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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Wes Craven's Summer of Fear (Blu-ray)
Wes Craven's Summer of Fear (Blu-ray)
Other // Unrated // October 17, 2017 // Region A
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted October 24, 2017 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie

First time viewings are always an interesting thing, especially when it comes to older movies. Take Summer Of Fear, for example. It was made by Wes Craven way back in 1978, it deals with some strange supernatural happenings and it stars Linda Blair, Jeremy Slate and hey, even Fran Drescher! The fact that it's a made for TV movie isn't necessarily a strike against it. After all, there were a lot of genuinely cool made for TV horror pictures being cranked out in the seventies and even into the eighties (this was actually the first of four made for TV projects that Craven did). This one though… it's okay. It won't floor you but if you have a soft spot for this type of thing, it'll at least entertain.

When the movie begins, Rachel Bryant (Blair) wakes up one fine morning in her bedroom at her family's fancy ranch home way up in the California hills to the sounds of her mother Leslie (Carol Lawrence) sobbing. As it turns out, Leslie's sister and husband were just in a car accident and neither one of them survived. They've left behind their only daughter, Julia (Lee Purcell), who is now in need of help. Leslie and husband Tom (Jeremy Slate) decide that the family will take her in, and as such, soon enough Rachel's cousin has come to live with the Bryant family. Oddly enough, no one in the Bryant family seems to know very much about Julia. She's a bit of a mystery.

Shortly after Julia's arrival, strange things start happening. Rachel, who just can't get enough horseback riding, gets a bad rash and has no idea what caused it, which makes her less than prepared to deal with boyfriend Mike Gallagher (Jeff McCracken) and his romantic intentions. Julia's also more than a little too friendly with Tom, making you wonder just what it is that she wants from him (okay, you won't wonder much at all, she's got the hots for him and is clearly out to get in his pants). Later, Julia and Rachel bicker about hair. Soon enough though, it's as if everyone who was once part of Rachel's life is now more interested in spending time with Julia. As things escalate from there, Rachel starts to wonder if Julia isn't using some sort of witchcraft to wreak havoc with things. She talks to Professor Jarvis (Macdonald Carey) about it, and to her friend Carolyn (Drescher) as well. Of course, no one really believes her… why would they?

Although the film reportedly received a theatrical run in Europe, Summer Of Fear nevertheless very much feels like the made for TV movie that it is, particularly when you consider that prior to this Craven had made some pretty strong movies: Last House On The Left, The Hills Have Eyes and the XXX rated Angela The Fireworks Woman. This movie is, by comparison, tame. But that doesn't mean it isn't fun if you go in with the right expectations. Yes, the plot is goofy and predictable and the acting occasionally questionable, but the movie has its own quirky charm. Production values are okay. The picture is reasonably well shot, it's quite colorful and makes good use of its Northern California locations. When special effects get involved, things drop down a few notches, the effects in the film are not good nor are they even close to convincing, but again, it's fun.

Linda Blair is in fine form here. It's interesting to see her cast against type in this film. She's not the girl with the evil side as she was in The Exorcist, but rather the one in conflict with that girl. She does fine in the part, she's cute and bubbly and charming. Lee Purcell is actually more memorable here, maybe because the bad guys almost always are. While Julia is never particularly scary, she is at least well played. Purcell is more than watchable in this picture. The supporting cast, however, is a different story.. You can't hear Drescher speak without instantly thinking of The Nanny and on top of that, here character is just sort of there. Jeff McCracken is just sort of ‘there' as Rachel's boyfriend while Carol Lawrence and Jeremy Slate are pretty wooden as the parents.

Note: It's been reported elsewhere that the old Artisan DVD release of this movie ran almost five minutes longer than the version of the movie included on this Blu-ray. Unfortunately without that disc on hand it's pretty tough to say what exactly is missing or why.

Video:

Summer Of Fear makes its Blu-ray debut from Doppelganger Films in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.33.1 fullframe, which makes sense given its made for TV origins. The transfer is decent. More cleanup work could have been done to eliminate some of the minor print damage that pops up throughout, but the detail you'd want to see is there. There are, somewhat mysteriously, a few spots that look to have been spliced in from an alternate source here and there. When the movie uses those bits, there's a noticeable drop in quality, but thankfully this makes up only a small portion of the movie's running time. The image is free of compression artifacts, edge enhancement and noise reduction. Colors look good, if just a tad bit faded, while skin tones look pretty natural. This isn't reference quality by any stretch but it's not bad. At least it looks like film.

Audio

The only audio option for this release is an English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track. Dialogue stays clean and clear. There are no audible problems with any hiss or distortion and the score has nice range to it. Sound effects don't overpower you but they hit when and where they need to. No problems here at all. Optional English subtitles are provided.

Extras:

The main extra on the disc is a commentary with Wes Craven and co-executive producer Max Keller that covers the origin of the project. They share some interesting stories about the early days of Craven's career in film, discuss working on the story, Linda Blair's involvement and quite a bit more. Blair herself pops up in a thirteen minute interview where she talks about how and why she wound up starring in the picture, her thoughts on the film and the people that she made it with. We also get a still gallery, a trailer, menus and a chapter selection option.

Final Thoughts:

Summer Of Fear gets a pretty respectable Blu-ray presentation. The transfer is good if not great, the audio is just fine, and there are some solid extras included to complement the presentation. It's a shame then that the movie isn't nearly as interesting as it could and should have been given the pedigree of talent involved. Still, there's enough here that Craven completists and Blair fans will want to see it regardless. If you fall into that camp, consider this recommended.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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