I saw this obscure chiller during it’s theatrical release and remember being very effected by it’s moody, dissonant and menacing tone. Like many of the horror films that exist in the ether of the 1970s, (Let’s Scare Jessica To Death 1971, The Brotherhood of Satan 1971 , Don’t Look Now 1973, Silent Night, Bloody Night 1972, Lemora, A Child’s Tale of the Supernatural 1973, The Witch Who Came From the Sea 1976, Squirm 1976,The Sentinel 1977, Tourist Trap 1979) this is among those films that left an impression on me.
A supernatural-psychological horror film by director Robert Allen Schnitzer, with cinematography by Victor Milt who leads us in a dream state that is not only atmospheric and Kafkaesque it conjures up lucid nightmares for the bright mother, Sheri and for us.
Raven-haired psychotic Andrea Fletcher (Ellen Barber) has been declared an unfit mother, and unfortunately is released from the mental institution too soon. She immediately goes in search of her little girl Janie (Danielle Brisebois in her first role) who has been adopted by Sheri and Miles Bennett (Sharon Farrell and Edward Michael Bell).
Andrea seeks help from her companion Jude, a former patient at the same hospital, a woeful carnival clown who goes looking for Janie, finding her with adoptive mother Sheri.
The two wounded souls, Andrea and Jude, restless in their desire to reunite Janie with her birth mother, leads to Janie’s kidnapping. When Andrea snaps, Jude kills her in a fit of rage. Devistated by the loss or her daughter, Sheri has a breakdown, and becomes haunted by psychic images of her daughter and Andrea’s tortured spirit. Andrea’s insanity reverberates beyond her death and outward like an echo that is picked up by Sheri, whose disturbing visions reveal that she is clairvoyant.
Sheri’s husband Miles, an astrophysicist brings in a colleague, Jeena Kingsly a professor of parapsychology, who studies the realms of human consciousness. Kingsly attempts to help Sheri connect to Janie telepathically. The two mothers begin a psychic tug of war over possession of Janie.
Ellen Barber gives a paralyzing performance as the deranged Andrea, volatile and unhinged, she is a dark wraith in her red satin dress and black velvet cameo choker.
The character of Jude is perhaps the most layered. Richard Lynch (The Seven-Ups 1973, God Told Me Too 1976, Vampire 1979 TV movie, The Ninth Configuration 1980, The Formula 1980, Invasion U.S.A 1985, Bad Dreams 1988, Rob Zombie’s Halloween 2007) – is an interesting actor, ever present in so many roles, with his interesting angular face, scarred and weathered and blond hair that hangs like a darker archangel, he is oddly sinister-sexy. A hard working acting in film and television, he is striking often cast in horror and action films, playing odd characters with his unique persona. Schnitzer, apparently hired him for his “widely divergent moods” Lynch influenced by legendary mime Marcel Marceau, brought an element of his gestures to the role of Jude.