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Stranger in Our House

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Stranger in Our House
Summer of fear.jpg
Belgian theatrical poster, under title
Summer of Fear
Also known asSummer of Fear
Based onSummer of Fear
by Lois Duncan[2]
Screenplay by
  • Glenn M. Benest
  • Max A. Keller[2]
Directed byWes Craven
Country of originUnited States[2]
Executive producers
  • Max A. Keller
  • Micheline H. Keller[2]
CinematographyWilliam K. Jurgensen[2]
EditorHoward A. Smith[2]
Running time99 minutes[a]
Production companies
  • Finnegan Associates
  • Inter Planetary Pictures Inc.[2]
Original networkNBC
Original releaseOctober 31, 1978 (1978-10-31)

Stranger in Our House is a 1978 American television horror film directed by Wes Craven and starring Linda Blair, Lee Purcell, Jeremy Slate, Jeff McCracken, and Jeff East. It is based on the 1976 novel Summer of Fear by Lois Duncan. The film premiered on NBC on October 31, 1978, and subsequently received theatrical releases in Europe under the title Summer of Fear.[4]


Teenager Julia is orphaned after her parents and housekeeper die in a car accident on the east coast. She is taken in by her aunt Leslie and uncle Tom at their ranch in California, along with their teenage daughter, Rachel, and adolescent son, Bobby. Rachel is initially thrilled at the thought of having a girl her age around the house and even offers to split her bedroom with her cousin, but Julia seems painfully shy. The family takes note of her strange accent, which is uncharacteristic from the east coast. Trying to open up a bit, Julia gets a makeover and develops a more sophisticated façade.

One day, Rachel's horse Sundance attacks Julia and tries to trample her. Julia recovers and begins ingratiating herself into the family. Rachel's brother and dad seem particularly taken with the fetching young lady in their midst. Odd things begin to happen: After having earlier found a human tooth among Julia's belongings, Rachel discovers a photo of herself missing, and shortly after face breaks out in blotchy hives, preventing her from attending a dance. Julia accompanies Rachel's boyfriend Mike instead, borrowing a dress that Rachel had made for herself; an arrangement that Rachel should never have agreed to because Mike becomes smitten with Julia and they begin dating. To make matters worse, the cousin also forges a close friendship with Carolyn, Rachel's best friend. The next day, Rachel enters into a competition with Sundance, where the horse flips out, breaking its leg in the process and forcing a vet to euthanize it.

To her surprise, Rachel finds things in Julia dresser drawers that point to something sinister—burned hair from her fallen horse, and her missing photo covered in red paint spots. She speaks to their neighbor, Professor Jarvis, who tells her it may indeed be the work of someone who practices black magic. Before she can show him the evidence however, the professor collapses and is rushed to the hospital. A letter that Julia receives from a friend gets the best of Rachel's curiosity. Rachel phones the friend in Boston and discovers that Julia supposedly sings in her school's glee club. Knowing that the person living in her house doesn't have any interest in music, Rachel further suspects something is not right. Immersing herself in books on the occult, Rachel starts to believe Julia is a witch. During a visit to the professor at the hospital, he tells her that true witches cannot appear in photographs. The next day, Rachel encourages her mother to take pictures of a reluctant Julia. Tensions reach a boiling point when Leslie plans a road trip and Rachel finds a map with burn marks on it. Rachel believes Julia is planning on causing her mother to have an accident, and subsequently witnesses Julia making overt sexual advances on her father.

Too late to stop Leslie from leaving on the trip, Rachel develops the roll of film herself and clearly sees that her suspicions have been correct all along—Julia is nowhere to be found in the photos. Suddenly, Julia comes pounding into the darkroom and the two have a fierce struggle. Rachel manages to break away and she locks the door to the room. She then evades her dad, who tries to stop her. Julia breaks out of the room, her eyes a ghastly white and red. Rachel rushes to Mike and tells him to get in his car so they can find her mother. Julia takes off after them, hitting Mike's car and trying to drive them off the road. Finally, Rachel and Mike catch sight of Rachel's mom, whose car causes Julia to drive off a cliff to a fiery explosion below. It is then revealed that the real Julia perished alongside her parents in the car crash, and that it was actually Sarah Brown, their housekeeper, who survived the accident. The Bryant family tries to return to normal. Meanwhile, another family welcomes Julia into their home, posing as a nanny.




Stranger in Our House marked Craven's first film project upon his relocation from New York City to Los Angeles.[5] "I had come out to California to do some minor stuff and got invited in to do that," Craven recalled. "I think that was the first time working with a Hollywood star of sorts, Linda Blair. First time working in thirty-five millimeter, first time using a crane, a dolly, so it was a great education for me. And it was a good shoot."[5]


The film marked actress Linda Blair's third leading role in a horror film, following her Oscar-nominated performance in The Exorcist (1973) and its sequel Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977).[5] In his DVD commentary, director Wes Craven recalled that Blair had recently "gotten into some trouble" prior to filming; also that he was plainly inspired by Roman Polanski's work, and tried to carefully build a sense of paranoia and suspense in the film's narrative.[6] In the role of Rachel's mother, stage actress Carol Lawrence was cast.[5] Lee Purcell was cast as Julia, the cousin Rachel suspects of being a witch.[7] Purcell sought out the role as she had wanted to do a thriller film.[8]


While the source novel by Lois Duncan features Rachel losing a pet dog, Blair suggested to Craven that it be a horse, as Blair, an equestrian at the time, had a close bond to the animal.[3] Filming took place in Hidden Hills, California.[3]


Stranger in Our House first aired on television on NBC-TV on October 31, 1978.[9][10] It was released in European markets theatrically, bearing the title Summer of Fear.[11]

Critical reception

From contemporary reviews, the Monthly Film Bulletin "takes a long time to convince that something really devlish is lurking in California's green and pleasant pastures"[12] The review noted that Ms. Purcell "deserves to survive this farrago rather more than the satanic Beverly hillbilly she plays."[12]

AllMovie called the film "a modestly entertaining horror item."[1] While the film hasn't garnered enough reviews to receive a rating on movie review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, all four listed reviews are negative.[13]

Home media

The film was released in the United States on DVD on February 18, 2003 through Artisan Entertainment.[14] On June 1, 2017, it was announced that the film would be receiving a Blu-ray and special edition DVD release through Doppelgänger Releasing.[15]


  1. ^ In the book Television Fright Films of the 1970s, the running time for the film is listed at 99 minutes,[3] which is matches the running time featured on the 2003 Artisan Entertainment DVD release.


  1. ^ a b Binion, Cavett. "Summer of Fear (1978)". AllMovie. Retrieved April 23, 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Combs, Richard (1980). "Summer of Fear". Monthly Film Bulletin. Vol. 47 no. 552. British Film Institute. p. 95.
  3. ^ a b c Deal 2015, p. 174.
  4. ^ "Summer of Fear". British Board of Film Classification. Retrieved June 5, 2017.
  5. ^ a b c d Hutson 2016, p. 35.
  6. ^ Craven, Wes (February 18, 2003). Summer of Fear (Audio commentary (DVD)). Artisan Entertainment.
  7. ^ Hutson 2016, pp. 35–36.
  8. ^ Hutson 2016, p. 36.
  9. ^ Muir 2004, p. 15.
  10. ^ Hutson 2016, p. 37.
  11. ^ Jones 2019, p. 22.
  12. ^ a b Combs, Richard (1980). "Summer of Fear". Monthly Film Bulletin. Vol. 47 no. 552. British Film Institute. p. 96.
  13. ^ "Stranger in Our House (Summer of Fear)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved April 23, 2020.
  14. ^ Wallis, J. Doyle (February 27, 2003). "Summer of Fear : DVD Talk Review". DVD Talk. Retrieved December 29, 2016.
  15. ^ Squires, John (June 1, 2017). "Wes Craven's 1978 Film 'Summer of Fear' Getting Blu-ray Release". Bloody-Disgusting. Retrieved June 5, 2017.


  • Deal, David (2015). Television Fright Films of the 1970s. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland. ISBN 978-0-786-45514-0.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Hutson, Thommy (2016). Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy: The Making of Wes Craven's A Nightmare on Elm Street. New York City, New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-1-618-68640-4.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Jones, Alan (2020). Skelton, Shannon Blake (ed.). Wes Craven: Interviews. Jackson, Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi. ISBN 978-1-496-82610-7.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Muir, John Kenneth (2004). Wes Craven: The Art of Horror. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland. ISBN 0786419237.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)

External links

This page was last edited on 13 October 2020, at 17:41
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