Judge Lacey Worrell examines the thrilling case of yet another film psychiatrist whose lack of professional detachment puts her in harm's way.
Deception. Betrayal. Seduction. Murder. Her life depends on every word.
Whispers in the Dark strives for a Basic Instinct-esque sexual tension and achieves it…about a quarter of the time. The rest of the film is filled with too many coincidences. I mean, how many times can you actually run into the same people in a city as big as New York?
Ann (Annabella Sciorra, The Hand That Rocks the Cradle) is a psychiatrist with some scarier-than-usual patients. There is the sadist, played by John Leguizamo (Ice Age), who lives for torturing women with lit cigarettes. Then there is a female client of Ann's who has sexual fantasies about her and is obsessed with bondage. Ann has also become involved with a sexy pilot who harbors a few secrets of his own. When one of Ann's patients dies violently and the lead investigating detective (Anthony LaPaglia, Without a Trace) suspects Ann or someone around her, she is left with no one to trust but her mentor from medical school and his wife (Alan Alda, M*A*S*H*, and Jill Clayburgh, Fools Rush In).
This film is worth a look, although it is uneven at best. Its blatant attempt at a sexual tone is distracting; more interesting is Ann's relationship with her patients and her own neuroses. Her inability to trust her new lover as well as her wariness of the lead detective is far more compelling than her patients' insatiable desire to degrade either themselves or others.
As is the case for most films that feature a mental health professional (see Antwone Fisher, The Prince of Tides, and Final Analysis for more evidence of this point), Ann's involvement with her patients goes far beyond the boundaries of professionalism and good judgment. As someone who works in the field myself, I can safely say that seeing a disturbed person outside of the relative safety of the therapeutic setting is not exactly a good idea, even if the person is not considered particularly dangerous. Many a Hollywood plotline would be derailed by this kind of sound judgment, however, which is why in films therapists and psychiatrists are often portrayed as sleeping with patients, following them around darkened city streets, or visiting them at their homes.
One of the strengths of Whispers in the Dark is its use of signature New York locations, such as the Tavern on the Green, as well as many beautiful aerial shots of the city. Annabella Sciorra has always been a strong actress…just check her out in The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, a movie that could have quite handily been stolen out from under her by Rebecca DeMornay's juicier, sexier, part, but Sciorra holds her own in that film as well as this one. Alan Alda is the picture of fatherly concern and does his usual stellar work, but Jill Clayburgh is underused as his wife. She is given little more to do than sit in the background and observe. John Leguizamo is terrifyingly effective as Ann's sadistic patient, especially in one heart-pounding scene.
An obvious drawback of this release is the dearth of special features. In this day and age it is not sufficient for a studio like Paramount to call basic facts about picture and sound "special features," as is the case on this DVD's packaging. This may not have been a big enough film to warrant a featurette or audio commentary, but technical specs will never, in my opinion, count as special features. That being said, the picture and sound quality are quite good; the colors are sharp and bright, and the sound quality, especially during the action sequences, adds a great deal to the overall experience.
The breathtaking twist ending makes Whispers in the Dark worth sitting through. Even though I knew the ending, having sat through the film in its initial theatrical release, watching it on DVD was equally suspenseful and shocking. Finding out the real perpetrator of the crime(s) is satisfying and surprising—and difficult to guess until very close to the end.
Whispers in the Dark is perfect for a rental on a Saturday night in. When one considers the glut of suspense films that came out of the early '90s, this is one of the better ones.
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