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Artisan Home Entertainment presents
Wes Craven's Invitation to Hell (1984)

"Before you can really get ahead around here, you've got to learn to play the game. Step over a few bodies, rub shoulders with the people at that club. Those are the facts of life."
- Tom Peterson (Joe Regalbuto)

Review By: Jesse Shanks   
Published: January 15, 2004

Stars: Robert Urich, Joanna Cassidy, Susan Lucci
Other Stars: Joe Regalbuto, Kevin McCarthy, Bill Erwin, Soleil Moon Frye
Director: Wes Craven

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (some intense suspense)
Run Time: 01h:35m:37s
Release Date: August 19, 2003
UPC: 012236143154
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- C+BB C-

DVD Review

Prior to Invitation to Hell, Wes Craven made the horror movie, Last House on the Left, released in August 1972, which was a big success. as was his second movie, The Hills Have Eyes (1977), winning the critic's prize at the Sitges Film Festival. Later, Craven zoomed to horror fame with the beginning of the Nightmare on Elm Street and the Scream series. Invitation to Hell is a small and not very notable entry into the director's canon.

When a family moves to a suburban California neighborhood, everything is going great. The neighbors are nice, the neighborhood is clean, and there is a local health spa called Steaing Springs Country Club close by their house. Veteran television actors Robert Urich and Joanna Cassidy portray the parents and Soleil Moon Frye, known for her role as Punky Brewster, is the daughter. Daytime Diva Susan Lucci is Jessica Jones, the manager of the odd spa, and supporting actors include Joe Regalbuto, prior to his run as Frank Fontana on Murphy Brown, and Kevin McCarthy, veteran of 60 years of television and film.

Urich plays an independent software wiz who has been brought in by Microdigitek to work on a project developing a special computerized space suit. Pressure starts to be applied for he and his wife to join the spa, which "everyone belongs to." At first they consider joining, but then become suspicous because there seems to be so much pressure on them to do so. After a meeting with the manager, Jessica, the family is suddenly game to belong, but the loner dad is still skeptical and has come to think there is some kind of evil based at the spa.

There just isn't much to recommend this movie, except as that particular type of horror camp that is so bad, it's good. The plot just doesn't really have anything to it, being both predictable and clichéd. There is very little suspense and very little depth in either the characters or the story. Perhaps we have just gone too far in the past twenty years for such a film to have any impact.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The video transfer is in full-frame and is quite sufficient for the purpose. Although a little TV grainy, it still is very watchable, especially during the latter scenes.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0no

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby 2.0 Stereo is actually quite good with decent separation and a very listenable quality.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 18 cues and remote access
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: No extras but they did a damn good job on the subtitles.

Extras Grade: C-


Final Comments

Invitation to Hell is a minor bit of television movie fluff that happens to have been directed by horror legend Wes Craven. Notable for the wacky, big-hair performance of daytime diva Susan Lucci in the role of what appears to be a heath spa manager, and a supporting performance by Soleil Moon Frye. Otherwise, for Robert Urich completists only.


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