Rachel (Linda Blair) is a teenage girl with a nice life: well-to-do, with a loving family and boyfriend (Jeff McCracken), and a cool best friend (Fran Drescher). Then her aunt and uncle die in a car accident, and her cousin Julia (Lee Purcell), whom no one has seen in ten years, comes to live with her. Julia decides she wants all of Rachel’s nice things—and she can get them, because she’s a witch. Rachel is the only one who realizes what’s happening, but since Julia has everyone under her spell, Rachel has to stop Julia on her own.
Prepare to be annoyed at every turn. Rachel may be the protagonist, but she’s incredibly whiny and petulant (even before Julia gets there) and pretty much unlikable. If I had to sit down to dinner with Summer of Fear Linda Blair or The Exorcist Linda Blair, I’d be hard-pressed to decide. If we could avoid pea soup…
Besides being a spoiled brat, she also has the irritating habit of starting sentences with “Did you know…” when she’s revealing information the other person couldn’t possibly know, as in, “Did you know I found a tooth in her suitcase?” Julia isn’t much better; she’s a country bumpkin who spouts phrases like, “Is he yer solid feller?” and “You sure do have a lot of purty things.” Then there’s Rachel’s creepy dad (Jeff East), who seems to have an eye for Julia even before she works her magic on him, and Rachel’s creepy brother Tom (Jeremy Slate), who definitely had a crush on her beforehand. Plus it’s the ‘70s, so everyone has horrible, horrible hair. It does get quite melodramatic at times, especially toward the end, which is terrible. However, aside from all that, the plot makes a fair amount of sense, it has a neat twist, and the acting is decent.
As a teenager, I had read the book by Lois Duncan that it’s based on, and when I found out there was an adaptation directed by Wes Craven and starring Linda Blair, I was eager to see it. Since it’s made-for-TV and pretty old, I had given up hope of finding it. But Netflix had it (on disc). Upon editing this in 2020, I found it’s been released on Blu-Ray. Check it out, if you dare!