Monday, January 23, 2017

The Premonition (1976)

          A bad movie that contains so many interesting things it almost becomes a good movie, The Premonition tells the strange story of a psychotic woman who teams up with her carnival-clown boyfriend to kidnap her biological daughter from the child’s adoptive parents. Oh, and the parents use paranormal means to find the missing child. The first half of the premise is emotional, the second half of the premise is bizarre, and the pieces don’t fit together at all. Worse, The Premonition unfolds like a horror movie, complete with bloody murders and disturbing comin’-at-ya moments. By most rational standards, The Premonition is a mess, too touchy-feely for the shock-cinema crowd, and too gruesome for conventional audiences. Yet it’s exactly that peculiar mixture of elements that makes the picture arresting. Calling The Premonition a noble failure might require giving the filmmakers way too much credit, but the film occupies an odd middle ground between arthouse pretentiousness and grindhouse sensationalism.
          It also helps that The Premonition features the unusual character actor Richard Lynch. Whereas he usually played tough-talking villains, Lynch gets to add surprising flourishes, including a touch of interpretive dance, to his portrayal of an unhinged carny. Like other aspects of The Premonition, his performance isn’t good so much as it’s peculiar. As with the movie itself, the less the performance “works,” the more watchable it becomes. The broad strokes of the plot are as follows. Andrea (Ellen Barber) seems weirdly preoccupied with a young girl named Janie (Danielle Brisebois), so she asks her boyfriend, Jude (Lynch), for help abducting the girl from Professor Miles Bennett (Edward Bell) and his wife, Sheri (Sharon Farrell). Turns out Andrea recently left a mental institution, and the Bennetts became Janie’s guardians when the government deemed Andrea an unfit mother. After the abduction, Miles seeks help from his colleague, Dr. Jeena Kingsly (Chitra Neogy), an expert on precognition, telepathy, and the like. Never mind that police detective Mark Denver (Jeff Corey) is on the case.
          Director Robert Allen Schnitzer tries to create dreamlike images on the cheap, so some scenes have the desired ethereal feel while others seem grungy because of focus problems and shoddy lighting. The sum effect, however, is suitably disorienting. Even lapses in story logic help create an eerie vibe, because it’s difficult to understand why certain things happen, and the climax is outlandish in the extreme. The Premonition isn’t fun to watch, partially because the subject matter is grim, and partially because Farrell plays the same hysterical note again and again throughout her grating performance. Still, it’s inexplicably difficult to look away while this one’s unspooling.

The Premonition: FUNKY

1 comment:

Steven Thompson said...

Manoshi Chitra Neogy is also one of the main villains in the unreleased 1973 picture, LET'S GO FOR BROKE. Her only other mainstream credit is as one of the students in TO SIR, WITH LOVE. She has gone on to become a real life Professor and an award-nominated filmmaker and author herself.