Too many ideas with too little focus
Filmed in 1976 by director Robert Allen Schnitzer, who takes no shame in his fascination with the paranormal, the film centres on two young couples and a five year old girl. One couple is raising the child, the other claims to be the birth mother, and the film looks at this love/loss triangle through the eyes of the horror/psychic lens. The result is an uncomfortable meld that is neither dramatic nor horrific.
The film opens with Andrea (Ellen Barber) meeting Jude (Richard Lynch) after he has photographed Andrea’s child in his day job as a clown at a carnival. The pair, having both just been released from a mental institution, hatch a plan to kidnap the child from her foster parents, Sheri and Miles Bennett. Professor Miles is working on psychic phenomenon which comes in good stead when Sheri starts to dream that their child is in danger, and when the worst happens it is his interpretation that then leads towards the climactic conclusion.
That one line synopsis belies the trial it is to get through this film; whilst there are plenty of great ideas punctuated through the narrative of the film, that of love, belonging, loss, desperation etc., they are handled in such an inept way that nothing makes any sort of fluid sense. The psychosis angle isn’t pushed enough, the psychic angle is way off kilter and the resolution is so wacky it beggars belief.
The horror angle in the film remains the most evocative; there are punctuated jump scares and Jude, when he travels down his dangerous path, does manage to evoke some fear, but it is the situation of the child and her kidnapping where the narrative tries to hang its horror. I have children and I can see what the film was trying to do, but unfortunately is doesn’t quite pull off the necessary to make it truly horrific. One thing it does have going for it is Henry Mollicone’s score which manages to lift even the most mediocre scenes.
If you see the directors student films you can understand exactly why this film doesn’t quite hit the mark, his ambitious story telling is shot through with pretention and this only serves to alienate the potential audience. Yes it’s not the shock and gore that one might associate with a horror, but neither it is the dramatic ‘pit-in-your-stomach’ horror of child endangerment that it so wants to be. Too many ideas with too little focus fail to bring this one to any real conclusion.
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