August 3, 2020
by Carla Hay
Directed by Pamela Moriarty
Culture Representation: Taking place in the fictional Pilgrim County somewhere in the United States, the horror flick “A Deadly Legend” has a predominantly white cast (with a few African Americans and Asians and one Latino) representing the middle-class.
Culture Clash: A group of people encounter a curse that’s lasted for centuries and involves a vengeful witch.
Culture Audience: “A Deadly Legend” will appeal primarily to people who like low-budget horror films that are so bad that they’re almost hilarious.
The horror film “A Deadly Legend” is so amateurly made that it looks like something that people from a community theater decided to do in order to get a feature film credit on their résumés. “A Deadly Legend” is the first feature film directed by Pamela Moriarty and written by Eric Wolf—and that lack of experience shows in every single minute of this sloppily made film. Kristen Anne Ferraro, who produced “A Deadly Legend,” also stars as the movie’s main protagonist, which explains why she has the lead role. It’s a lot easier to cast yourself as the star of a movie when you’re paying for the film.
And it seems like much of the budget was spent in hiring the cast’s veteran actors who have name recognition: Corbin Bernsen (of “L.A. Law” fame), Judd Hirsch (of “Taxi” fame) and Lori Petty (of “Tank Girl” and “A League of Their Own” fame), whose best career days are behind them if they’re now taking supporting roles in this type of bottom-of-the-barrel movie. Their level of experience is even more noticeable in “A Deadly Legend,” where they’re surrounded by people whose acting is so horrible, it makes Kim Kardashian in a movie look like the next Meryl Streep.
“A Deadly Legend” is a little overstuffed with characters, but the plot is fairly simple because it’s so derivative of dozens of other horror movies that have come before it: Some people uncover a longtime curse that involves a witch who’s out for revenge. And, of course, most of the horror happens when people are gathered in an isolated house. (The movie, which takes place in an unnamed state in the U.S., was actually filmed in New York state.)
The story takes place in the fictional Pilgrim County, where construction company owner Joan Huntar (played by Ferraro) and her lawyer Raj (played by Shravan Amin) are about to head into an important town council meeting. Joan and Raj want the town council to approve a major project for Huntar Construction: It’s the Pilgrim Lake Luxury Homes Project, where they plan to build homes in an undeveloped rural area. Joan and Raj are desperate for the town council’s approval for this project, since Huntar Construction is in dire financial straits and needs this project to stay in business.
At the town council meeting, one citizen is extremely vocal in expressing his disapproval of the project: Carl Turner (played by Hirsch), who owns an antiques store in town. Carl warns everyone at the meeting what will happen if construction breaks ground in the planned project area: “You’ll unleash what’s been buried for centuries!” Also at the meeting is longtime Pilgrim Lake resident Matthias Leary (played by Bernsen), who owns a crystal mineral shop in town. Despite Carl’s protest, the town council approves the project.
Joan is a widow with two teenage children: Krissy (played by Andee Buccheri) and her older brother Connor (played by John Pope). They are still grieving over the loss of Joan’s husband Bob (played by Jeffrey Doornbus), who died in a car accident. The car crash, which happened one night on a deserted road, is shown in the beginning of the movie to establish that something evil is lurking is Pilgrim County.
Bob was driving the car, and the passengers were Joan, Krissy and Krissy’s teenage cousin Amy Jones (played by Daniella DeCaro), when a young red-haired woman dressed in a white flowing dress suddenly appeared in the road. The car crashed when Bob tried to avoid hitting this mystery woman. It should come as no surprise to the audience that this woman is the ghost of a witch. The witch calls herself Luci (played by Tatiana Szpur), and she shows up again many times for the rest of the movie. (The movie reveals Luci’s backstory in a flashback scene that takes place in 1720.)
Ultimately, most of the movie’s characters end up in a remote lodge near the construction site, as construction begins for the Pilgrim Lake Luxury Homes Project. Because this is a low-budget film, the “construction” consists of one man operating a bulldozer. The lone construction worker on the site is a beer-guzzling roughneck named Mike Renfield (played by Eric Wolf), who is kept company by his kooky platonic female friend Wanda (played by Petty). Wanda brings some comic relief to the story, because it’s a running joke in the movie that Wanda keeps asking people if they have any beer.
Of course, the body count starts to pile up in this group of people who are at the lodge. In addition to Joan, Krissy, Connor and Amy, the other family members at the lodge are Bob’s sister/Joan’s sister-in-law Tina Jones (played by Summer Crockett Moore) and her husband Sam Jones (played by Dwayne A. Thomas), who are Amy’s parents. Sam works for Huntar Construction and is Mike’s no-nonsense immediate supervisor. Tina fancies herself to be a psychic—she holds a candlelit séance with the teenagers while wearing a T-shirt that says “I’m Not Weird. I’m Paranormal.”
Two other teenagers are also on the premises: quiet and mysterious Eli Leary (who is described as Matthias Leary’s grandson) and the outgoing and athletic Derek Rodriguez (played by Alan Pontes), who is Krissy’s love interest. Also at the lodge are attorney Raj and his divorced girlfriend Eva Chan (played by Jean Tree), who confides in Joan during a “girls talk” that Raj “saved” her from an abusive husband.
The pacing of “A Deadly Legend” sometimes drags, the dialogue is mostly forgettable, and the acting by most of this movie’s cast is so “train wreck” bad that it really is comical at times. Luci the witch is supposed to be terrifying, but Szpur’s sluggish portrayal makes Luci look like a Victorian Goth girl who’s taken too many opioid pills.
At least Petty brings some laughs as the somewhat unnecessary character of Wanda, because Wanda is so goofy that her personality is a welcome distraction from this often-boring film. But most of the other intentional humor in the movie falls very flat.
At one point in the story, Mike the construction worker is suspected of being up to no good, so his supervisor Sam goes to confront him. When some of the other people warn Sam that Mike could be dangerous, Sam replies, “I’m his boss. If he hasn’t killed me by now, he never will.” That’s what supposed to pass for humor in this awful movie.
And the visual effects are so messy and cheap-looking that they make the intended horror look very unconvincing. “A Deadly Legend” also makes a bizarre attempt to look “edgy” in a scene where someone has a nightmarish vision that shows an incestuous kiss between Joan and her son Connor, who exchange a large squid-like creature in their mouths during the kiss. It looks like a dumb stunt placed in the movie for “shock” effect. Ultimately, “A Deadly Legend” commits the worst sin of all for a horror movie: There is absolutely nothing scary about this terrible film.
Gravitas Ventures released “A Deadly Legend” on digital and VOD on July 24, 2020.