We here at Screen Relish love a good horror movie. So much so, we’ve decided every Saturday to bring you a retrospective look back at perhaps some of those genre entries that have been underrated, unfairly forgotten, missed and abandoned or just so damn good that we needed to scream it from the rooftops. Today’s title is…
It’s a bold move to begin a suspenseful film with its most harrowing scene. Donald Sutherland rushing to fish the lifeless, blood-red-coated body of his young daughter out of his stately home pond in Nic Roeg’s DON’T LOOK NOW is as horrific and haunting as anything captured on celluloid. The pain in his expression hammering home the heartache well before we know anything about the characters. Right there, we’re hooked!
That striking imagery stays with you, right through the film’s labyrinthine mystery, and that’s all purposeful on the legendary English auteur’s part. His adaptation of Daphne Du Maurier’s sinister story coming full circle with its shocking conclusion, and in turn crafting one of horror’s greatest ever final scenes.
Following such a powerful opening, we see grieving married couple John and Laura Baxter (Sutherland and Julie Christie), head to Venice in attempt to come to terms with their trauma. It’s here where they soon encounter two elderly sisters, one of whom claims to be psychic. While Laura appears intrigued at the insistence that this woman is in contact with the spirit of the Baxters’ dead daughter, and with that a warning from the beyond, a skeptical John brushes it off as hogwash. That is until he begins seeing visions of a child-like figure walking the Venice streets in the unmistakable red cloak she wore on that fateful day.
Arriving in the same year as William Friedkin’s THE EXORCIST, and playing as part of a double-bill with Robin Hardy’s THE WICKER MAN on its UK release, 1973 proved to be a real highlight in horror. While Linda Blair’s head-spinning exploits would reign supreme at the box-office and Oscar nominations, thanks in part to William Peter Blatty’s blockbuster novel already in the public consciousness, Roeg’s DON’T LOOK NOW goes for a more subtle and paranoid approach in attempting chills.
The film impressed the original author Du Maurier so much that she sent Roeg a personal thank you for delivering on her source. It’s a deeply dread-filled story which creeps under the skin and stays there. Despite its main American cast, DON’T LOOK NOW is has a distinctively European flavour and its gothic atmosphere builds to the point of awe. A unique and cautionary tale of tragedy, grief and superstition, DON’T LOOK NOW is as artful as horror gets.
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