Tuesday, July 3, 2012


We've all seen films with a protagonist who is recently released from an asylum and haunted by visions that can't be explained. This film follows the standard conventions of that subgenre but uses the familiar story as a means to delve into domestic misery and present a damning indictment of alcohol abuse.

The lead character is Karen Nichols, a recently recovering alcoholic, who moves into a new home in LA with her husband Al. They are attempting to make a fresh start but Karen is having disturbing visions of a brutal decapitation. The film frequently moves in and out of psychedelic sequences which allow us to see Karen's visions first-hand. The plot presents a variety of unusual supporting characters whose motives we are supposed to question but the primary focus of the film is actually the destructive power of alcohol on the family unit. Karen's husband can't trust her and suspects that her hallucinations are brought on by drinking. Most films would use the device of the murderous premonitions to create tension in an otherwise healthy household but the dynamic between the central couple is awkward and unloving from the very beginning. The scenes between them in the home are all fraught with the uncomfortable knowledge that the bond between them has been obliterated by problems they've experienced before the film began. Alcohol has eroded their trust and destroyed the strength of their relationship. Given Al's total disregard for Karen's situation and feelings it is possible to believe that they never would have married in the first place if she had been sober. 

Very little money seems to have been spent on the movie and it appears to be a late 70's production despite the video box reporting the release year as 1982. There are occasional bursts of blood which have the color and consistency of house paint. The sets and costumes all have the distinct look of having been purchased second hand. It is impossible to say whether or not the film was always intended to be a heavy-handed, moralistic condemnation of alcoholism but that is what one takes away from the experience regardless. It is worth a viewing if for no reason other than it its unique spin on old tropes. The Prism video release has a bizarre and highly misleading cover showing a woman with a forked, serpent-like tongue snaking out at you from a menacing sky. Nothing like this happens in the movie and you may find yourself wishing it did.

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