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!

Oct 3, 2009

Day 3: "Death is not the end to life."

Audrey Rose (1977) is a film that's long been in my brain. From the undeniably creepy poster art to that time in art school when I was talking horror movies with a classmate and she told me she that the most terrifying film she'd ever seen like, ever, was Audrey Rose...well, it was always a film I had to see. My art school days, however, were the days before The Internet (yes, there was a time before The Internet) and DVDs; this little movie was difficult to find and so I relegated it to "I'll get around to it" status and that was that. After I began Final Girl in earnest and started really diving into the world of horror movies, reading about them and researching them and really just enveloping myself in them, I never forgot about Audrey Rose. It was still a fairly rare film, despite the advent of DVD, and I found it odd that no one seemed to talk about it much, given that that one girl that one time assured me it was pee-your-pants terrifying. So it was glee- glee, I tells ya- that I was feeling when I found a megacheap VHS copy recently. What's the verdict after all these years of searching and waiting?

Umm, if Art School Girl found Audrey Rose to be the most horrifying film in the history of ever, then her head would surely explode within 10 seconds of watching It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. That's not to say it's a bad movie, but to my great disappointment, this isn't some lost classic unknown sleeper gem that everyone should see right this very second. If anything, it's more drama than horror- which is fine and all, but it's not what I was expecting...and everything should be exactly as I expect forever and ever!

Audrey Rose begins with a fiery car crash on a rain-slicked road in Pennsylvania, then quickly jumps to Manhattan eleven years later. A man in full-on weirdo beard mode (Anthony Hopkins) engages in some lite stalking of the Templeton family: he follows dad Bill (John Beck) to work, he waits outside the school where mom Janice (Marsha Mason) picks up daughter Ivy (Susan Swift)...he never engages the family, but he's always lurking in corners.

Weirdo Beardo isn't the only problem facing this happy little family, however: as Ivy's birthday approaches, she becomes increasingly plagued with nightmares she cannot remember upon waking.

Eventually Weirdo Beardo contacts the Templetons and explains why he's been passively harassing them: his name is Elliot Hoover, and eleven years prior he lost his wife and daughter Audrey Rose in that fiery car accident. After years of talking with psychics and delving into Indian mysticism, Hoover became convinced that his daughter was reincarnated; what's more, he believes that Audrey Rose's soul resides within Ivy, who was born two minutes after Audrey Rose died. Ivy's nightmares are the result of her soul wrestling with its dual nature. Bill and Janice are skeptical, but when Hoover calms Ivy's sleep-yelling by calling her "Audrey Rose", Janice begins to have her doubts.

Then begins a cycle:

- Ivy has a nightmare
- Bill is either absent (working late) or simply can't calm the girl down
- Hoover is present and can calm the girl
- Bill and Janice argue over what's happening and what should be done about it

...repeat, repeat. Oddly enough, Audrey Rose becomes a courtroom drama towards the end, wherein the possibilities of reincarnation are discussed- what rights does Hoover have if Ivy has a piece of Audrey Rose's soul lurking within her? There's a bit of science vs religion that ultimately results in an ending that's supposed to be uplifting, I suppose, but really isn't.

Don't get me wrong- Audrey Rose isn't a terrible film. It raises plenty of questions (though it falls squarely on the pro-reincarnation side of things) and provides lots of food for thought. The entire affair is helmed by the venerable Robert Wise (The Haunting), so to call it competent filmmaking is a bit of an understatement. It's bolstered by some fine performances, particularly from Marsha Mason (this is really her film, after all) and Susan Swift, who's largely given the thankless task of screaming and whining ad nauseum. Anthony Hopkins is serviceable, though he manages to be simultaneously dead-eyed and twitchy as a man fighting to save his dead daughter's soul. I even managed to overcome my deep and abiding loathing of John Beck, who appeared on Dallas as Mark Graison, a guy who I suppose was nice enough but totally came between Pam and Bobby solely due to creepy, wealthy persistence.

No, the problem with Audrey Rose is that it's been miscategorized for decades, largely in my head. The Exorcism of Emily Rose comes to mind as a descendant, though that film is far more flashy and horrifying than its predecessor. In short, it's worth a watch on a rainy Sunday afternoon, perhaps, but take it from me: don't let it haunt your brain!


Viking Wolf Woman said...

You've confirmed what I've suspected - and what's kept me from buying this film on DVD- that it would not live up to how much it scared me as a kid.

Somehow the trailer made it on to the coming attractions at the Drive-In one summer and first I was terrorized by that- I remember one particular scene with her walking towards a large bonfire? then I saw the movie on TV a few years later and I watched it with my mom- scared out of my wits. I suppose seeing another kid having nightmares over and over was enough to scare another kid.

Based on your recommendation, I'll pass on adding it to my collection and check it out if I happen upon it on cable.

BTW, Hammer Glamour arrived this week - unlike Audrey Rose, the book ROCKS just as much as I thought it would!


It may be in the very small company of weirdest films ever by major directors and with major actors (Southland Tales, which I just saw last night, is another.)

The ending infuriated me! It was akin to seeing a little girl with a legit medical condition that's taken to spiritual quacks instead. I kept waiting for the film to reconcile with the fact all of thee people were wrong and, by being so, we standing in the way of this poor little girl getting legit medical care. But, no, the films really seems to believe what it's characters are selling. Chilling. It plays like a cult recruitment film.

Fabsta said...

I saw Audrey Rose for the first time last year after my mom saw an old VHS in a video store and was reminded of when she saw it in theaters as a teen and recommended it to me. And I actually really liked it a lot. In fact, I liked it so much, I ordered used copies of the out-of-print book and it's sequel by Frank De Felitta (director of Dark Night Of The Scarecrow...weird, huh?). I haven't read them yet, though. I'm kinda curious to see where the sequel takes the story.

But anyway, I thought the movie was incredibly sad and yes, I actually did find it to be kinda creepy. Whenever Ivy would have those frantic episodes with all that screaming and crying, it gave me some serious chills.

Side note...Did you know Susan Swift was that midwife at the very beginning of Halloween 6 who gets her head shoved onto a random spike on the wall? Or am I the only loser who notices these things? lol

Stacie Ponder said...

I knew it was based on a book, but I didn't know there was a sequel. I'm gonna have to check that out!

Don't get me wrong, I did enjoy this movie quite a bit- it just wasn't what I thought it was going to be based on what others told me and what I made up in my head...none of which is the movie's fault, of course.

And I saw on her imdb listing that Swift was in H6, but her character name didn't ring any bells- thanks for clarifying so I don't have to watch that movie again! :D

Unknown said...

You mentioned every actor/actress in it except for...Anthony Hopkins, the only one really worth mentioning.

For shame! I mean, yeah, okay, he also was in Magic which was awful, but that should hardly give him "he who should not be named" status, especially after Silence of the Lambs. "Weirdo Beardo"? That's really all you had for him?

Stacie Ponder said...

Jason, that was an oversight. Thanks for pointing it out.

Honestly, I found his performance a little twitchy, but yeah, he should be mentioned for sure.

Robert H. said...

You'd probably have better memories of John Beck if you'd seen him in ROLLERBALL (the good version, w/James Caan) and THE BIG BUS, before seeing him in DALLAS

Sam Costello said...

I'm with you Stacie - not a great movie, but OK, funnish.

However, more fun, is constantly saying "Audrey - Audrey Rose" in a posh accent to my friends who have seen the movie. That never gets old.

Except, maybe for my friends.

Bloody Mary said...

I would recommend this movie to 8-year-old girls! Preferably in the 70s! Yeah, if you missed seeing it as a little girl, you missed out on the horror. It really was terrifying to see a girl your own age killed in a car crash, and burning her hands on a cold window, and calling out to her daddy while trapped in the body of another girl...being presented with the notion that any of those things could happen blew my little mind. (Similar to discovering Baby Jesus would not be all that effective in protecting you from being possessed by a demon in The Exorcist.) Now, it's exceedingly tame in comparison.

deadlydolls said...

Yup, I also always assumed this was horrific tale of ghostly happenings. It's totally not. Good film and occasionally creepy, but really more a drama about reincarnation than anything else.