October 18, 2014

Movie Review: The Psychic (1977)

Over the few years I have been getting into the deeper cuts of horror, Lucio Fulci has stepped up and fast become one of my favorite directors. With that said, I have not seen nearly enough of his films and that is something that really needs to be rectified. The good thing is that this Halloween season has been kind to me and I have been able to scratch a couple more titles of the list. One of the newly seen is the lackluster, but not terrible, Aenigma. The other is the movie at hand, The Psychic, also known as Sette note in nero. I saw it projected at a drive in (DVD, sadly not 35mm, but was still fun) and really enjoyed it.

The Psychic is as different from the movies that made me love Fulci as it is similar. This film came on the heels of his early thriller output like Don't Torture a Duckling and A Lizard in a Woman's Skin and before his gore epics like Zombi 2 and The Beyond. It is a movie serving as a fulcrum between the two styles, playing up the mystery and the terror, while not being all that much of a gore film. It is an artfully staged tale that has an effective cumulative effect that will leave a mark. No, it is not the fastest paced of films and no, it is not all that bloody, but it has that distinct Fulci look.

As the movie begins, we see a young girl have a vision of a woman who drives to the edge of a cliff, walks over to it, and jumps to her death. It is one of the most graphic moments of the film, the woman scrapes the cliff side as she falls, the rock wall ripping away at her face. It is revealed the the woman is the young girl's mother and she committed suicide. The girl did not witness it, but she is plagued with psychic visions, and this sets up the meat of our tale.

Virginia (Jennifer O'Neill) recently married an Italian man, Francesco (Gianni Garko), and has moved to Italy with him and she has decided she is going to renovate his old family home, which has stood uninhabited for a number of years. As Virginia drives there, she has a vision of a murdered woman, a mustachioed man with a limp, and a broken mirror. The vision ties in with a room in the house. She breaks down a wall in the bedroom and uncovers the skeleton of a dead woman. What follows next, no one could predict.

Well, maybe they could. It seems no one believes what Virginia saw, not even her husband who writes them off as silly hallucinations. It is up to her and the few who have faith in her to uncover the mystery of her vision and uncover the murderer. It is a pretty interesting journey as the clues are uncovered and the bigger picture begins to take shape. It shows that not everything is as it seems and while a psychic vision may appear to show all the pieces in order, this is far from the case. It is more like a picture book, where the pictures have all been ripped out and put back in the wrong order.

Yes, there is a little silliness here, but Fulci has a fascinating vision. He is interested in the look of the shot, the way a movie is told visually, not necessarily through strict narrative. That is one of the things I love about his films, even when set in the “real” world, there is a distinct atmosphere of the surreal to be delved into. This movie shows him applying his eye for the surreal to one of the more straightforward tales I have seen from him as well as showing he can bring a group of interesting characters to the screen without a reliance on gore (although he does that very well).

The Psychic as featured a seven note melody that gets stuck in your head and was so familiar to me, it took awhile to figure it out, but then it came to me. Quentin Tarantino used the piece in Kill Bill. Drove me nuts that one.

Highly Recommended.

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