Dark Sky Films // 1972 // 90 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // August 30th, 2006
From the vaults of three-decade Brit horror comes a tale of betrayal, deception and supernatural sexual assault
This Amicus film tells the story of a newly married couple, Charles (Ian Ogilvy) and Catherine (Stephanie Beacham) Fengriffen, as they move into the family estate to start a life full of making out fully clothed. But it isn't long until crazy crap starts going down. One night, Catherine is besieged by a supernatural (?) presence and raped. From that traumatic moment on, she starts seeing horrifying visions of an old man with his eyes cut out, staring at her through the window, a disembodied hand, and paintings that seem to come alive with demonic presences.
Feeling helpless, Charles calls in Dr. Whittle (Patrick Magee) to get a diagnosis. The good doctor quickly realizes that Catherine's issues are far more involved than he is capable of treating, so he calls in the big gun: Dr. Pope (Peter Cushing), a renowned psychologist, driven by logic.
Meanwhile, everyone suspects that the weirdo farmhand may be involved somehow, as he continually makes veiled threats. Sorting out the mess will leads Pope and the Fengriffins into the heart of a dastardly deed that happened years ago, and set off the chain of terrifying events that has befallen the couple.
I'll confess, I'm not the biggest fan of these Hammer and Amicus movies. I can objectively see the value in them, recognize the impressive set and costume design, give props to the thespians who are able lend some credibility to a film titled Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell, and all that, but odds are 500,000 to 1 I won't be curling up with a Peter Cushing-helmed period piece unless aid period happened a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.
So there you have it, full disclosure. If you Brit horror fans wish to turn down your noses at this Cro-Magnon reviewer, so be it. However, before you remove the site from your bookmarks, let me offer this in my defense: I kinda liked And Now the Screaming Starts. I don't know where it ranks on Amicus fans' top 10 lists, but it worked for me.
It's not a particularly scary movie, and the chills are much more implied than revealed. For example, this film is dependent on the concept of rape, and two such assaults happen during the runtime: one is at the beginning when Catherine is violated by the presumed ghost, and the second happens in a flashback. Both scenes are key to the story, but are (thankfully) not shown in great detail. The rapes themselves are disturbing, mainly because of what they are, but there's nothing remotely graphic shown onscreen.
Shocking images aren't the bread of butter of this film anyway, as the heaviest duty stuff you'll see are quick cuts to an old man with bloody eye sockets. There's a hint of "jump scene" to be found within these quick cuts, but by today's blood-soaked horror standards, it's all pretty tame. Oh, there's also a detached hand that crawls around a bit, but the effects render it more laughable to horrifying.
What the film has in its corner, though, is a combination of strong performances and a solid story. Stephanie Beacham shoulders the largest amount of the dramatic load, and does well in her slow descent into mental torture, and, as a bonus, is smoking hot in that early uptight 19th century British kind of way. Cushing, a mainstay in these films, carries himself with the usual regality. The plot is twist-heavy, and banks a lot of its punch on the big reveal at the end, which, while satisfying, is hugely predictable. Still, not a bad venture and a movie-watching experience I didn't loathe.
Good treatment from Dark Sky Films: 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and a 2.0 mono technical treatment, supplemented by two commentary tracks, featuring director Roy Ward Baker and Stephanie Beacham on one and Ian Ogilvy on the other.
It won't keep you up at night, but this Amicus offering should keep you engaged.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Dark Sky Films
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 1972
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Director and Actors Commentary
* Still Gallery