Release Date(s)1977 (October 14, 2014)
Studio(s)United Artists (Twilight Time)
- Film/Program Grade: D
- Video Grade: C+
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: D+
Horror has been around since the movies began but in the 1970s, it reached a level of respectability it’s never had before or since. Movies like The Exorcist, Carrie and The Omen became Oscar-nominated blockbusters. Hollywood veteran Robert Wise had been in and out of the genre throughout his career with such films as The Curse Of The Cat People, The Body Snatcher and The Haunting. In theory, Audrey Rose, his 1977 return to horror, should be a cause for celebration. In reality, it’s more of a cause for a nap.
Marsha Mason and John Beck star as Janice and Bill Templeton, the parents of precocious 13-year-old Ivy (Susan Swift). Life is good for the Templetons until a mysterious stalker (Anthony Hopkins) turns up. He eventually introduces himself as Elliot Hoover and insists that Ivy is the reincarnation of his daughter, Audrey Rose, who was killed in a car accident 13 years ago. Bill Templeton dismisses this as so much crazy talk but Janice isn’t so sure, especially since Ivy is plagued by a recurring nightmare of being trapped in a burning car and only Mr. Hoover’s presence can calm her down.
Now this may sound like an OK setup for a horror movie or a psychological thriller. Perhaps it would be if they’d bothered to make one. But about halfway through, Hoover is arrested on kidnapping charges and the movie turns into a courtroom drama with Hoover’s defense resting on delivering proof of reincarnation. This is, to put it mildly, idiotic. It’s like turning the second half of The Exorcist into 12 Angry Men and debating the existence or non-existence of Pazuzu. None of it makes any sense and the longer it drags on, the less sense it makes.
Not that the movie’s first half is entirely problem-free. Swift’s performance really makes you appreciate what a phenomenal job Linda Blair did in The Exorcist. Mason and Beck are OK, although neither is given more than a single note to play. As for Hopkins, he just seems tired and disengaged and you can’t really blame him. The Exorcist works even if you aren’t Catholic because the specific religious aspects of the story are delivered with conviction and authority. Basically, Max Von Sydow converts you to Catholicism for the duration of the movie. In Audrey Rose, the reincarnation expert is some guy who went to India after a stage clairvoyant told him his daughter’s spirit was still alive. Of course nobody believes him. Why should they?
I’m not sure that anyone was particularly clamoring for Audrey Rose to be released on Blu-ray but if they were, Twilight Time’s got 3,000 of them covered. The movie doesn’t really look all that great in HD. It’s a bit washed out and there are some shots that explode into a holocaust of grain. The sound quality is fine, although there isn’t a lot to it. The disc includes the standard Twilight Time extras: an isolated score track, the trailer and a booklet.
Robert Wise was certainly capable of directing some excellent horror movies but you’d never know it from Audrey Rose. It’s a lifeless, suspense-free exercise in bad storytelling. Whether or not you believe in reincarnation is beside the point. The real question is why should you care.
- Adam Jahnke
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