THE PREMONITION (1976)

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Directed by:
Written by: ,
Starring: , ,

the premonition blu ray artwork

Available now to stream from Arrow Video and on DVD and Blu-ray

There are a lot of ways to discuss a strange, eerie, and rather unpredictable thriller like this. Do the surprising twists and turns manage to keep the suspense levels high? Or are all the odd forks in the road just too weird, causing it to become muddled? There’s a lot to break down here in a film which is a kidnap plot, a story about telepathy, and (at least partially) a tale of mentally unstable fugitives. As a result there are a few false starts before the narrative gets going and the interesting moments arrive. They even throw in some intriguing thematic ideas about loss and parenthood. But, like a lot of storylines that lack focus or a solid central idea, some of these inclusions work better than others.

Ellen Barber

The initial setup involves a theme park photographer, and clown performer, Jude (Richard Lynch) and early on it’s clear that he might not have all his marbles. Maybe it’s the occupational choice, or perhaps just it’s the type-casting at work. He soon meets up with his girlfriend Andrea, (Ellen Barber) a troubled young woman who just spent five years in a ‘stinking pit’ for reasons that are initially unclear. But things are about to improve as this initially romantic endeavour is far more sinister than it first appears. After the pair do a little research and find out that they have a lead on Andrea’s lost daughter Janey. The only problem is that Janey is living with her new adoptive parents, and Andrea may have checked herself out early from the institution she was in.

Meanwhile, an entirely different story seems to be taking place involving astrophysicist Dr. Bennett (Edward Bell) and his wife Sheri, (Sharon Farrell) the couple who adopted Janey all those years ago. Miles has taken an interest in the work of his new colleague Dr. Kingsley (Chitra Neogy) who has just arrived to teach ‘para-physics’. Or is it para-psychology? It’s not clear. The nonsensical discussions they have about invisible realms and non-physical perception aren’t very convincing, and the way she keeps rambling on about things like the ‘clairvoyant reality’ doesn’t help. Of course this is all conveniently going to link back around to the kidnappers when Sheri begins to develop signs of precognition in the form of strange dreams, which that let her sense that foul play is afoot.

As a supernatural thriller things are pretty atmospheric. The scenes where Andrea breaks into the Bennett family home are very unsettling with a lot of point-of-view camera work. Ellen Barber’s performance as Andrea is particularly memorable as she drifts in and out of different states of mind. Sometimes she’s distant and melancholy, and then later without warning she becomes a raging lunatic. There are moments of clarity and planning mixed in with more irrational behaviour. The main issue here is that beyond the child in peril story she doesn’t get enough screen time beyond the first half of the movie, though there are some interesting visions and mental flashes as Sheri gets closer to the couple’s nefarious scheme.

Richard Lynch

Sharon Farrell is unfortunately less believable in this role, and spends too much time panicking or lying in a state of shock, sometimes stopping to declare out of the blue that Andrea has put a ‘hex’ on the family. It’s not explained where she got this idea from, but maybe hallucinations of bloody intruders will do that to a person. These sequences are the other notable part of the feature, as glass becomes opaque, mirrors become icy, and the sun is blotted out. Outside the obvious parental anxiety themes there are some engaging ideas about the guilt of adopting someone else’s child as your own. It’s just a shame these are not the core elements in a story that gets sidetracked far too often.

If Sheri was doing all the detective work it would be stronger as the story of a troubled parent trying to find her child using the supernatural. However, the film soon branches off from this. Firstly so she can spend time with her husband and his new best friend, and then later to introduce an actual detective to the proceedings. By the time things come to a head in the third act it’s far too messy and the rather absurd finale comes out of nowhere. Jude’s motivations also become far too vague by the end even if the changes Richard Lynch’s fairground loner goes through are pretty unpredictable and sinister. If only it was written well enough to better explain his involvement. In the middle of this Janey doesn’t even behave like a character at all after the opening scenes. While this may be intentional given everything that happens it’s not a great choice, particularly when she’s at the centre of these events.

Overall it’s not just that it doesn’t meet the standard of its contemporaries (Carrie came out the same year) but that it fails to use ideas that had been established in all kinds of earlier tales. Dreams about the future, bad omens, and telepathy are certainly not untested ingredients. But that being said this isn’t a terrible venture into the paranormal, even if it’s anticlimactic and inconsistent. There’s a lot of period mood building and the use of creepy amusement parks, and darkened 1970s apartments, is effective. It has a typically dour tone for its time which is complemented by Henry Mollicone’s despondent theme music. With a few tweaks it could have been more iconic, but as it stands it’s more of a curiosity. A feature for those looking for something less well known in the occult and supernatural subgenres, even if it can’t quite decide which one it belongs to.

Rating: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

ARROW VIDEO SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
•        2K restoration from original film elements
•        High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
•        Original Mono Audio
•        English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
•        Introduction to the film by Nightmare USA author Stephen Thrower
•        Isolated Score
•        Audio commentary with producer-director Robert Allen Schnitzer
•        Pictures from a Premonition – brand new making-of documentary featuring interviews with Schnitzer, composer Henry Mollicone and cinematographer Victor Milt
•        Archive interviews with Schnitzer and star Richard Lynch
•        Trailers and TV Spots
•        Three Robert Allen Schnitzer short films: Vernal Equinox, Terminal Point and A Rumbling in the Land
•        4 “Peace Spots”

•        Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly-commissioned artwork by The Twins of Evil

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About Mocata 146 Articles
A sucker for classic epics, 80s science fiction and fantasy kitsch, horror, action, animation, stop motion, world cinema, martial arts and all kinds of assorted stuff and nonsense. If you enjoy a bullet ballet, a good eye ball gag or a story about time travelling robots maybe we can be friends after all.

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