Hallowing Halloween (1): The Possession of Audrey Rose and The Other
"There is no end. For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does it ever cease to be. It is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval..." This quote from the Bhagavad-Gita, a section of the Hindu scripture epic The Mahabarata, appears at the end of director Robert Wise’s underrated psychological horror tale Audrey Rose (1977). Based on Frank De Felitta’s novel, the movie stars Anthony Hopkins as an obsessive father who believes that a young girl (Susan Swift), born to another couple (Marsha Mason and John Beck) at the moment his wife and daughter were killed in a fiery auto accident, is the reincarnation of his offspring, the eponymous title character. Wise made his feature directorial debut (with Gunther Fritsch) on an unusually sensitive and singular tale of a child possessed, The Curse of the Cat People, and went on to craft two other signature genre films in which the departed haunt the living, The Body Snatcher and The Haunting. Building carefully on small telltale gestures and gradually orchestrating an enveloping sense of dread, Wise compels viewers to share the sense of random souls entrapped by destiny and the struggle to reconcile the spirits of the past and present. In another marvelously atmospheric yarn from five years earlier, director Robert Mulligan – also previously proven as profoundly gifted with drawing powerful performances out of younger actors in To Kill a Mockingbird, Up the Down Staircase and the prior year’s Summer of ’42 – collaborated with actor-turned-writer Thomas Tryon on the film adaptation of the latter’s best-selling The Other (1972). The story of twin brothers, Niles (Chris Udvarnoky) and Holland (Martin Udvarnoky), who carry out a sinister series of macabre schemes that bring harm to family and neighbors around their New England home also develops a sense of wonder and initial delight as Niles plays “the great game” of psychically communing with nature and the open world outside his body, taught him by his wise grandmother (acting legend Uta Hagen in a rare screen appearance). That game, however, becomes a gateway to tragedy when coupled with an intense brotherly bond and the revelation of a ghastly secret. Both directors enlist the talents of masterful composers – Michael Small on Audrey Rose, Jerry Goldsmith on The Other – to enhance the chill factor on each, and their Isolated Score Tracks are featured on the two Twilight Time hi-def Blu-rays of these undersung thrillers. They will possess you.