FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Oct 18, 2009

Day 18: "Nothing is forgotten."

At times, I'm pretty easy to please. Throw the words "TV movie", "1977", and "Lee Grant" into the same sentence and I know I'm gonna be in for a good time. I'll admit, though, I have no idea why the prospect of seeing Lee Grant makes me happy- she's always so damn cranky in every movie, but not in an Adrienne Barbeau delicious sort of way. Grant is just plain scowly and never particularly likable...maybe I like that? I don't know. Maybe she's the female J.R. Ewing for me- I love to hate her. It's very complicated, as you can tell.

Anyway, all those keywords I dig come together to bring me- and the world- The Spell, the tale of an "obese" teenager who strikes back at her tormentors with the mysterious powers of her mind.

Hey, maybe that's it! Maybe Lee Grant has mysterious mind powers, and compels me to watch her films.

The Spell opens during gym class, wear all the leotard-clad girls are picking on the oversized sweatsuit-clad Rita for being a "tubbo" (let's ignore the fact that Rita actually isn't particularly fat, shall we?). The teacher pairs up the girls for a little rope-climbing competition, and while Rita fails miserably at the task, her bitter arch-enemy Jackie has clearly enrolled in Advanced Cirque Du Soleil Theory...or, she moonlights at The Doll House or some such.

While Jackie spins and flips defies gravity and thinks she's so big, the camera repeatedly zooms in on Rita's face to the tune of several musical stings. When Jackie falls to the floor and lands in a broken heap, we can only infer that Rita has eerie mental powers.

Home life is just as much a drag for Rita as is school life. Her father also picks on her for being fat, perhaps as a way to overcome his insecurities regarding his obvious hair loss...or, perhaps, he's simply a dick. Mom Marilyn doesn't pick on Rita per se, but she's not very nice, either; then again, she's played by Lee Grant, so what do you expect? It's difficult to tell when she's not supposed to be a cooch. Rita's younger sister Chris (a little baby Helen Hunt) is pretty and popular though dim, but since looks are all that matter to this family she's the favored daughter. Sorry, Rita, it's tough being 15.

The fact that Rita is hounded by her father for being grossly overweight when she's not raises a question that pops up in my brain place, especially when friends of mine are expecting: what if you just...don't like your kid? What if you do your best to raise them right, and then they turn out to be racist, or homophobes, or Paul Reiser fans, or they hate everything you like, or they're just plain jerks? Even worse, Rita isn't really any of those things- she simply doesn't fit in with her family. Granted, her dad is a total a-hole - when his wife suggests they send their daughter to a shrink, he responds with "Or a firing squad!" - but still. You can't like everybody, and what if you don't like somebody you're supposed to? It's a depressing thought, and The Spell is probably the most depressing Carrie rip-off in existence.

Rita, meanwhile, starts to become a little more jerky by the day as she gets a little more witchy by the night, sneaking out at all hours in her finest capery to hone her telekinetic skills with the help of her mentor.

When Rita's face flashes on screen, you know that one of her tormentors is about to be on the receiving end of something or other. This is the case when Marilyn goes to visit a friend who silently chokes and spontaneously combusts as Marilyn looks on, more appalled than frightened (again, this is Lee Grant, folks).

This sequence is without a doubt the money shot of the film.

At home, however, Rita smiles serenely as she embroiders her "Hang in there, kitty!" wall decoration and remains preternaturally calm in the face of hideous nightwear.

The hijinks escalate as Chris almost drowns at a swim meet and dad is almost flattened by a car...and although Rita's not present during either incident, Marilyn begins to suspect that something's hinky with her eldest. Soon it's time for a showcase kitchen showdown for the ages!

Okay, so "for the ages" might be a bit of an exaggeration.

Okay, so "a bit of an exaggeration" might be a bit of an understatement. This is a made-for-TV effort that's fairly tame even for its time period. Again, I can be easy to please, and this bargain basement Carrie pleased me. It's little more than a pleasant 70-minute diversion, and what's wrong with that? must be Lee Grant and her witchy ways compelling me again. But how was I to know? It's not like she was wearing a cape!

For a limited time, you can watch The Spell on Hulu and judge for yourself if you're so inclined.


thomwade said...

Man...I wish I could cause spontaneous combustion via embroidery.

Sgt. Harold Lorenzo said...

I wish I could cause spontaneous embroidery via combustion.

Anonymous said...

I saw the movie, and the main difference between that and "Carrie" is that Rita becomes pretty unlikable near the end. Carrie at least had a friend on her side, even if most of the other kids are still picking on her and her mom is clearly the frontrunner for worst mom ever. Rita, however, is full of herself and LIKES being feared. So yeah, when that twist came, I was cheering against her.

MrJeffery said...

OMG OMG I've been trying to figure out what this film was for years! I saw it once on TBS in the 80s and never forgot it!

Bradley said...

Hey Stacie,

Thanks for the heads-up on "The Spell." I caught it last night on Hulu. Very bizarre. I was expecting more of a "Carrie" rip-off ala "The Initiation of Sara." It turned out to be more than that - and less at the same time. Glad I caught it though. It was surely the best thing on TV last night. Love the '70's TV movie lighting and period "scary" music.