Friday, October 15, 2010

T.L. Bugg's Choice: A Different Kind of Audrey II

Following last month’s movie swap of Dolls for Skinned Deep, it seems Mr. T.L. Bugg decided to class up this joint with a film that has credentials. Directed by Robert Wise (the man responsible for The Day the Earth Stood Still and The Haunting, plus editing some film people always talk about called Citizen Kane) and starring Anthony Hopkins (best known, of course, for his riveting turn in Magic) and Marsha Mason, Aubrey Rose is a 1977 thriller(ish) that’s been sitting snugly on my queue for quite some time.
And thus, while I delve into the ‘70s, I’ve ordered my blogging buddy to watch a nostalgic favorite of mine, 1986’s From a Whisper to a Scream (aka The Offspring), an odd horror anthology that dips into all things great: American history, sideshow freaks, fountain of youths and necrophilia. Head over after a message from our favorite reincarnated two-named girl.
Quick Plot: When her mother’s car flips over, young Audrey Rose is trapped inside as it explodes, not before she pounds on the glass window and calls for her daddy through smoke-filled lungs. 
Fast forward eleven years later, where the wealthy Janice and Bill Templeton live on the upper west side of Manhattan with their almost-11 year old daughter, Ivy. The parents start to notice a mysterious man following them, a mystery that gets even more mysterious when he reveals himself to be Elliot Hoover (Hopkins), father of the late Audrey Rose and firm believer in reincarnation. He claims his late daughter was reborn into Ivy, a phenomena that may explain why Ivy gets increasingly intense nightmares around her birthday.

Of course, it sounds like phooey to the yuppie Templetons, who return home to their daughter screaming in a dazed sleep, her hands seeming to self-burn on cold windows. Only the voice of Hoover, calling out the name Audrey Rose can calm her terror. Bill is furious, both at Hoover’s nerve and his own inability to help his little girl, while Janice is torn between what she’s witnessed and what her logic dictates as impossible. 

Through a series of events, Audrey Rose shifts to an awkward courtroom drama second act. What begins as a kidnapping case turns into a citywide law crusade to prove the legitimacy of reincarnation. It’s an odd turn that certainly distinguishes the film as NOT being The Changeling, but it also starts to move us a little too far from the actual subject.
And there, perhaps, is my biggest issue with Audrey Rose. It’s an effective, extremely well acted and shot film, but it never seems to really deal with its central question: Who is Ivy/Audrey Rose? If, as the film seems to purport, reincarnation happens to most souls and as we know, a good deal of deaths are painful and occur to incomplete lives, what about all the others? And how would a family actually deal with a child that has remnants of a past identity? What does it mean to be the dead daughter of a sad but peaceful man while still being the happy little girl of two everyday parents?
Audrey Rose doesn’t really answer these questions, though it does offer some chilling development as Ivy continues to suffer from the memories of her previous life. An infamous hypnosis scene is extremely suspenseful, and the fact that it involves a likable 11 year old certainly helps. As a drama with thriller elements, Audrey Rose works fairly well, but perhaps because of its reincarnation agenda, it never quite jumps into the audience’s psyche.

High Points
As Ivy, the young Susan Swift is pretty terrific, skillfully jumping between happy fifth grader and haunted fire soul with ease

Low Points
...which makes it even more of a shame that her character is never really explored

Lessons Learned
A fibber and a liar are not the same thing
If your daughter is having violent night terrors, perhaps you shouldn’t send her off to boarding school
Bad things only happened to rich people in the 1970s
Audrey Rose is far less a horror film than I expected it to be, but it’s still an unnerving and quite well made thriller of its time. Though it doesn’t quite reach the levels of The Changeling or Rosemary’s Baby, it’s worth a lights-off watch when you feel like something serious. Yes, it suffers from the usual bad '70s haircuts and slow pacing, so if that doesn't work for you, I'm not going to force it. Still, it's an intriguingly odd little film that will make you ponder some worldly possibilities.


  1. Great review as always Emily. And how could I ever class up this joint? You got so much class around here already that it looks like the fall semester at Miskatonic University.

    Great review as always. Audrey Rose is slow paced (just like Wise's next film, Star Trek), but I love these great old '70's films that seem designed to be "thought provoking" and give you the creeps all at once. Glad you enjoyed my pick, and I'll see you in 26 days!

  2. 26 days! That's almost not enough time to prepare for such awesomeness.