The Spell (1977) starring Lee Grant, Susan Myers, Helen Hunt, Lelia Goldoni, Jack Colvin
The Spell is an NBC made-for-television movie, clearly, a rip-off of Carrie. However, it was actually slightly more than that. The Spell begins with a young teenager named Rita (Susan Myers, Revenge of the Nerds) who is being picked on by her fellow high school students for being “fat” — i.e. not being anorexic like them. As they’re tormenting her, the Phy Ed teacher stands by and watches, doing absolutely nothing. This prompted one of my children to comment, “The teacher’s evil! She’s just standing there!” Actually, she’s more right than she knows, but more on that later.
First, it’s time for the climbing of the rope in Phy Ed, which everyone remembers with feelings of distaste — but not as much as one of the bullies, who falls to her death as Rita looks on, with a funny look on her face … and later on we see that her home life is also unhappy, as she has a “perfect” sister (played by a very young Helen Hunt, Mad About You, What Women Want), whom her father (James Olson, The Andromeda Strain) favors, compares her to — and continually points out how “overweight” Rita is. Rita’s mom, (played by Lee Grant, In the Heat of the Night) is more understanding. At least at first — and the body count grows.
Jack Colvin, who became typecast as the pursuing reporter in The Incredible Hulk, plays a similar role here. He interviews people in the town, gradually revealing some backstory information as the story goes forward. It turns out that the evil teacher is a real witch. No, really, a practising witch. She keeps pushing Rita to use her “gift” to hurt, maim, and kill. Eventually, Rita finally rebels, with a “witch fight” that ends with Rita triumphant. The teacher is dead … and there appears to be no one to stand against her.
However, in a twist ending, there is someone to stand against her — a very nice, unexpected twist, making this more than just a cheap rip-off of Carrie, and worth watching.