Friday, October 23, 2015


Sheila (Cathy O'Donnell) has spent a few years in a Swiss sanitarium as a TB patient, but she's healthy and ready to move back to the States with her new husband Philip (Gerald Mohr) whom she married after a whirlwind courtship. The only problem: she's obsessing about a recurring dream in which walks into a house, goes up the stairs, sees a creepy-looking door, and freaks out. Her analyst tells her it's probably a sign of some buried memory from her past and basically says, don't worry. In Florida, Sheila is understandably upset when Philip pulls up to the house he's rented for them and it's the exact same house from her dream, right down to the creepy door. There's a strange caretaker named Jonah (John Qualen) who isn't expecting them and really wants them to leave, which Sheila is happy to do, but Philip insists they must stay if she is to overcome her fear of the dream. That night when she sees a hideous face peering in her window, she insists on leaving, but Philip can't get the car started—he tells her that Jonah must have disabled it. But why would he do that when he wanted them to get out in the first place? Then she finds the car’s distributor cap in Philip's bag. Then Mark (William Ching), the property owner, shows up. He knows Philip from the past, but their connection is vague. Clearly everyone is keeping some secrets from Sheila, but who is friend and who is foe?

I've had a vivid memory of this movie in my head for years—I saw it on Chiller Theater when I was 8 or 9—but could never come up with the title. So I was pleased to finally find the right movie. Then I made the mistake of watching it. After the moderately atmospheric opening ten minutes, the whole thing goes downhill fast. Among the problems: indifferent acting by the leads—O'Donnell is flat-out terrible, Mohr (pictured with O'Donnell) is boring; a confusing script which artificially and unnaturally omits and then reveals information as needed to keep some sense of tension; dreadful lighting and cheap sets devoid of atmosphere—the old dark house is really a brightly-lit, cozy house of fairly recent vintage, despite everyone saying how old it is (it looks like a 60s sit-com house); truly awful day-for-night shooting. The only pluses: William Ching gives a decent performance in an "is he good or is he evil?" role, and the plot swerves from GASLIGHT territory into something different. If only the scripting had been tighter, or the acting better, or the direction more inspired. There is a germ of a good idea here, but the movie crashes and burns long before the finale. [YouTube]

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