Horror Movie A Day: AUDREY ROSE (1977) We’re not talking about possession. We’re talking about reincarnation.
Published at: Oct. 22, 2008, 4:02 a.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day.
[The regular A Movie A Day list has been frozen in order for me to do an all-horror line-up for October. I’ve pulled many horror titles from my regular “to see” stack and have ordered many more horror and thriller titles to make sure we have some good stuff. Like the regular AMAD column all the movies I’m covering are films I have never seen, but unlike the regular AMAD column I will not connect each film to the one before it. Instead I will pull a title at random every day and watch whatever the movie Gods determine for me.]
Today we take a gander at Robert Wise’s horror/drama AUDREY ROSE starring Marsha Mason (NICK OF TIME, THE GOOD-BYE GIRL), John Beck (ROLLERBALL, THE OTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT), Susan Swift as the titular Audrey Rose and Anthony Hopkins.
The movie opens with a horrendous car wreck, a head on collision on a rainy day, which causes a car to flip and catch fire. That car has a small girl and a woman in it. We cut to New York City sometime in the future as a family (Mason, Beck and Swift) enjoys a day out.
Those attentive people will notice a bearded Hopkins shadowing them. He’s kinda creepy, actually. I love this era Hopkins… if you’ve seen MAGIC, you know why.
Anyway, Hopkins becomes more and more evident over the first 10 minutes. He’s outside of Audrey Rose’s school, following the parents as they shop, etc.
We also learn that little Audrey has some powerful night terrors, trances that are becoming more and more powerful. She thrashes and screams, calling out for her father. When she wakes up she has no memory of her nightmares.
Finally, Hopkins introduces himself, but not after he’s frightened the mother and father of this little girl. His name is Elliott Hoover, a British man who lost his wife and daughter in a car accident. After two separate psychics tell him his wife is at rest, but his daughter is alive on this Earth he goes on a search for answers.
That led him to India where the idea of reincarnation grabbed him immediately. Going off of details given to him by those psychics he spends the next few years narrowing down the possible vessel for his daughter’s spirit, ultimately deciding it’s Audrey Rose.
He tells all this to the parents, who, understandably, think he’s bugfuck insane.
However, the spells get worse and on the advice of their lawyer, they invite Hoover to their house in order to find out what he wants from them, with the lawyer in the other room ready to be witness to blackmail or threats or whatever the hell this guy wants.
Nothing like that comes out, Hopkins just genuinely wants to help his daughter’s soul find rest, but only with complete cooperation and consent of the parents. During this discussion, Audrey sleepwalks up behind the lawyer standing in the hallway, out of sight… and she looked freaky as hell. Not quite Linda Blair scary, but close.
No make-up, just a weird, slack face and her eyes rolled up, showing their whites. She freaks out and the parents run up to try to calm her. She runs back into her room and starts pounding the windows, screaming for her father.
Her palms begin showing burns as she pounds the windows. She is uncontrollable until Hopkins enters and starts calling her Audrey Rose. Nobody has gotten through before, but she hears that. She runs to him and instantly falls asleep in his arms.
So that’s the question of the movie. Does reincarnation exist and if it does, does the soul of Audrey Rose live within this girl? Or is there something more sinister going on?
You can tell an obvious EXORCIST influence, but not in a horror sense. It’s in the family dynamic, particularly in the mother-daughter relationship between Mason and Swift.
The father, Beck, is a bit of a prick, actually. He’s a nice enough guy, but he starts to feel like Hopkins is trying to take him out of the picture. Whether he is or not, I can’t really tell you. I think the film does a good job painting Hopkins as a very rational and in the right person… Which might be to its detriment. It might have been a more successful thriller if we didn’t know if we could believe Hopkins or not, if we could question his motives.
But as it stands, Beck gets jealous, feels helpless and starts turning into a dick. All this culminates in Audrey having another fit and Hopkins trying to run in to help. Beck wrestles with him and they fight. Hopkins breaks free, locks the parents out of the house and grabs Audrey, taking her to his apartment.
Then the flick turns into a courtroom drama as Hopkins is charged with kidnapping. He actually brings his belief in reincarnation into the court, making it the centerpiece to his defense.
The whole ordeal ends in a hypnotism scene that is incredibly effective.
I’d say the whole movie is a slow burn which doesn’t really capitalize on the suspense opportunities, but I found it fascinating nonetheless. Hopkins is great, as you’d expect and the kid, Swift, is effective even if her performance is a little uneven. She can give a horrible line delivery in one scene and be really great the next.
Wise’s direction is good, too. His choice of focus is, at times, beautiful. For instance, there’s a shot of Swift at a window. It’s nighttime and it’s raining, but the focus is on the water droplets falling down the window, with her out of focus and thrashing out of focus behind it.
The cinematography is very… standard. Like I said, they don’t play up the suspense, so the atmosphere isn’t all that dark or interesting. It’s actually a little on the dull side, maybe by choice… but whatever the reason, the visual identity of the movie definitely isn’t one of its strengths. It’s all in the script, character work and performances.
Final Thoughts: Sure, I’d prefer a little more menace, a little more suspense and a little more mystery, but that’s not what the aim of the movie was. And I love the ending, which really plays into Hopkins’ new religious views and seeing how that has influenced not only Mason, but also how it’s starting to influence the real non-belief of the father character. It’s the happiest sad ending ever.
Here are the titles in the drawing pool for the rest of October:
Wednesday, October 1st – Friday, October 31st: H-MAD! Horror Movie A Day! Check out the list here!
Added another ‘80s horror flick to the list… but we’re in our last 10 days of HMAD. How the time flies… A good majority of those films linked above will be reshuffled into the regular AMAD stacks come November 1st.
Now’s the the time to pull the next HMAD!
Next up is:
WHOEVER SLEW AUNTIE ROO? Interesting. I love me some Shelley Winters… and Oliver (Mark Lester) is in the movie! Creepy Shelley Winters and Oliver! is a winning combination, I think. Let’s see if the movie lives up to that promise!