Italy 1959. A young psychic girl called Virginia sees her mother throw herself off a cliff in England. 18 years later the adult Virginia keeps having fragmented visions which put together seem to be of a murder. When she moves into an old villa with her husband,she finds a room with many of the objects in her visions and then a skeleton walled up,evidence of a murder many years ago. However,things are not that simple-the murderer is still around,the victim seems to be still alive and it’s possible that the visions were not of the past but the……..
Unless of course you saw it during it’s limited US cinema release where the scene was cut out, The Psychic [ AKA Seven Black Notes] opens with a head bashing against a cliff, in a scene reminiscent of the ending to Don’t Torture A Duckling. This gives the impression it’s going to bea pretty gory movie, and in fact it was this scene that got Lucio Fulci the job of directing Zombie, which finally gave him some measure of fame and led to him becoming one of the major [and one of the most controversial] horror directors of the first half of the 80s. That scene is deceptive, as the film actually turns out to be a mystery drama with supernatural touches. It reminded me of Don’t Look Now and there are also elements of the Edgar Allan Poe story The Black Cat which of course Fulci filmed [very oddly] a few years later.
The film is extremely talky but with such a complex plot that keeps you guessing and a twist every 15 mins, it certainly isn’t boring. Fulci, Roberto Gianviti and Dardano Saccheti [who later scripted The Beyond and other classics] crafted a clever story that all makes sense at the end, and is not only carefully constructed the story is an oppurtunity for Fulci to show how clever a director he can be-he often shows ‘clues’ but omits one detail, shows other ‘clues’ which actually don’t end up mattering much and, although the film is mostly from Virginia’s point of view, occasionally shows us things she couldn’t have seen, giving us the impression we are being told more…an impression which is usually false! Some may find some things a bit of a cheat, but I love being manipulated in this way.
Virginia’s visions are evocatively filmed and Fulci does throw in one great suspense sequence near the end in a church-he really was good at this sort of thing. Jennifer O Neill is a great anguished heroine, though pretty, she was never much of an actress, but she’s fine here. A shame that her best performance is largely unseeen. There are some beautifully composed shots in Sergio Salvita’s cinematography which look like Mario Bava [no higher praise!!], and the diverse score, some of it written by Fabio Frizzi who went on to do great work on Zombie etc,is very effective [one piece was later used in Kill Bill]. A shame about the syrupy theme song, but perhaps this was intended to be ironic, something Italian horror/thriller films often did [i.e.Night Train Murders].
Quentin Tarantino thinks this is Fulci’s best film and I wouldn’t go that far-the tale is essentially very simple, just told in a convoluted way, and in retrospect seems stretched out, while the idea of having most of the Italian cast speak English with their actual voices is commendable but sometimes makes it hard to understand everything that is being said due to the accents-a major flaw in a movie where new information is being given out all the time. Still,this is another sadly neglected film by this sadly neglected director that deserves to be better known, and once again show Fulci was not just good at zombies and extreme gore!