An Italian film that merely happens to star an American actress, The Psychic hit U.S. screens in 1979, two years after it played in Italy under its original title, Sette note in nero (translation: Seven Notes in Black). Featuring a mystery/thriller story with elements of supernatural horror, the picture belongs to the loose genre of giallo films, so it’s a cousin to the creepy work of Dario Argento. Alas, the director of this picture, Lucio Fulci, never rose to the same level of international notoriety as Argento, and with good reason; while The Psychic has some gruesome moments, the overall experience is dull. After a zippy opening scene of a young girl psychically “seeing” her mother’s death while it happens in another country, the movie slips into a turgid storyline about American decorator Virginia Ducci (Jennifer O’Neill) getting embroiled with a murder. Virginia, of course, was the little girl in the prologue, and now her gift has resurfaced, because she “sees” a new killing. Reporting her vision to the authorities causes Virginia’s Italian husband to become a suspect, so she spends the rest of the movie following clues from her visions in order to find the truth. Without giving away the movie’s big secret, it’s sufficient to say that the final twist is a dark surprise of which Edgar Allen Poe would have been proud. Unfortunately, the road the movie travels in order to reach that destination is boring as hell, and even the ending is stretched out in such a way that excitement and suspense are neutralized. Like many of his peers in ’70s Italian cinema, Fulci relies on distracting gimmicks, such as sharp musical stings and sudden camera zooms, and he also spends far too much time lingering on O’Neill’s features, perhaps assuming that viewers will imbue her beautiful face with a world of meaning that O’Neill is unable to convey through her weak acting. Giallo fans may find much to enjoy here, thanks to long purely visual sequences and a cryptic storytelling style that vaguely recalls Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now (1973). Casual viewers, however, are likely to lose interest way before Fulci’s film finds its mojo.
The Psychic: LAME