Rita Matchett (Susan Myers) is a slightly overweight 15-year-old girl who is cruelly taunted by the mean girls in her class. One of the meanest is in gym class when she falls off a rope doing a trick and breaks her neck. Rita has a younger sister, Kristina (Helen Hunt), a father, Glenn (James Olson of Crescendo), who's rather cold to her, and a mother, Marilyn (Lee Grant), with whom she seems to share a special bond. As more strange things begin to occur, Glenn wants to pack Rita off to a special school in London and Marilyn resists suggestions that Rita is not only different but dangerous ... The Spell is one of a long line of films made in the wake of Carrie, although this picture drops the strange-girl-vs-mean-girls storyline pretty early and turns into a domestic drama of sorts with two comparatively ineffectual parents trying to deal with their strange and rebellious daughter. Nothing much supernatural or especially weird happens until a friend and neighbor of the Mattchetts literally burns up from the inside out and becomes a ghastly corpse halfway through the movie, a literal cooked sausage. For the finale, the picture winds up back in Carrie territory. The Spell presents some intriguing situations, an interesting young heroine, and has a couple of twists, but it's also a little disjointed and confusing (one suspects scenes were left on the cutting room floor to make way for the commercial breaks), and there's no particular flair to the direction. If the film works at all it's because of the acting, with Lee Grant splendid as the mother, emoting with complete conviction as if she were in a serious drama and not a semi-schlocky made-for-TV suspense film. James Olsen and Susan Myers are also excellent, and a very young Helen Hunt already shows signs of the abilities that would eventually net her an Oscar. Brian Taggert, who also scripted the Lee Grant starrer Visiting Hours as well as a TV remake of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? with the Redgrave sisters, seems to have grafted a not completely convincing horror story onto a tale of teenage angst in which the heroine discovers that she not only doesn't mind being "different" but actually prefers it. Director Lee Philips, who also helmed the interesting telefilm The Girl Most Likely To ..., was originally an actor in such films as Peyton Place and others. Years later Grant and Helen Hunt would both appear in Dr. T and The Women.
Verdict: Grant makes the most of a script that doesn't quite call for her talents. **1/2.
NOTE: This review is part of the "Lovely Lee Grant" blogathon co-hosted by Chris of Angelman's Place and Gill of Realweegiemidget Reviews.