Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Fury (1978)

          Apparently hopeful that lighting would strike twice in terms of creative inspiration and box-office returns, director Brian De Palma followed up his breakthrough movie, the 1976 supernatural shocker Carrie, with another horror flick about killer psychics. Yet while The Fury has bigger stars and glossier production values than its predecessor, it’s so far-fetched and gruesome that it lacks anything resembling the emotional gut-punch of Carrie. That’s not to say The Fury is devoid of entertainment value—it’s just that De Palma badly overreached in his attempt to blend elements of the conspiracy, horror, and supernatural genres into a sensationalistic new hybrid. Written for the screen by John Farris, who adapted his own novel, the convoluted movie pits former friends Ben (John Cassavetes) and Peter (Kirk Douglas) against each other. They’re both secret-agent types, and Ben is exploring the possible use of psychics as trained killers. One of Ben’s star pupils is Peter’s adult son, Robin (Andrew Stevens), although Ben expects even greater things from Gillian (Amy Irving), a gifted but troubled woman Robin’s age.
          You can probably guess where this goes—the young psychics fall in love even as they realize they’re being manipulated, Peter tries to rescue his son, and corpses hit the floor when the psychics get pushed too far.
          This being a De Palma picture, one is unwise to expect restraint on the part of the filmmaker, and, indeed, the movie’s finale involves a human body exploding. Moreover, despite the sophisticated contributions of cinematographer Richard H. Kline and composer John Williams, nearly every scene in The Fury ends with the cinematic equivalent of an exclamation point. Hell, the picture even features two performances (provided by Douglas and Stevens) distinguished by actors indicating intensity by flaring their nostrils. Regarding the other leads, Cassavetes sleepwalks through a paycheck gig as per the norm, and Irving elevates her scenes with the delicate sensitivity that distinguishes most of her work. None of the major performances is particularly good, per se, but each is lively in a different way, so at least De Palma achieves a certain overcaffeinated tonal consistency. Considering its assertive direction, colorful cast, and outlandish storyline, The Fury should be memorable in a comic-book sort of way, but ultimately, the picture is as anonymous as the silhouetted models featured on the poster—instead of delivering unique jolts, it’s Carrie Lite.

The Fury: FUNKY

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