Artisan // 1984 // 100 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // September 12th, 2003
Please make sure to R.S.V.P...for terror!
Matt Winslow (the late Robert Urich, Spencer For Hire) and his family have moved to California to start their new life. Little do they know that their new life will include high-powered corporations, a super secret country club, and the gateway to eternal damnation! After settling into his new job working on a top secret space suit, Matt, his lovely wife (Joanna Cassidey, John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars), and his two children (including future Punky Brewster star Soleil Moon Frye), are pursued at every turn to join the community's exclusive country club. It seems that anyone who's anyone is part of this members-only establishment, run by the seductive Miss Jessica Jones (daytime soap queen Susan Lucci). But those who take part in its initiation seem...different. When Matt's wife and kids are suddenly accepted into the club, Matt's suspicions about the club are confirmed when he notices that his family has become mentally unstable minions of Satan. Matt's about to open up his own personal Invitation to Hell -- and he may never be the same again!
Boy, I hope for all his headache Matt's job at the least comes with a decent dental plan.
Wes Craven is one of the premiere horror directors of our time. In the past three decades Craven has given us such genre defining classics as The Hills Have Eyes, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream and...Invitation to Hell? Yes, before he introduced the world to Freddy Krueger, Craven gave us the ol' Beelzebub in the form of...Susan Lucci? You're most likely thinking exactly what I'm thinking: "Wes, what the hell were you thinking?" I'm putting five bucks down that Craven was thinking about his paycheck. Invitation to Hell is made-for-TV movie from 1984, and guilty pleasures don't get any better than this. Oddly, I was sucked into this movie from the get go -- it's utter tripe, and yet I found myself glued to my television imaging what was behind the doors at Silver Springs Country Club. Drooling monsters? Vincent Price? The mother humpin' Temple of Doom? My dear god, I had to know! How did Wes draw me in? Let's go down a short list of why Invitation to Hell is worth a watch:
* It's got Susan Lucci in over 53 pounds of make-up
* '80s materialism gone wild!
* It's the height of the Diff'rent Strokes craze and there's no sign of Gary Coleman, anywhere
* The computers are a hoot to look at (you mean before the internet secretaries actually did work?!?)
* Two words: Punky Brewster
As if that weren't enough, you also get Robert Urich looking worried a lot, women fawning over a new car from 1983 (*snicker, snicker*), and oh-so-much more cheese! Is this movie scary? Yes, but certainly not in the ways the filmmakers intended. Susan Lucci chews the scenery, swallows it, then poops it back out with a smile on her face. Robert Urich plays his character as if he were the blandest husband on the planet (AKA "Dork For Hire"). A few other familiar faces pop up, including Kevin McCarthy (Invasion of the Body Snatchers), Joe Regalbuto (TV's Murphy Brown), and in a brief blink-of-you'll-miss-him cameo Michael Berryman (The Hills Have Eyes). Obviously, Mr. Craven has directed better, though Invitation to Hell may be his crowning jewel when it comes to unintentional horror comedy. In the end, Invitation to Hell is a mess -- a goofy, hysterically fun mess that is worth a six-pack of brew and a few fun friends.
Invitation to Hell is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 full frame. For a TV movie from the middle '80s, this transfer looks pretty good. The colors and black levels are all well defined with shadow detail in good shape. There is some grain and dirt in the image -- as well as a lack of sharpness in various scenes -- though the overall impression is that Artisan has done the best they could with original source materials. Hey, if you were expecting any more from a movie called Invitation to Hell, it's time for a reality check. The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo in English. There isn't much going on in this audio mix -- it's a front heavy track that is void of any and all directional effects. The horrid dialogue, cheesy music, and clanking effects are all crystal clear. No alternate soundtracks or subtitles are included on this disc.
What, no commentary by Wes Craven? Well, it's no surprise to find this disc void of any and all special features. My guess is it would have taken a pact with the devil to wrangle any of the original key players into making any kind of retrospective on this flick.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 1984
MPAA Rating: Not Rated