It would require someone more invested than me in the career of cinematic provocateur Oliver Stone to explain how the director’s first movie, Seizure, fits into a filmography that’s dominated by serious-minded dramas—because while Seizure certainly isn’t funny (at least not intentionally so), it’s a misguided, ridiculous mess. Seizure is ostensibly a horror film, complete with a few gory murder scenes and other shock-cinema signifiers (creepy musical score, knife-wielding psychos, morbid storyline). Yet Stone also tries for something more edifying, a probing journey into the torrid mental state of a doomed novelist (Jonathan Frid). Somehow, though, good intentions yield bad results, because Seizure is filled with laughable images: Picture a menacing little person (Hervé Villechaize) wearing some sort of court-jester costume while he knocks over normal-sized people with karate moves and goads a bikini-clad woman (Mary Woronov) through a knife fight with the aforementioned writer. And we haven’t even gotten to the Queen of Evil (Martine Beswick), an otherworldly temptress who slinks around with her cape draped across her outstretched arms, as if she’s channeling Bela Lugosi.
Had the underlying story been strong enough to support such extreme images, the picture might have worked. Similarly, the picture might have worked had Stone simply made every scene frightening. Alas, Seizure feels like several mediocre movies stitched together. The simplest level of the film involves Edmund Blackstone (Frid) inviting several weird friends to a weekend getaway in the country. The next level involves Edmund’s recurring dreams of three strange creatures—the Queen, the Jackal (Henry Judd Baker), and Spider (Villechaize)—who threaten to hurt Edmund and his loved ones. And still another level involves these creatures coming to life and causing bloody mayhem. Think Fellini crossed with Ed Wood, then add a dash of obnoxiously overwritten dialogue about destiny and the soul, and you’re close. One suspects this material meant a lot to Stone, at least as an artistic/intellectual exercise, because he co-wrote and co-edited the film, in addition to providing voices for supernatural characters, and one hopes he learned a great deal from the failure of this project about how to channel his obsessions more effectively. As a viewing experience, however, Seizure is uniquely unsatisfying.