Robert Schnitzer/ USA/ 1976/ 94 mins
Available on Blu-ray now.
Part melodrama and part paranormal thriller, The Premonition is something of a clash of elements. It’s a fairly low-key and subdued film which uses disturbing, baffling visions to drive the story in the same way as Don’t Look Now did a few years earlier.
When Sheri (Sharon Farrell) has a premonition that her adopted daughter is in danger of being stolen away by her mentally unstable birth mother she goes into a paranoid spiral. However, Andrea (Ellen Barber), actually does plan to get her back at any cost, in league with her carnival mine boyfriend Jude (Richard Lynch).
While initially interesting, the writers make the bizarre choice to bluntly curtail what appears to be the main thread of the story. It perhaps makes sense in that it allowed them to add a more overtly paranormal thread into the film, but leaves the remaining action rather flat and robbing the viewer of the continuation of the unstable double act of Jude and Andrea. Barber as Andrea in particular looks like she’s wandered in out of every disreputable Italian Gialli with a temper as vivid as her scarlet dress, and she’s a vibrant threat. The decision betrays that this was originally a straight drama, hastily rewritten to add the supernatural element, and the two parts never quite gel.
Still, it’s visually very striking on occasion. Of the three film released as part of the American Horror Project by Arrow Video The Premonition has the crispest picture and looked like it needed the least restoration. The framing of the premonitions is simple but effective. Both Farrell and Barber convey hysteria in convincing ways, and there is suitably unnerving support from Lynch, one of those great “where have I seen him before” faces of indie cinema. Having him as a circus mime adds an extra creep factor as well.
Overall however, it can’t be called a success. It’s simply too strange for a straight family drama and doesn’t go far enough to get the pulses of any seasoned horror viewer racing. A subplot involving Sheri’s husband’s professional relationship with a female doctor of parapsychology feels tacked on; a great slab of exposition that is meant to double as an implication of discord in the marital home. Again, it’s feels like a piece from a separate jigsaw forced into something else. There are individually some quite effective elements in The Premonition but it doesn’t take a vision of your own to foresee it may not find the audience Arrow are hoping it will.