On the eve of his sisters memorial service at the families ancestral Irish castle, John Holoran takes his greedy wife Louise for a boat ride on the same pond where his little sister, Kathleen drowned six years earlier. While strenuously rowing and arguing about his mothers will, John suffers a fatal heart attack. Realising she will inherit nothing if John was to die before his mother Lady Holoran, Louise covers up his death, throwing the body overboard and convincing the family that he had to return to New York, while she is to stay behind to acquaint herself with her extended family.
During her visit with the not exactly welcoming in-laws, Louise discovers more about the death of young Kathleen which she uses to devise a heinous scheme to get on Lady Holorans good side. While helping her mother in law recover from passing out during the ceremony, Louise manages to convince Lady Holoran that she is able to communicate with her late daughter.
Under the cover of darkness, Louise sets her elaborate ploy in to motion. Although she makes a lot of noise, her plan seems to be going as intended. Outside she continues putting all of the pieces of her puzzle in place. Once completed she discovers something out of the ordinary. Scared, she rushes to get back to the castle, but an axe wielding looney makes himself known by attacking and ultimately murdering the gold digger.
Dining at the pond one of Louise’s tricks comes in to fruition and Lady Holoran believes it is a sign from her daughter. That night mother goes to where she thinks all the signs lead, only to be attacked by the same madman which sets him off on a furious rampage picking off the family one by one; but who is it?
After his uncredited horror directional debut, The Terror with Roger Corman, Francis Ford Coppola went on to conceive, write and direct this brilliant example of early horror with Corman as producer. Without any direct references Francis is clearly influenced by Alfred Hithcock, but has taken that influence to construct his own “who done it?” chiller in his own unique style. Creating this film on a shoestring budget of just $20,000, a rushed shooting schedule and Coopola only being 22 at the time, it’s no wonder he went on to be one of the most influential directors of all time.
Right form the outset of this flick you get an enormous feeling of animosity and lack of trust between most of the characters which makes for an uneasy 75 minutes, but great viewing. Hooked in straightaway the tension built up nicely to the first kill, with subsequent attacks spaced out nicely making the film move at a perfect pace. Without feeling any connection or remorse for any of the characters, I couldn’t wait to see who got the axe next but was a little disappointed with the amount of deaths. There wasn’t a great deal of gore either, but I didn’t expect it to really.
A personal favourite scene in this film is where Louise is about to set up her pond prank. She breaks in to Kathleen’s room to take some toys some of which start so move (they are wind up, not possessed) and they are lit in a very menacing way which looks incredible, ensuring a sense of dread.
Each individuals purpose and actions give the otherwise simple story a lot more depth which is a great example of how to tell a tale.
Right through to the end you have no idea who the killer actually is. The family is so dysfunctional and the other characters come across creepy and sometimes armed, they all have a motive to kill.
The t-shirt depicts our leading lady Louise, just about to meet her maker in full colour print, done in an amazing classic horror style with a great perspective angle including the creepy castle giving it more dimension. By now some of you will know one of my favourite things in movies and especially 50’s/60’s horror is the marketing gimmicks that come with them and the wording on this hilarious. It’s perfect!