John Llewellyn Moxey
Standard, brief (73 minutes), talk-heavy, low-budget Movie of the Week fare, written by Joseph Stefano (PSYCHO) and executive produced by Aaron Spelling, is helped along by a decent cast of familiar faces. It's Christmastime as dying Benjamin Morgan (Walter Brennan) requests his four estranged daughters return home for one visit. They; eldest, straight-laced Alex (Eleanor Parker), alcohol/pill addict Frederica (Jessica Walter), snotty and promiscuous Joanna (Jill Haworth) and young, sweet Christine (Sally Field), a college student, are immediately informed by their father that he thinks that his wife/their stepmother Elizabeth (Julie Harris) is attempting to slowly poison him to death... just like she was accused of doing to a previous husband. A rainstorm floods out the roadways and the characters find themselves stranded as one-by-one they're picked off by a gloved psycho dressed in a rain slicker.
It's darkly lit, overly familiar, somewhat predictable and the venomous family dynamic makes for a pretty depressing viewing experience, though Stefano attempts to temper things with black humor and the film can now be seen as a proto slasher utilizing the holiday feel several years before BLACK CHRISTMAS did the same. Several of the actresses elevate the material as much as possible, particularly Parker and Harris, both of whom give performances of chilly restraint. The same cannot be said for Walter, who probably landed the role after her excellent psycho portrayal in the previous year's PLAY MISTY FOR ME. Her big scene finds her camping it up in near hysterics with a broken bottle in her hand. Haworth is sufficient as an icy bitch, while Field is still stuck in the squeaky clean rut she found herself in after making a name for herself on the TV shows Gidget and The Flying Nun. It wouldn't be until a few years she'd make a name for herself in Emmy (1976's SYBIL) and Oscar (1979's NORMA RAE) winning roles.
I best remember this one for that Vidmark VHS cover pictured above, which always intrigued me as a kid. No official DVD release as of yet.