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Oct 21, 2014

October 2014 Horror Movie a Day - Day 20: AUDREY ROSE (1977)


Ever have that moment while watching a movie and you are into the story but then something happens in the plot that completely loses you? That happened to me with Audrey Rose.

Audrey Rose was directed by Robert Wise who also deirected West Side Story, The Sound of Music, Star Trek: The Motion Picture and the extremely scary The Haunting. It stars Marsha Mason, Anthony Hopkins, John Beck, Norman Lloyd, John Hillerman and Susan Swift. There is a wealth of talent here in front of and behind the camera.

I'll do this movie, just please don't put me through what you did to Linda Blair.
1970's horror took great pleasure in terrorizing little girls. Audrey Rose is obviously an attempt to capitalize on the success of The Exorcist. Here we have a PG almost 'family friendly' version of that story with a girl possessed not by a devil, but by the reincarnated soul of a dead girl. It is an intriguing concept, one that loses all credibility very quickly. Credibility you may ask? This is the genre of Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers being shot, stabbed, decapitated and they keep coming back for more. Read on and you'll see what I mean.

The picture opens with a nasty car accident then cuts to the happiest, most well-adjusted family unit you could ever possibly encounter. They ride bikes, joke, laugh, eat ice cream in the park - perfect! They live in a New York Penthouse with priceless works of art in the ceiling. He's a Madison Avenue two-martini-lunch Mad Man (John Beck) who spends a lot of time with clients leaving wife Marsha Mason to spend most of her time with daughter Ivy (Susan Swift).

Think of Audrey as the sister I never had..
Mason gets uneasy when she keeps seeing a stranger (Hopkins) hovering around their daughter's school, their apartment and Beck keeps seeing him everywhere as well - on the bus, in a store, in the elevator at his office. He hasn't made any dangerous moves so the police can't do a thing. Concurrently, their daughter has begun having strange and violent nightmares that keep reoccurring every year around her birthday and seem to be getting worse.

Finally Hopkins reaches out and tells them that his wife and daughter - named Audrey Rose - died in a horrific car accident just moments before Ivy was born. He goes on to reveal that at a party, a psychic told him that his daughter is still alive, and described Ivy and details about the family. At first he didn't believe it, but then he found Ivy and is convinced that she is Audrey Rose reincarnated. Beck and Mason get angry and tell Hopkins to leave them alone, but he won't. He keeps showing up wherever they are, calling and pestering. Beck's lawyer suggests they invite Hopkins over to their home so he can listen in on the conversation and come up with a way to legally keep Hopkins at bay. During the visit, Ivy has one of her nightmares, a particularly violent one where her hands seem to burn on a cold, glass window - just as Audrey Roses' did when the car flipped over and burned before she died. Now Hopkins is convinced, and calling out to 'Audrey' calms Ivy down. Beck is furious and rightfully throws him out of the apartment.

That's right, let the creepy obsessed guy near your daughter.
To say Hopkins is persistent is an understatement. He is unrelenting, and shows up just as Ivy has another violent, dream. He is starting to convince Mason that he may be right, but Beck is even more adamant that Hopkins go away. Another night, another Ivy attack, and when Hopkins shows up, he and Beck get into a violent fistfight in the hallway. Hopkins fends him off then locks himself in the apartment with Ivy. When the cops arrive, they discover that Hopkins has kidnapped Ivy. He has sublet an apartment in the building and is easily found. They confront him but Hopkins insists that Ivy is his daughter and that Beck and Mason are strangers to both of them. Finally relenting, Hopkins is arrested and Ivy is returned to her parents.

I can't believe you idiots haven't thrown the book at me yet.
Here is the point where the movie completely lost me. During Hopkin's court case, he takes the defense that his actions were reasonable because Ivy is really his daughter Audrey Rose. The movie turns into a dull courtroom drama with a crazy scene where they bring in a Hindu Holy Man arguing reincarnation as a thing (this is accompanied by strange stock footage of people in India). This whole sequence virtually grinds the movie to a halt. It looks as though Hopkins is about to lose - AS HE SHOULD because no right-minded jurist or judge should be taking any of this into account - until Mason hits the stand and backs up his claims. On the verge of winning, Beck makes a bargain to have Ivy hypnotized and age regressed to prove once and for all that she is not Audrey Rose. Finally the movie gets back on track for what is the best moment in the picture, an intense sequence of Ivy being taken back into her past.

Well Ivy, have the lambs stopped screaming?
Never for one moment in this picture was I supportive of Hopkins, and I don't think that we're supposed to be. Sure Ivy calms down whenever he's around speaking to Audrey within her, but he just keeps showing up and bothering this family when he really he has absolutely no right to. In 2014 they could have easily gotten a restraining order against him which would have been completely justified. When he argues the reincarnation in court, it is hard to believe the case makes it as far as it does. It's a joke! The judge, lawyer and jury should be more concerned for Hopkins sanity, and the safety of the little girl rather than hearing these ludicrous arguments. See, it lost credibility for me because this all takes place in the 'real world'. A court and judge are not affected by a Supernatural force and therefore not bound by the crazy rules of the picture. Remember in Bee Movie when the Jerry Seinfeld voiced bee took the human race to court over honey rights? Yes it was ludicrous, but it was also an animated movie so I could buy into it. Not so much here, and the speech by the Hindu Holy Man is incredibly heavy handed, even for this picture which already takes itself way too seriously.

Thanks for giving me the room that resembles a jail cell.
There are some great scary moments of Ivy slipping into Audrey mode and placing herself into danger. The violent nighttime attacks, as well as a moment where she almost dives into a fire during what is one of the strangest school recess activities I have ever seen. Although it also lost me because a Nun seeing the danger screams at the top of her lungs for what seems to be an eternity before anybody pays any attention to her. Of course Ivy goes to a Catholic school run by Nuns, the religious element adds to the overall tone of the story. Religion is one element that is in almost every horror movie.

Yes my eyes are creepy, and this is my normal look.
I found this movie to be a tough slog, although the performances are very good. They couldn't have picked a better Ivy than Susan Swift. She has huge bug-eyes that when she's being normal, she looks adorable. However, once she's in jeopardy or supernatural mode, they go wide and make her appear creepy.

For the entire movie I was on John Beck's side, demanding Hopkins going away and getting physically violent with him out of frustration. I don't think the picture wants me to do this. I think I was supposed to be with Mason as the mother torn between her fear of Hoover and love for her daughter. To me though, she let an unstable force into her family - even though it seemed that he was indeed right - where she should have done everything she could to keep him away.

Twilight Time just recently released this film on Blu-ray Disc, and it is also streaming on Netflix.