dir by Tommy Lee Wallace, DP: Richard Lieterman)

Frankenstein Unbound (1990, dir by Roger Corman, DP: Armando Nannuzzi)

The People Under The Stairs (1991, dir by Wes Craven, DP: Sandi Sissel)

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992, dir by David Lynch, DP: Ron Garcia)

Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992, dir by Francis Ford Coppola, DP: Michael Ballhaus)

Witchboard 2: The Devil’s Doorway (1993, dir by Kevin S. Tenney, DP: David Lewis)

Cronos (1993, dir by Guillermo Del Toro, DP: Guillermo Navarro)

8 Shots From 8 Horror Films: 1984 — 1986


4 Or More Shots From 4 Or More Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

This October, I’m going to be doing something a little bit different with my contribution to 4 (or more) Shots From 4 (or more) Films.  I’m going to be taking a little chronological tour of the history of horror cinema, moving from decade to decade.

Today, we take a look at a very important year: 1984, 1985, and 1986.

8 Shots From 8 Films: 1984 — 1986

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984, dir by Wes Craven, DP: Jacques Haitkin)

Gremlins (1984, dir by Joe Dante, DP: John Hora)

Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984, dir by Joseph Zito, DP: João Fernandes)

Phenomena (1985, dir by Dario Argento, DP: Romano Albani)

Day of the Dead (1985, dir by George Romero, DP: Michael Gornick)

Demons 2 (1986, dir by Lamberto Bava, DP: Gianlorenzo Battaglia)

Witchboard (1986, dir by Kevin S. Tenney, DP: Roy Wagner)

The Fly (1986, dir by David Cronenberg, DP: Mark Irwin)

The Fear (1995, directed by Vincent Robert)


Psychology student Richard (Eddie Bowz) wants to conduct a study.  After getting permission from the head of his department, Dr. Arnold (Wes Craven!), Richard gathers together a group of students and takes them to his family’s cottage.  He introduces the group to “Morty,” a life-sized wooden dummy who Richard has had ever since he was a child.  Morty, Richard explains, was carved by a Native American shaman and was then stolen by Richard’s grandfather.  Each member of the group is told to confess their greatest fear to “Morty.”  Even Richard takes part, confessing that he was scared of Morty when he was growing up.

File this one under “it seemed like a good idea at the time,” because the weekend quickly heads south.  Richard’s uncle (Vince Edwards) shows up unannounced with his new girlfriend, Tanya (Anna Karin).  Members of the group start to disappear and one of them is assaulted at a Christmas carnival, leading the group to suspect that one of them might be the rapist who has been attacking women on campus.  Morty starts to show up in an unexpected rooms in cottage and it appears that everyone’s fears are starting to come true!

The Fear is one of those films that used to show up on late Cinemax but I mostly remember it because it was one of those movies that always seemed to be on display at our local Blockbuster.  The VHS cover featured Morty giving someone the side-eye and looking dangerous.  Morty is the best thing about the movie.  Just looking at him is unsettling.  Why would Richard be stupid enough to tell people to confess their fears to Morty?

Morty is creepy but the movie doesn’t seem to know what to do with him.  Sometimes, Morty is evil and can move on his own and even seems to be capable of possessing someone.  Other times, the movie seems to suggests that everything that’s happening is just in Richard’s head and Morty is just a wooden dummy.  The story becomes impossible to follow as every member of the group is revealed to have a secret and Richard is finally forced to admit that there is something that he’s even more scared of than Morty.  (If, as the film suggests, Morty is mostly after Richard, why does Morty first waste so much time on the other members of the group?)  The Fear is not without ambition.  It takes the therapy scenes seriously and Eddie Bowz does seem like he’s trying to give a believable performance as Richard.  It seems like the people involved wanted to make a good movie.  But once everyone’s fears start to come true and the movie moves into a ridiculous subplot about Richard and his stepsister, the movie is too disjointed to work.  It doesn’t help that most of the fears are too mundane to really translate into an imaginative death scene.  By the end of it all, not even Morty’s that scary anymore.

10 Shots From 10 Horror Films: 1975 — 1977


4 Or More Shots From 4 Or More Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

This October, I’m going to be doing something a little bit different with my contribution to 4 (or more) Shots From 4 (or more) Films.  I’m going to be taking a little chronological tour of the history of horror cinema, moving from decade to decade.

Today, we take a look at three very important years: 1975, 1976, and 1977!

10 Shots From 10 Films: 1975 — 1977

Deep Red (1975, dir by Dario Argento, DP: Luigi Kuveiller)

Trilogy of Terror (1975, dir by Dan Curtis. DP: Paul Lohmann)

Eaten Alive (1976, dir by Tobe Hooper. DP: Robert Caramico)

The Omen (1976, dir by Richard Donner, DP: Gilbert Taylor)

Carrie (1976, dir by Brian De Palma, DP: Mario Tosi)

Shock (1977, dir by Mario Bava, DP: Alberto Spagnoli)

The Hills Have Eyes (1977, dir by Wes Craven, DP: Eric Saarinen)

Suspiria (1977, dir by Dario Argento, DP: Luciano Tuvalia)

Eraserhead (1977, directed by David Lynch, DP: Frederick Elmes and Herbert Cardwell)

Shock Waves (1977, dir by Ken Wiederhorn, DP: Reuben Trane)

6 Horrific Trailers For October 9th, 2022


It’s Sunday and it’s October and that means that it’s time for another edition of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse trailers!  For today, we have six trailers from the early 70s.  This was the era when horror started to truly get …. well, horrific!

  1. The Bird With The Crystal Plumage (1970)

First off, we have the blood and scream-filled trailer for Dario Argento’s The Bird With The Crystal Plumage.  This Italian thriller made quite a splash when it was released in America.  Indeed, for many Americans, this was their first exposure to the giallo genre.  This would go on to become Argento’s first (and, so far, only) film to be nominated for a Golden Globe.  (Read my review here!)

2. House of Dark Shadows (1970)

Speaking of blood and screaming, 1970 also saw the release of House of Dark Shadows.  Personally, I think this is one of the best vampire films ever.  The trailer is heavy on atmosphere.

3. The Devils (1971)

In 1971, British director Ken Russell scandalized audiences with The Devils, a film so shocking that it will probably never been in its full, uncut form.

4. Tombs of the Blind Dead (1972)

Italy was not the only country sending horror films over to the United States.  From Spain came the Tombs of the Blind Dead.

5. The Last House on the Left (1972)

Speaking of controversy, Wes Craven made his directorial debut with the infamous The Last House On The Left.  The trailer featured one of the greatest and most-repeated horror tag lines of all time.

6. Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972)

Finally, even as horror cinema changed and became more extreme, Hammer Studios continued to tell the long and twisted story of Count Dracula.  They brought him into the present age and dropped him in the middle of hippie-infested London.  No matter how much the rest of the world changed, Dracula remained Dracula.

8 Shots From 8 Horror Films: The Early 70s


4 Or More Shots From 4 Or More Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

This October, I’m going to be doing something a little bit different with my contribution to 4 (or more) Shots From 4 (or more) Films.  I’m going to be taking a little chronological tour of the history of horror cinema, moving from decade to decade.

Today, we take a look at the early 70s!

8 Shots From 8 Horror Films: The Early 70s

The Bird With The Crystal Plumage (1970, dir by Dario Argento, DP: Vittorio Storaro)

House of Dark Shadows (1970, dir by Dan Curtis, DP: Arthur Ornitz)

Hatchet For The Honeymoon (1970, dir by Mario Bava, DP: Mario Bava)

The Devils (1971, directed by Ken Russell, DP: David Watkin)

Tombs of the Blind Dead (1971, dir by Amando de Ossorio, DP: Pablo Ripoll)

Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things (1972, dir by Bob Clark, DP: Jack McGowan)

Last House on the Left (1972, dir by Wes Craven, DP: Victor Hurwitz)

Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972, dir by Alan Gibson, DP: Dick Bush)

4 Shots From 4 Films: Special Wes Craven Edition


4 Or More Shots From 4 Or More Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

83 years ago today, Wes Craven was born in Cleveland, Ohio.  Craven started his career as an academic, teaching high school English.  However, realizing that there was more money to be made in the film industry, Craven changed careers.  By his own admission, he started his career directing “hardcore, X-rated films” under a pseudonym and it has been rumored that he was a member of the crew of the first “porno chic” film, Deep Throat.  Eventually, Craven broke into the mainstream with some of the most influential and often controversial horror films ever made.  From being denounced for the original Last House On The Left to changing the face of horror with A Nightmare on Elm Street to becoming something of a revered statesman and a beloved pop cultural institution with the Scream franchise, Wes Craven had a truly fascinating career.

In honor his films and legacy, it’s time for….

4 Shots from 4 Wes Craven Films

The Hills Have Eyes (1977, dir by Wes Craven, DP: Eric Saarinen)

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984, dir. by Wes Craven, DP: Jacques Haitkin)

Deadly Friend (1986, dir by Wes Craven, DP: Philip H. Lathrop)

The People Under The Stairs (1991, dir by Wes Craven, DP: Sandi Sissel)