FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

May 8, 2006

Ghost Week Day 1: Dominique

The 1978 supernatural thriller Dominique feels like an old, comfy sweater to me. It draws heavily upon the "comeuppance"-style stories of the old EC Comics to create a tale of revenge from beyond the grave by a spirit done wrong- a story we've all seen a million times. If you've ever watched or read Tales from the Crypt (or an episode of Scooby-Doo, for that matter), you'll know what's coming from miles away. Your reaction to Dominique would most likely hinge on how you feel about those kinds of plots; personally, I dig those types of stories immensely, for whatever reason. Maybe it's because I get to put my Nancy Drew hat on and solve the mystery while enjoying a few scares along the way.

Poor wealthy socialite Dominique (screen legend Jean Simmons). Ever since she fell down the stairs a year ago, she's been...not quite the same. In fact, she may even be going mad! She can't remember things like arguing with- and consequently firing- the chauffeur. At a party, a diamond brooch belonging to one of Dominique's friends ends up on one of Dominique's dresses- in the closet! And the klepto hostess doesn't recall stealing it! She hears voices, sees ghosts, and seems to be getting progressively worse, all to the dismay of her ice cold husband, the mustachioed David (Cliff Robertson of Spider-Man). After an encounter with a skeleton hanging from a noose in the conservatory, Dominique blames David for staging all of the bizarre events- she claims he's trying to drive her mad. Surprisingly (that's sarcastic, folks), he denies this, so Dominique goes to the new chauffeur Tony for help. He regretfully turns her down for fear of losing his job.

Dominique can't take the strain and soon ends up like that ol' skeleton, hanging by her neck in the conservatory.

Not long after she's buried, David begins to experience some odd occurrences...the piano plays Dominique's favorite tune, he hears her voice whispering his name, he hears footsteps, and he repeatedly sees her ghostly figure shuffling down the hallway leading from the site of her death.

A woman in black begins to follow him around, even during the day, planting herself outside of his office, staring up at him. Is that Dominique's face hidden in the robes? Oooo-eeee-ooooo!

David gets a call from the superintendent of the graveyard, letting him know there's been a delivery, of sorts, in the night. He heads down to Dominique's grave to see new his-n-hers headstones in place- the one marked DAVID listing his death as "SOON". Not cool! Later, he receives a letter- from Dominique!- that states ever-so-politely, "Looking forward to your joining me on October 25th". That's in a few days, and that's really not cool.

As you may have guessed, now it's David's turn to go mad. Convinced that she's not really dead, David pays Tony the chauffeur to dig up Dominique's body. When they pry open the coffin lid, there's nothing but stones inside. A-ha! David admits to Tony that yes, he was trying to drive his wife crazy (for the money, of course), and now it seems the tables have turned. The next day David demands an official exhumation to prove to the police (and everyone) that Dominique is still alive and trying to do him harm. When the coffin is opened this time, however, his dearly departed is lying there, dearly departed.

At long last the night of the 25th arrives, and here comes Dominique doing her undead shuffle bit down the hallway...only this time, she's wielding a straight-razor! David, scared out of his mind, ends up going out a window and right through the conservatory roof. He dies where his wife died- eat them just desserts, David, you greedy bastard!

I don't want to give away the twists and more twists ending, but like I said early on- Dominique is very reminiscent of the stories you'd find in an episode of Scooby-Doo. You can most likely figure it out what happens from that clue, Velma. Figuring out what's really going on in this type of thriller is where you'll find the joy in them- although there are some good creepy sequences as well. The loud, echoing click of the ghostly Dominique's heels as she limps down the hallway sent a chill down my spine, as did the slow creeeeaaaak of the rope in the conservatory as various bodies swing back and forth.

is very "1978" in that the pace is fairly methodical, even plodding at times; I can't imagine that it would be made today, what with the young'uns short attention spans and all. It's quiet, it's slow, it's old-fashioned...but this is the kind of movie that makes Ye Olde Final Girl happy.


Anonymous said...

I LOVE '70s ghost flicks! For some reason, most all horror from the '70s rules.

The Retropolitan said...

At any point in the movie does he say "With great power comes great responsibility..."? 'Cause if not, then this movie is DEAD TO ME.

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen this yet, but will make a note of doing so. I just love this kind of stuff.

As I advance further and further into my curmudgeonhood, I find I enjoy contemporary horror less and less. It seems that, ever since the 80s, it has just been a collection of gore effects set-pieces and cliched characters. Where are the stories in all this slop? Where are the directors like George Romero and David Cronenberg, both of whom could wed gruesome set pieces with a reasonably solid story? Even more important, where are the directors that invoke dread and suspense through mood, atmosphere, and good, old-fashioned storytelling skill? Where is the contemporary answer to Terence Fisher and Jacques Tourneur?

Christopher Gans comes to mind. Perhaps that guy who directed The Descent? John Carpenter was doing well, but he hasn't come close to even touching the coattails of his hot streak since In the Mouth of Madness, which I consider the last truly solid movie he's done.

Maybe it's just me. Maybe I'm just getting old and irrelevant. Demographically speaking, that is.

Stacie Ponder said...

I'm totally with you, Chadwick. And yes, I feel like an old fart sometimes, but I'm so out of touch with kids these days and their tastes...then again, shock for shock's sake has never really appealed to me.