Ivy Templeton (Susan Swift) is an eleven-year-old girl who lives in New York City with her parents Janice (Marsha Mason) and Bill (John Beck) but just lately she has been experiencing night terrors and her mother wonders what can be the matter. Could it be something to do with the strange man who has been hanging around recently? At first Janice didn't think much about him, but he has been getting closer to the Templetons, especially when she goes to pick up Ivy from school, so much so that she begins to wonder what he could possibly want?
After The Exorcist was such a big hit it was no surprise that other films turned up hoping to cash in, and Audrey Rose was one, placing a young girl in supernatural peril and having her parents worried sick as a result. This was nowhere near as extreme as the William Friedkin movie, and part of that would have been down to the presence of veteran director Robert Wise behind the camera, not a filmmaker known for swearing teenagers and green vomit. Therefore a more subtle approach appropriate to the man who brought us The Haunting was the order of the day, well, subtle until his child star began her screaming fits.
Indeed, many have found Swift's whiny voice more testing on the nerves than any suggestion of the paranormal, but she wasn't any more irritating that producer and writer Frank De Felitta, here adapting his own novel, and his insistence on beating us over the head with a lecture on how he believed the possibility of reincarnation as a very real phenomenon. Once that strange man reveals himself to be Elliot Hoover (brooding Anthony Hopkins), and his vested interest in the Templetons is that he believes Ivy to be carrying the soul of his deceased daughter Audrey Rose, this would apparently be all the excuse De Felitta needed to make with the lessons.
Whether reincarnation exists is neither here nor there as regards the real world, but in this film there is no doubt, which leads to a farcical turn of events culminating in a ridiculous court case. That this starts out fairly engrossing in its low key fashion for the first half makes it all the more disappointing that it goes so badly off the rails during the second: basically the moment Hoover opts to kidnap the girl is the point that everything goes to pot. He is placed on trial for the crime, but then for no reason that would ever be acceptable in actuality the whole case is transformed into one of divining the reality of reincarnation.
Never mind that this has very little bearing on Hoover's stalking and worse of the Templetons, it's purely proof that the writer was running rampant with his pet theories. The deceased daughter died in a car crash, so that's what Ivy is reliving every night, this being proof that she is in effect possessed with the spirit of the girl rather than being her in a different body, evidence being the way that Ivy goes into trances and occasionally tries to off herself. Why a little girl of five would be so vindictive is unexplained, and the film resolves itself into one of those stories that allows the agenda to take over - you could see it in everything from The Search for Bridey Murphy to Communion, and it's by no coincidence that they all feature hypnosis heavily as important plot points. The way this ends represents a terrible misjudgement on the part of the makers as not only is it unbelievable it's the last thing the audience would have wanted. Unless the whiny voice really was grating, but even then. Music by Michael Small.