A wealthy former mental patient goes home to her estate to rest and recuperate. While walking the grounds one day she hears the screams of a woman coming from underneath the ground who has ... See full summary »
Olivia de Havilland,
A city-slicker family, tired of the urban grime and crime, moves to a quaint little lakeside village. All seems like paradise - until corpses start showing up in the water. Will the family be the new victims?
Arthur Allan Seidelman
I've long held a great fondness for genre cinema that lays the bite on a family. I suppose because family is about the most primal, fundamental structure in society so if you really get pulling on those teeny tiny strings you can make the whole edifice feel like it's in trouble. Of course such films come in every shape and size, from the everything will be fine and nobody was ever in much danger types right through to the family itself as trunk of rot and ooze types. The Strange and Deadly Occurrence sticks mostly on the light side of the genre, but through swift pace, smart direction and determination to put everyone through the ringer with very little downtime, it manages to be a definite winner. The story is as simple as they come, a happy family in a beautiful new house are plagued by rapidly escalating unusual and menacing events. Something doesn't want them there, but why? ...Well to be honest the why isn't all that interesting. No great twists and turns, nothing too unusual or imaginative. Pretty commonplace actually. Also it renders some of what has gone before even more unlikely than it already was. Doesn't matter much though, as this is pretty small scale stuff with little in the way of ambition, just standard tightly composed TV movie thrill-chiller territory. The ending wraps everything up in suitably suspenseful fashion there are some good scares and the acting is on the mark. Robert Stack (Airplane) plays the head of the house well, determinedly hanging on in the face of the unknown but still considerate towards his wife and daughter, never brash nor intemperate but not weak either. The sort of guy you can relate to really. Vera Miles (Psycho) is equally good as his wife, somewhat more cowed by affairs but never hysterical or even especially nervous, holding herself together for the good of all. Margaret Willock comes off well as the daughter of the piece as well, the sort of role that usually drags but she manages to be perfectly likable. They work well together, and their convincing mounting fear gives the jolts that little extra push. As far as the jolts go, they are all fairly tame but a couple make their mark well, and the whole affair is boosted by quality direction from veteran John Llewellyn Moxey (City of the Dead), including various adeptly gripping sequences of fluid, roaming point of view camera-work rather similar to that of a slasher. So, as it all comes together, a decent diverting affair with some fine moments. Like most of its ilk it isn't likely to make too much of an impression on latter day audiences, being the sort of thing that mostly just freaked out kids watching it when it first aired, but its very much a solid affair and well worth a watch for fans of the eras TV chiller programming.
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