Superstition (1982 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||James W. Roberson|
|Produced by||Ed Carlin|
|Screenplay by||Donald G. Thompson|
|Music by||David Gibney|
|Edited by||Al Rabinowitz|
|Distributed by||Almi Pictures|
Superstition is a 1982 American supernatural slasher film directed by James W. Roberson and starring James Houghton, Albert Salmi, and Lynn Carlin. The plot follows a family who move into a house that was once the site of a witch's execution. Though shot in 1981, Superstition was not released in US before 1985.
Two young men are brutally murdered by an unseen force in an abandoned house after playing a prank on a young couple outside in their car. A short time later, Inspector Sturgess visits Reverend David Thompson, a new clergyman assigned to the local parish who is assuming the role of an elderly minister, Reverend Maier. Sturgess voices concern about the house being a local dumping ground, and cites the recent murders of the two teenage boys, which he believes are occult-driven, as well as the drownings that have occurred in the pond next to the home.
David, Sturgess, and Sturgess' partner Hollister visit the property. They are greeted by Arlen, the caretaker, and Elvira, his aging mother, who reside in an adjacent bungalow. Sturgess Hollister suspect Arlen of the recent murders. While standing on the pond's dock, Hollister is dragged into the water by an unseen assailant. Meanwhile in the house, David meets Mary, a friendly young girl who claims to have once lived there. Reverend Maier arrives to bless the home, but is killed by the blade from a table saw in a freak accident.
Shortly after, the alcoholic Reverend George, his wife Melinda, and their adolescent children: Ann, Sheryl, and Justin, move into the house. On their move-in date, a renovator is killed by a clawed figure who hangs him to death in an elevator shaft inside the home. While the children go swimming in the pond, Ann discovers a severed human hand, later determined to be that of Hollister. The event results in Ann having a psychological breakdown. Arlen meanwhile goes missing, and Sturgess further interviews Elvira, but she tells him only that Arlen is protecting his "mistress."
In the house's basement, Justin is attacked and murdered by the claw-handed figure. Sturgess and other police mount a search for Justin in and around the house. Meanwhile, Ann has nightmares of her family being slaughtered. David unearths an antique crucifix from the pond, which Elvira claims has kept a witch, executed on the property centuries ago, dormant. Thompson subsequently unearths a book in the church archives documenting a local inquisition that occurred in 1692, during which Elondra Sharack, a woman accused of murdering a nine-year-old girl named Mary, was executed in the pond by drowning. At the moment of her death, the church erupted in flames.
While searching the house, Sturgess discovers Arlen hiding in a secret room in the basement, and also uncover the body of the renovator. Arlen is arrested, while Sturgess remains at the house to further investigate. In the secret room, he is killed by the witch. Melinda attempts to venture downstairs, but discovers Justin's body hanging in the doorway. She is then attacked by the witch, who corner her into the kitchen where she beats her brutally. Upstairs, Ann and Sheryl are startled by the commotion. George attempts to intervene, and David subsequently arrives at the house, bearing the crucifix. George barricades himself in his bedroom, and discovers Melinda's bloodied body in their bed. The witch appears in the window and causes a mirror in the room to explode, the shards of it slashing George to death.
David attempts to save Ann and Sheryl, but Sheryl flees into the attic to hide, where the witch kills her by driving a stake through her head. David instructs Ann to go outside and wait in his van, and is attacked by the witch moments later, but she vanishes before she is able to kill him. David exits the house, and finds Ann's dead body inside his van. Despondent, he takes cans of gasoline to the pond, pours them in it, and lights it on fire. Mary appears to him and reveals herself as another form of the witch; Thompson drives the crucifix through her heart and she falls backwards into the pond. The disturbance seems over, but before Thompson can leave, Elondra's hand erupts from the pond and drags him under water.
- James Houghton as Reverend David Thompson
- Albert Salmi as Inspector Sturgess
- Lynn Carlin as Melinda Leahy
- Larry Pennell as George Leahy
- Jacquelyn Hyde as Elvira Sharack
- Robert Symonds as Pike
- Heidi Bohay as Ann Leahy
- Maylo McCaslin as Sheryl Leahy
- Carole Goldman as Elondra
- Stacy Keach Sr. as Reverend Maier
- Kim Marie as Mary
- Billy Jayne as Justin Leahy
- Johnny Doran as Charlie
- Bennett Liss as Arty
- Joshua Cadman as Arlen
Frank Moreno, the president of Almi Pictures, promoted the film similarly to how he promoted Almi Pictures release of House by the Cemetery. This included giving the film a trailer with what he described as "a sense of humor" and having "Brother Theodore do the voice over in order to attract a secondary audience. Superstition received a brief release theatrically on the West coast of the United States before being released directly to home video in January 1985.
In a review published by the New York Daily News, Superstition was negatively compared to The Amityville Horror (1979), and it was noted: "Like many contemporary fright films, Superstition substitutes escalating gore for suspense. It's also a victim of the bloated running time required to justify its single feature. Had [it] been cut as effectively as its characters, sliced to say, 70 minutes... it might have attained, despite its weak script, the lofty level of watchable." Lou Cedrone of The Baltimore Sun panned the film, writing: "There isn't much mystery to Superstition... There is much pain, boredom and violence—but mysterious it, is not." Cedrone also criticized the film for its featuring the murder of a thirteen-year-old boy. The Boston Globe's Jay Carr deemed it a "how-much-can-you-take? splatflick," adding that director Roberson "invests its low-grade guignol with more urgency than it deserves and I hope he gets a shot at something better."
The Hackensack Record's Lou Lumenick similarly criticized the film's violent content, describing it as a "schlocky slasher film... incorporating elements of Poltergeist, represented by an orgy of modestly spooky special effects in the final reel." Critic Joe Bob Briggs alternately praised the film for its gore effects, awarding it three out of four stars.
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- Lumenick, Lou (January 28, 1985). "Gore and violence in the off-season". The Record. Hackensack, New Jersey. p. 13 – via Newspapers.com.
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- Carr, Jay (March 16, 1985). "'Superstition,' from feeble minds". The Boston Globe. Boston, Massachusetts. p. 28 – via Newspapers.com.
- Briggs, Joe Bob (December 29, 1985). "Maybe It's a Third on the Midnight Junk List". The San Francisco Examiner. San Francisco, California. p. 28 – via Newspapers.com.
- Binion, Cavett. "Superstition (1984)". AllMovie. Archived from the original on October 15, 2012. Retrieved January 10, 2018.
- Weinberg, Scott (October 20, 2006). "Superstition: DVD Talk Review". DVD Talk. Archived from the original on January 14, 2019.
- Squires, John (January 8, 2019). "Scream Factory Announces Gory 1982 Film 'Superstition' for Blu-ray". Bloody Disgusting. Archived from the original on January 14, 2019.