The ’70s supernatural-cinema boom produced a number of provocative films that were more thoughtful than horrifying, and Audrey Rose is a good example. Adapted by Frank De Felitta from his own novel, the story concerns haunted Englishman Elliot Hoover (Anthony Hopkins), who believes a 10-year-old girl living in New York is the reincarnation of his daughter, who died in a horrific car accident. Hoover’s obsession with the girl, Ivy Templeton (Susan Swift), traumatizes her parents, Janice (Marsha Mason) and Bill (John Beck). Complicating matters is the fact that Ivy keeps having seizures, creating the impression that she’s “reliving” Audrey’s death. While this might sound like a solid setup for a creepshow, the filmmakers have larger ambitions. Veteran director Robert Wise, whose résumé includes the restrained fright classic The Haunting (1963), methodically follows the story through a lengthy court trial and an epic hypnosis sequence, eschewing cheap jolts for intense discussions about the comparative values of eastern and western spirituality. So while the movie is mostly a bust as a thriller, it’s interesting as an existential conversation piece. Mason is touchingly fraught as a mother in an impossible situation; her reaction shots during the hypnosis scene are especially potent. Hopkins’ performance veers into strange directions, with flitting hand gestures and overly musical line deliveries, so it’s hard to determine whether he succeeded at creating something otherworldly or failed at creating something believable. Either way, he’s oddly entertaining. Beck is his usual stolid presence, supporting Mason without calling much attention to himself, and Swift is okay, doing a Linda Blair-lite routine. Slow and long but generally interesting, Audrey Rose gets points for trying to do something out of the ordinary.
Audrey Rose: FUNKY