Welcome to 4:3 & Forgotten — a weekly column in which Rob Hunter and I get to look back at TV terrors that scared adults (and the kids they let watch) across the limited airwaves of the ’70s.
Movies about Satanic cults and witch covens tend to adhere to the same familiar beats. That’s especially true for the films that were released during the ‘70s, when the genre was at its peak and real panic pertaining to secret societies was brewing in the real world. Black hoods and eerie chants were all over horror, and it was a great time for the genre.
Personally, I think movies about cults make for some of the most consistently entertaining as well. Even the schlockiest entries are full of nerve-inducing moments that lead to shocking finales, and they have a tendency to play on people’s superstitions and play on religious fear-mongering. Crowhaven Farm isn’t the most well known film of the bunch, but it deserves a larger cult of fans.
When: November 24, 1970
The story follows a woman named Maggie (Hope Lange) who inherits a farm following her cousin’s death. With no other prospects for Maggie and her husband Ben (Paul Burke) in the city, they decide to move to the rural location and start a new life. Upon arriving, however, Maggie gets immediate creepy vibes from the place. She knows her way around in a way that feels too familiar, almost as if she’s been reincarnated and is now recalling events from a previous life. Maybe she’s going mad, or maybe she did live there once upon a time.
Maggie wants to leave, but Ben convinces her that the change will be good for the couple. For a start, he wants to get his painting career on track, as sales haven’t been good lately. The new place fills him with inspiration, so of course he wants to stay. Furthermore, there’s also “that thing about the baby,” as Ben puts it, and the two of them could use the solitude of the farm to reconnect and get their marriage back to normal. But there’s no such thing as normal on this farm. Right after agreeing to stick around for her hubby, Maggie starts having bizarre visions. She also meets a strange handyman (played by John Carradine) and the neighbors seem too friendly. One of them even offers her a job, which doesn’t go down too well with her emasculated husband, as he wants to be the breadwinner.
At the same time, things also start picking up for the pair shortly after becoming acquainted with the neighbors. Ben’s paintings start selling and they sort of adopt a girl who becomes a welcome substitute for their own lack of children — until she turns into a creepy little misfit who develops a bizarre obsession with her new guardians. She also takes to Ben in a way that can only be described as uncomfortable. Maggie also falls pregnant, despite being told by several doctors that it’s impossible. But this was before she met the enlightened doctor of this rural community, whose knowledge is vastly superior to the medical professionals working in the city.
Still, something is off. Could witchcraft and Satanism be at play? Given that this is a 1970s horror film that was inspired by the popularity of Rosemary’s Baby, you know the Devil is at play in Crowhaven Farm. As such, the movie contains all of the hallmarks of Roman Polanski’s classic and the countless other Satanic movies it inspired.
In addition to the supernatural elements such as bizarre visions and nightmares, Crowhaven Farm is one of those movies where everyone appears to be in on a secret sinister plan for the protagonists, no matter how pleasant and welcoming these people seem at face value. That’s always the case in these movies, but it’s an effective trope as it gives the protagonists more odds to overcome.
This is also one of those movies where conversations about the Salem Witch Trials are mentioned at the first opportunity. This exact conversation was commonplace in ‘70s TV horror movies and I’m a big fan of it, as you just know that the witches are coming. Crowhaven Farm would actually make an excellent double feature with Black Noon, brings similar ideas to an Old West setting.
Director Walter Grauman, working from a script by writer John McGreevy, oversees the movie with a veteran’s eye as well. There’s a palpable sense of dread throughout that really elevates what is otherwise an obvious Rosemary Baby redux. Of course, this all leads toward a bizarre and satisfying payoff that leaves plenty to ponder after the end credits have rolled.
If you’re a fan of supernatural Satanic paranoia, Crowhaven Farm will tickle your sweet spots. The film doesn’t try to be original by any means, but it’s an effective slice of TV terror that knows how to deliver the good stuff.
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