Directed By: Robert Wise
Screenplay By: Frank De Felitta
Based on the novel by Frank De Felitta
Produced By: Frank De Felitta, Joe Wizan
Cast: Marsha Mason, John Beck, Susan Swift, Anthony Hopkins
MPAA Rating: PG
Runtime: 113 minutes
Review Date: September 24, 2010
Audrey Rose opens with an odious, dank long take that is stunning in its profound simplicity. With only the sound of rain berating the windshield, we accompany a wife and daughter as they perish in a vicious car accident. The take begins with a POV shot from the passenger seat, looking out onto the highway until a car coming from the opposite direction careens into them. Then we find their overturned car in a ditch as it “gingerly” catches fire. No urgency or expedited action. Just the slow burn of what should have been the start to an intriguing little thriller. Unfortunately, this opening sequence is easily the strongest moment in the film. That is solely because this moment lacks any context.
I generally don’t start reviews with specific shots because it doesn’t offer the reader much insight to the substance and depth of the film at hand. Robert Wise’s film, as intriguing as it sounds on the surface, is really an old-fashioned thriller shot with sincerity and thought. This opening shot only proves that, as its sudden transition from calm to tragedy occurs as it would in real life: instantaneously. No dramatic accents accompany the scene, but that’s precisely why it works. The rest of the film, however, abandons this effective method. It instead chooses Hollywood preachiness, treading on a thinly-iced lake of pretentiousness.
John Beck and Marsha Mason star as Mr. and Mrs. Templeton, parents to their disturbed daughter Ivy (Susan Swift). They are loving parents who are concerned with the problem that afflicts their daughter. Ivy has been having nightmares as of late, and they only increased in severity when the peculiar Mr. Hoover (Anthony Hopkins) entered their lives. The Templeton’s do not trust Mr. Hoover nor do they like him. Mr. Hoover believes his deceased daughter’s soul has entered Ivy’s and that this is the origin of her nightmares. It’s a pretty rote set up, but nonetheless an intriguing premise even though it’s flagrantly reminiscent of William Friedkin’s far superior The Exorcist. However, the lack of an omnipotent evil only lessens the severity of Ivy’s predicament. She is merely trapped by the soul of Mr. Hoover’s dead daughter, an innocent girl who tried to escape the crash and burn accident that started the film.
While this story lacks the oomph that The Exorcist had, it only becomes worse when the proceedings devolve into a court case about the preeminence of philosophy and reincarnation in law. The Templetons eventually file a lawsuit against Mr. Hoover, and he brings in a Hindu priest to back his claims. Get real. The film becomes laughably bad at this point, and completely eviscerates the little tension it garnered from its first act.
There are many themes that are touched upon in Audrey Rose: Possession, reincarnation, voyeurism, marital strain, parental neglect, and death. All of these are clearly elucidated, but are never discussed with much depth. It leaves the film feeling void of interpretation, and worse, entertainment.
Kyle Kogan is a film critic living in Chicago.