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  Premonition, The Mommy Means Business
Year: 1976
Director: Robert Allen Schnitzer
Stars: Sharon Farrell, Edward Bell, Danielle Brisebois, Ellen Barber, Richard Lynch, Chitra Neogy, Jeff Corey, Margaret Graham, Rosemary McNamara, Thomas Williams, Tamara Bergdall, Willmuth Cooper, Stanley W. William, Roy White, Robert Harper
Genre: Horror, Drama, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Andrea Fletcher (Ellen Barber) has recently been released from a five-year stint in a mental institution, and she's on the warpath as she is determined to be reunited with her young daughter who she was forced to give up for adoption as a baby. To assist her in this quest is Jude (Richard Lynch), a carnival clown who as well as doing tricks and entertaining the visitors is in charge of the camera taking photographs of them, and each time he snaps a young girl he makes sure to show the picture to Andrea so she can discern if it features her daughter. Now they think they have finally found what they are looking for, and they set about tracking both her and her adoptive parents.

The Premonition was just one of the strange horror movies that were created away from Hollywood but picked up for national distribution before home video took off in the nineteen-eighties and really became the outlet for such productions. As they were made without any studio interference, they often conjured up a uniquely odd atmosphere, and so it was with this, a moody, mystical chiller which had started life as a straightforward drama about a mother trying to get her adopted daughter back from foster parents, but once director Robert Allen Schnitzer got hold of the script he refashioned it to reflect his deeply held beliefs which were metaphysical in nature, bred from what he called a "vision quest" in his teens.

From that you could discern it was no ordinary shocker, and many have found its refusal to slot neatly into any obvious category, even within the horror or thriller genres, offputting. Though from something that difficult do cult movies grow, and this enjoyed a growing reputation as it was increasingly widely viewed as an underrated gem. There’s a potential for overrating works that were strictly not bad, yet had a certain eccentricity to them, and that might have been the case here, but while few were claiming it for a lost classic, its fans were onto something when they noted it had a singular style. Fair enough, that style was slow and deliberate, and was not about to explain everything, but nevertheless it had something about it.

The metaphysical realm entered into the plot early on when we meet the foster parents, Sheri Bennett (TV stalwart Sharon Farrell) and her husband Miles (Edward Bell) who happens to be a scientist conducting dream research, if this was not redolent of the nineteen-seventies enough as it was, this being the decade when the paranormal truly entered the mainstream in a manner that it hasn’t really since. That research somehow has begun to affect his wife in that as if to indicate she is psychically aware of the threat to five-year-old Janie (Danielle Brisebois, future singer and occasional actress in her debut), she sees visions of Andrea and Jude which disturb her, though whether she is seeing these from her own mind or theirs is unclear.

This was a lot budget effort, yet in that manner it might have helped the overall effect as they had to be as innovative as they could within their means. Some of that ingenuity was startling, and not a little weird, as for instance at moments of extreme stress Sheri sees mirrors or glass frosting up to indicate the temperature has dropped due to general strangeness in the room, or the car as happens at one point, making it very difficult to drive. As the villains, the lesser known Barber and cult fixture Lynch were memorably intense, though as Schnitzer riffed on the fundamental interconnectedness of all things theories you were less sympathetic towards their essential mental imbalance (Jude met Andrea in the institution) and more worried about what fresh insanity they would get up to next, especially when a vulnerable child was involved. Building to a denouement that is guaranteed never used before or since implementing the healing power of nighttime public harpsichord playing, The Premonition was rough around the edges, but contained a haunting quality not often seen in most horror. Effective music by Henry Mollicone.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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