Because with a title like that, why wouldn’t you give it a shot.
What I Knew Going In:
1. The title and release year
2. Product of Post-Manson fear of Hippies
3. It opens on a “baptism” where someone gets drowned
The bulk of the movie is about Fanny played by Jeanne Crain. After speaking at a meeting hall, Fanny’s evangelist husband is attacked and crucified by four cult members, with Fanny witnessing it from the hallway but too paralyzed by fear to stop it. Based on her testimony, these cult members are convicted and sentenced to death. Roughly a year later, she agrees to supervise the children of the trial Judge for the weekend on the condition that they can’t leave the house. Considering they’re all roughly 14-18 and have dates, sports practice, and play rehearsals planned, they’re less than pleased. That night, it appears that the house has been surrounded by cult members seeking revenge and those inside must work together to survive.
I want to start off by talking about God-damn useless Fanny is. She receives several ominous phone calls and a note about judgement and vengeance, including exact phrases said by cult members that had threatened her life, and sees a hooded figure looking exactly like one of the members that killed her husband yet either she refuses to tell the teens about this or it just doesn’t occur to her. Later, one of the young adults is sent out to seek help, Fanny sees him get stabbed multiple times, and yet doesn’t tell the others about it, insisting that she saw him make off the property. And her plan for surviving? having everyone just sit in one room without any weapons.
Let’s talk about the shoddy gore, which actually is justified in the plot. When we see Jimmy getting stabbed, the knife is going in and out of him but doesn’t have any blood on him. Two characters are killed off-screen and there is either a dismal pool of blood on the floor or on a shirt with no body. I suspected it would turn out that the kids were faking their deaths and were in cahoots with the cult the whole time.
Well I was half-right. It turns out that the teens, rightfully upset about having to stay home all weekend and be babysat, staged the events of the second-half in hopes of causing Fanny to run away scared and they could be on their own. But then, the oldest, Peter, answers the phone and it turns out that actual cult has arrived, having sentenced them to die in steed of their father. The lights go out, Peter screams, Roll Credits. Holy unsatisfying ending, Batman!
On other criteria, the movie is competent. The acting is serviceable. There are some nice moments of suspense sprinkled throughout.
I was expecting more focus on the cult given how prevalent they were in the first twenty-or-so minutes. Maybe have them seize the church session, and the movie would focus on their degradation of traditional church-goers. Or some-other scenario that actually gives them a presence. Even if there was no twist, the house-under-siege section has little actual menace or personality from the would-be attackers.
It’s not the worst movie I’ve seen. It’s just a disappointing one. For those curious and desiring more details, I wouldn’t call it a complete waste of time, but I feel obligated to point out the amount of detail on the Wikipedia page.
And, No. The title has no apparent significance to the movie, either plot-wise or thematically. Probably the worst thing about the movie is the waste of this magnificent title.
P.S. Fuck the parents of these kids. Not only were they forced to cancel important events, they are all individually old enough to stay home by themselves or at least watch each other.