1977 - 73m.
Carrie meet Rita. She really wants to be like you. In fact, she even has been the object of ridicule at high school. Of course, you were just picked on because of your "ugly duckling" factor, but Rita is merely a target because she's supposed to be fat. The thing you two girls have in common, though, is that you're not afraid to use your minds to dish out vengeance - even if Rita's is toned down in a TV-movie-of-the-week kind of way.
To say that the makers of The Spell were riding the coattails of Carrie's success the prior year would be an understatement. Then again, most of the television produced flicks you could rely on for mild entertainment on the weekends back then were inspired by their big screen counterparts in some way. To prove just how "inspired" this was by Brian De Palma's hit you only have to watch the opening scene where the frumpy Rita (Susan Myers) is being harassed during gym class by some of the more popular girls. She's picked on for being overweight (she's not really) and, this being a horror flick, you just know that when one of the cheerleader-type girls climbs the rope in the gym, shit's going to go down. And it does as the swelling musical score and Rita's determined stares into the camera tells us when said girl plummets to the ground.
It's here that scripter Brian Taggert pretty much abandons the whole high school angle, which is really a shame since the slow paced results could've used more teen angst, as we're introduced to Rita's well-off family. There's the protective, yet somewhat bitchy, mom (Lee Grant), her constantly working father who obviously doesn't care much for her, and her slightly more popular sister Kristina (Helen Hunt). They're a pretty "who cares" bunch of people and you can kind of understand why Rita doesn't want anything to do with them - as evidenced by a scene where Rita freaks out while yelling about how much she hates her family.
The remainder of The Spell sputters along with passable sibling rivalry, conflicts with Rita's father, people who've crossed Rita falling victim to her mental powers, and Grant taking on concerned mom favoritism despite the fact one of her friends, in the flick's best moment, bursts into flames right before her eyes. This leads to a twist ending in the finale that actually works to a degree, and attempts to separate this from Carrie's telekinesis angle, but still feels pretty lame.
A year before having to deal with the Hellspawn they call Damien in the second Omen flick; Grant is definitely the best thing here. Given her stoic discipline mixed with being a complete bitch at times, she turns in a performance almost too good for a smaller-scale Made-for-TV effort. Making her acting debut, Myers actually does pretty well considering her character has to throw a bunch of temper tantrums, run around in a silly looking red cape at times, and look creepily into the camera while we try not to giggle. It's also pretty cool seeing a young Hunt years before Trancers II, the hit 90s sitcom "Mad About You" or her Oscar for As Good as it Gets. The rest of the cast is rounded out by familiar character actors of the time.
The Spell is pretty forgettable stuff. When taken for what it is, it's not a complete waste of time and does have some unintentional chuckles and solid performances propping it up, but it's also just another forgotten 70s TV flick. It would, however, be a proving ground for writer Taggert as he'd later tackle kid themed horror with the sequels Omen IV: The Awakening and Poltergeist III as well as penning the hospital slasher Visiting Hours and the "Peter Weller (aka: Robocop) kicks a giant rat's ass!!" awesomeness that is Of Unknown Origin. (Chris Hartley, 6/10/13)
Directed By: Lee Philips.
Written By: Brian Taggert.
Starring: Lee Grant, Susan Myers, Lelia Goldoni, Helen Hunt.