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1 review, 1 rating

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Invitation to Hell
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by Scott Weinberg

"Every filmmaker has to start somewhere but...hoo BOY is this a bad movie!"
1 stars

Every filmmaker who ends up well-respected started out somewhere less than amazing. Such is clearly the case where Wes Craven is concerned. This movie is the evidence.

Say you're a fresh-faced filmmaker and one of the three TV networks offered you the directorial gig on some horror script they just bought. Hey, that's great news! You're going to direct a movie! Sure, it's a network TV movie... but still! Congratulations!

Now say you're an aging filmmaker who's directed and produced more than his fair share of schlock over the years. Your name has a certain cachet with the hardcore gorehounds, and you've made a good amount of cash for your various investors over the years. And then someone digs up that old TV movie you directed 25 years ago.

Most filmmakers would probably chuckle amiably and silently hope that the movie never ever EVER finds a distributor. But not Wes Craven. See, if you're a horror freak then you probably know of both Wes Cravens. The first Wes directed Last House on the Left, The Hills Have Eyes, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream.

The second Wes Craven has spent years rubber-stamping his name onto unbelievably awful dreck like Mind Ripper, Don't Look Down and a wholly unneeded (and entirely incomprehensible) remake of Carnival of Souls. OK, I'm not fooling anyone; they're the same Wes Craven. Which just boggles my mind.

So along comes a DVD with the words "Wes Craven's Invitation to Hell" on the front. I feel faint. A quick bit of research informs me that it's not a recent direct-to-video dungpile (hooray!)... but a 1984 effort that was produced for network television. And if there's anything worse than a brand new Craven-produced movie, it's an old TV movie produced by anyone.

Lest you think I'm knocking the guy for directing TV movies early in his career, I'm not. What I'm knocking is Invitation to Hell, surely one of the stupidest films ever produced... for any medium. True to its television leanings, the film offers a trio of network stalwarts: Robert Urich, Joanna Cassidy and Susan Lucci. And like most genre efforts that spring from the networks, Invitation to Hell is cribbed from earlier, much better material. (In this case, it's mainly The Stepford Wives.)

Urich and Cassidy take their two moppets and move to a tawny new town so Daddy can work on his high-tech top-secret computer research. Oh yeah, the kids are played by Barret (The Neverending Story) Oliver and Soleil Moon "Punky Brewster" Frye, which, as trivia, is more interesting than anything else that takes place onscreen. While Pop is off working on his spacesuit project, Mom and the moppets find sanctuary in "THE CLUB"...which is less of a club and more of a gateway to hell which steals the town's humans and replaces them with emotionless automatons.

Susan Lucci is the head pod person. She tries to convince the new citizens to frequent THE CLUB... so they can then be...

You get the picture. Cassidy and the kids get poddidized, Urich (with the help of a crafty old animal doctor) begins to unravel the goofy truth, there are frequent fadeouts for commercial breaks you only wish were included, and the whole thing ends up in some sort of silly tin-foil world where "true love can defeat the evil spell" or some such nonsense like that.

Look, if made-for-TV movies from 1984 are your insane a hobby as that would be...then Invitation to Hell should probably belong in your collection. Other than being used as a time capsule back to a much sillier era - or something to laugh at incessantly - Invitation to Hell is every bit as tortorous as its title implies. I'm sure there are at least five people out there who adore Wes Craven enough to purchase every movie he's ever done... which means this DVD should sell about five copies worldwide.

OK, maybe nine copies if you include the Robert Urich fans too.

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originally posted: 05/01/04 23:22:04
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User Comments

5/02/04 Jack Sommersby Made-for-TV dullsville. The always-welcome Urich is wasted. 2 stars
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