The Spell (1977)


The best present one can give anybody is a DVD set of after school specials. I was fortunate to find such a set for my friend’s birthday one year.

For all the classics of the After School Special and Made for TV epics, the “Tough Girls” the “What are Friends Fors” or even the “Faces at the end of the Worlds,” there are those that might not make the cut, or the DVD sets shaped like a school bus starring those 70’s and 80’s sitcom staples.

I have a funny feeling that for all of its Made for TV madness and the small part of a young Helen Hunt as the younger and prettier, or at least thinner sister, The Spell is not going to get its own little short bus in those DVD sets of fond memory.

Horror movies touch upon our fears. The Spell touched upon a fear that haunts me well into adulthood. That fear is being the fat kid in the class. Our heroine, Rita, played by Susan Meyer and not really all that heavy, is picked on by her much thinner classmates. The beginning shots show these girls taunting Rita, puffing out their cheeks, trudging to mock her walk, which indicates Rita is trying especially hard to avoid these other girls.

It gets worse when she tries to climb the rope in gym class. The gym teacher shows more sympathy to Rita than her own sister, played by Helen Hunt. You really could see how Hunt was trying to fit in with the pretty girls….even when the worst of them falls from the top of the rope in an accident…

Soon, strange things start to happen to Rita’s family. She is found chanting, reading strange things, and after the sister starts being spiritually terrorized by among other things, an out of control clock, you start to get the feeling that Rita is using occult means to get even with mean classmates, a father who harps on her weight and generally acts like he would be much happier with only one daughter to a point where he wants to send her away and a sister who is equally mean and taking attention away from the one sympathetic parent Rita has…well, Mom is sympathetic until she figures out what Rita is up to and who she hangs out with at night anyway. Most moms would be wary of those occultists that keep their teenagers out late at night.

I can’t say I enjoyed this. Rita was not as awful as she was built up to be, as a matter of fact, it turned out a completely different person was doing the worst of the casting in a badly drawn surprise ‘twist.’ My guess was that the networks did not like the prospect of a vengeful and murderous teenager in the TV movies. No way would Carrie White have put up with that kind of nonsense in school or at home!


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