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Her thoughts cast a deadly spell of terror!
15-year-old Rita lives in an ordinary town, attends an ordinary high school and wants to lead an ordinary life … but Rita is far from an ordinary teenager. Overweight and self-conscious, Rita (Susan Myers, James At 16) is the victim of cruel teasing by many of her classmates. Only her mother (Lee Grant, Damien: Omen II) and her gym teacher (Lelia Goldoni , Invasion Of The Body Snatchers) seem to understand her. But their understanding is not enough to contain the rage that wells up within Rita. And when it does, the rage causes a supernatural power inside of her to take over. Those who are against Rita begin to die. There seems to be no way to stop the terror once Rita has cast her spell.
This terrifying television film from 1977 also stars James Olsen (Amityville II: The Possession), Helen Hunt (Twister) and was written by genre writer Brian Taggert (Visiting Hours, Poltergeist III and Omen IV: The Awakening).
NEW High-Definition transfer of the rarely-seen 86 minute cut of the film (taken from best available elements)
NEW audio commentary by Made-for-TV-Movie historian and author Amanda Reyes
NEW interview with writer Brian Taggert
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That's not to say that there is nothing worth seeing, however, as the film does have one stand-out scene which everyone who has seen it seems to remember. When Rita's mother pays a visit on a elderly lady to see how she is, this (previously unseen) character walks down the stairs to welcome her, but before she can say anything she starts choking on her own tongue, her eyeballs turn zombie-white and her head swells up and goes purple! Seconds later she is billowing smoke and crashing through a glass door, before collapsing on the ground and dying in agony. This brief but remarkable (and horrific) scene comes as a real surprise when up until then all we have seen is a near miss hit-and-run car accident, and one of Rita's tormentors falling off a rope in gym class. It certainly gave me nightmares as a child. The remainder of the film follows Grant as she uncovers how Rita is carrying out her psychic reign of terror, and attempts to stop her.
Although well acted by the cast (including a very young Helen Hunt as Rita's more popular sister), the overall effect is weakened by some indistinct plotting and not very good continuity. Some characters and events are barely fleshed out at all. At one point we are introduced to a psychic researcher (or something) who has a tape recording of Grant, seemingly explaining her situation in some kind of therapy session. This is very badly inserted into the film, as its hard to work out when it is supposed to be happening. Similarly, the old lady who burns up is a character who has only ever been vaguely referred to by the cast, and as soon as she does appear she is dead before she utters a single line of dialogue. Other events and character motivations are tossed into the background in a similarly hap-hazard manner. This seems to be a film made in a hurry, and to make it worse, several scenes are also quite sloppily edited together.
Sadly, as the video is now deleted and no DVD seems in the pipeline, it's unlikely that The Spell will resurface for re-appraisal any time soon. What works is the likeable cast (I always enjoy watching Lee Grant), and the one totally out-there shock scene, but apart from that it is rather mundane and not really capable of standing out among the many other late 1970's TV thrillers. However I would still recommend a viewing if you come across it.
The Spell is admittedly a "Carrie" rip off. A fat girl is taunted at school and criticized at home. It also doesn't help that her sister is a pretty, popular and young Helen Hunt. With the help of her young gym teacher the girl obtains occult powers and uses them to punish her enemies. Unfortunately the movie isn't as interesting as its premise but it's all right. 2.5 rounded to 3.
As far as the technical bits, Shout Factory added about ten minutes of unseen footage, which mostly consists of the parapsychologist listening to tapes of an interview with Marilyn about her concern for Rita. The 1080 remaster certainly makes the film pop a bit more, considering it's never had a makeover before, but it still looks as if someone just took it off the edit room floor in many spots. The real disappointment is the 1.33:1 aspect ratio, which makes everything claustrophobic, and this is no exception.
With all things considered, it's worth owning this little gem if you're into teen made for TV horror.