‘A chilling tale of vengeance from beyond the grave.’
Crowhaven Farm is a 1970 made-for television horror film directed by Walter Grauman (Are You in the House Alone?; Daughter of the Mind) and starring Hope Lange (Death Wish; A Nightmare on Elm Street 2), Paul Burke (Valley of the Dolls) and John Carradine (House of Frankenstein, The Monster Club).
Maggie Porter (Hope Lange) and her husband Ben (Paul Burke) inherit a farm in Massachusetts after the mysterious death of Maggie’s uncle (actually not that mysterious, we see him crash into a tree after he is distracted by a character we meet later). As soon as they arrive, Maggie is startled by several instances of deja-vu – the instant discovery of secret rooms within the house and flashbacks to vaguely familiar scenes are almost too much for her.
The visions become ever more vivid and involve her been surrounded by a group of costumed locals and having large stones placed upon her. Putting it down to reincarnation (!), she is soon brought up to speed by local neighbour and know-it-all Harold Dane (Cyril Delevanti looking close to death, though he hung on a couple more years to appear in Soylent Green) who explains that though the area was no Salem, it had its witchy goings-on in years past, the guilty females crushed under a wooden panel heaped high with large stones of the kind their house is constructed.
Maggie longs for a child and their search for a foster child only brings one response, Marcy Lewis (Virginia Gregg, The Amazing Mr. X) who due to a terminal illness wishes to off-load her own foundling, Jennifer (Cindy Eilbacher, Slumber Party Massacre 2). Despite the couples’ reservations (Jennifer is already ten, as opposed to their desired new-born), they are soon won over by her personality. If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll note that it was Jennifer who caused poor old uncle’s car to go careering off the road.
Her arrival coincides with Maggie becoming pregnant but from here, events begin to spiral out of control – the images of her 15th century self are becoming frighteningly real and young Jennifer is not all sweetness and light as they hoped, aided and abetted by their handyman, Nate Cheever (John Carradine doing his best sinister leer). Eventually, life and visions combine and the Maggie’s worst fears are realised.
It must first be said that this television film is highly-regarded by many and was responsible for many sleepless nights for watching youths right up until the later screenings in the mid-80’s. Perhaps time has been unkind or this reviewer is missing something but it does come across as needlessly overwrought, made worse by the fact that Maggie’s alarm at the farm is so instantaneous that you do rather lose sympathy with her.
The threat in Crowhaven Farm is ultimately wrapped up in Jennifer, played admirably by young Eilbacher but a level beneath the angelic Heather O’Rourke in Poltergeist or as truly wicked as Rhonda (Patty McCormack) in The Bad Seed – in truth, there isn’t strictly a place for a part that is anything less than either of these. The truly ancient-looking Delevanti is worth watching just to make sure he gets to the end of his sentences and Carradine is fun, though pitifully under-used. There’s a slight nod to a very under-age relationship between Ben and Jennifer which is mercifully quickly forgotten but the recurrent ‘threat’ of witchcraft just isn’t a substantial enough hook to truly drag you into Maggie’s plight.
Grauman’s direction reflects his career in television but smacks even more of televisual miasma Aaron Spelling’s (Love Boat, Dynasty) production, with every character pausing slightly after their lines, just to ensure the audience ‘gets it’. There’s enough to keep you watching until the end and, without spoiling it, we are at least saved any ‘it was all a dream’ shenanigans. If you have a morbid fear of being slowly squashed by some costumed-loons, there could be food for thought here yet.
Daz Lawrence, HORRORPEDIA
Crowhaven Farm is an eerily drawn depiction of reincarnation, satanic pilgrim witchery, and a creepy kid with traces of erotic seduction on her mind; for good measure, plus a brief touch of fecund ritual is tossed in. Walter Grauman’s direction is solid, providing ample disquiet through seemingly innocuous moments; cinematographer Fleet Southcott’s use of soft filters reinforces the otherworldly focus of the plot; and the majority of the cast delivers appropriately heated performances, keeping things energetic, nicely countering John Carradine’s gift for simmering cloudiness.
Ben Spurling, HORRORPEDIA