Some movies get a bad rep­u­ta­tion in basic resource texts and, for bet­ter or worse, that becomes how they are known to peo­ple who can only expe­ri­ence them through the­se resources. The Godsend is an exam­ple of a hor­ror film that fits this des­ig­na­tion. It tends to get low marks in stan­dard ref­er­ences, writ­ten off as a dull copy of The Omen. However, an objec­tive look at The Godsend reveals that while it is fun­da­men­tal­ly flawed, it also has inter­est­ing qual­i­ties that the “yea or nay” nature of a cap­sule review can’t touch on.

Godsend-posThe Godsend was adapt­ed from a nov­el by Bernard Taylor and focus­es upon a fam­i­ly that is torn apart by an unex­pect­ed intru­sion. Alan (Malcolm Stoddard) and his wife Kate (Cyd Hayman) are liv­ing a qui­et life in the coun­try with a bunch of kids when they are vis­it­ed by a mys­te­ri­ous, heav­i­ly preg­nant stranger (Angela Pleasance). She quick­ly has her baby and dis­ap­pears. Kate decides to take the new­born in and over the next few years, the couple’s nat­u­ral-born chil­dren begin dying under strange cir­cum­stances. Alan begins to real­ize what is hap­pen­ing but runs the risk of being brand­ed insane and los­ing what’s left of his fam­i­ly as he tries to square off with the mur­der­ous mop­pet.

After a qui­et­ly spooky open­ing seg­ment, The Godsend begins to announce its flaws. To begin with, it’s writ­ten in a very super­fi­cial way by Olaf Pooley, who just bare­ly sketch­es out his char­ac­ters and treats the bad seed tit­u­lar char­ac­ter as a one-dimen­sion­al hellspawn. His broad-strokes approach fails to set up the kind of ambi­gu­i­ty that would have got­ten under the audience’s skin and thus makes the evil so obvi­ous that our pro­tag­o­nists kind of look like dolts for fail­ing to see it. He also fum­bles what could have been an accept­able shock coda.

Another prob­lem is Gabrielle Beaumont’s direc­tion, which is pedes­tri­an in the extreme. She tends to shy away from the grim­mer edges of the mate­ri­al, thus blunt­ing the impact of the kind of hor­ri­fic events (mur­der­ous chil­dren, temp­ta­tion to mur­der a child) that should be intense­ly dis­turbing. WOut-God-bluhen she does deal with the hor­ror ele­ments head on, she directs them in a very bland way, rush­ing through set­pieces in a style­less, per­func­to­ry man­ner. Both Pooley and Beaumount were t.v. vets and their super­fi­cial approach to the mate­ri­al gives it the feel of mid­dling made-for-tele­vi­sion fare.

However, The Godsend is odd­ly com­pelling despite the­se flaws. The con­cept of a child method­i­cal­ly bump­ing off the sib­lings in a pre­vi­ous­ly hap­py fam­i­ly has a chill­ing qual­i­ty: even with the sim­plis­tic, “edges sand­ed off” treat­ment it gets here, it’s still potent enough to creep the view­er out in spots. The act­ing is also above-aver­age: Stoddard and Hayman give sub­tle per­for­mances that lend the mate­ri­al a note of believ­able emo­tion that it might not have had oth­er­wise. It’s also worth not­ing that while her onscreen time is brief, Pleasance is a spooky and com­pelling pres­ence.

To sum up, The Godsend is a deeply flawed stab at qui­et hor­ror but it’s also more inter­est­ing and watch­able than its poor crit­i­cal his­to­ry would sug­gest. If you’re in a patient frame of mind, it might yield up a few effec­tive chills.

Blu-Ray Notes: This was issued by Scream Factory on July 14th as a part of a dou­ble-bill blu-ray with The Outing. The new HD trans­fer for The Godsend looks pret­ty good, cap­tur­ing the details of the hazy look nice­ly as well as the film’s mut­ed col­or scheme. The loss­less mono sound­track sounds nice and clear. The one extras for this title is a trail­er that works over­time to sell it as an Omen clone. Throw in The Outing as well and this disc offers a nice val­ue for the deep-cat­a­log hor­ror film col­lec­tors.