Wowee, do I LOVE old horror movies! I do. I actually enjoy them. This one was not a favorite, but I didn’t hate it.
Don’t Look Now, available on Amazon Prime, was directed by Nicolas Roeg in the heyday of slasher films and horror mania. It was adapted from a short story by Daphne du Maurier–author of another story-turned-movie to be reviewed this month–and features Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie as grieving parents, John and Laura Baxter.
***SPOILERS COMING UP!***
After Christine (Sharon Williams) drowns in a lake (or is it a pond?), her parents, John and Laura, leave their son at school in England and take a trip to Italy, where John is helping restoring an old building. Pretty quickly, things pick up. A couple of old women are staring at the Baxters during their nice Italian lunch, and, when John opens a window, something flies into the eye of one of the women, and she makes of show of being unable to find her way to the bathroom until a kind-hearted Laura helps to lead her there. The women turn out to be sisters, Heather (Hilary Mason) and Wendy (Clelia Matania). Heather, who is blind and, apparently, a pyschic, tells Laura in the privacy of the bathroom that she spotted Christine laughing between her parents. There’s also a creepy person sitting around in the stalls, but I’m not sure what’s happening there.
Strange things begin happening to Laura and John, such as Laura fainting, and spotting the sisters walking nearly everywhere they go. John also continues to see a figure in a red coat–foreshadowed in a photo at the very beginning of the film–that mimics the red rain coat that Christine died in. Laura hangs out with Heather and Wendy some more, and there’s a controversial sex scene that felt weird to me ONLY because I first encountered Sutherland as President Snow in The Hunger Games.
What I really liked–about the sex scene and John’s odd visions throughout the film–is the crackling of time. Shots that foreshadow events are interposed between the time of the narrative. At one point, when Laura returns to England to visit her son, John sees her rising on a funeral boat with the weird sisters. He freaks out and calls the police, but Laura is still safely in England.
Eventually, the movie culminates in Laura being unable to catch John as she returns. It’s a moment of mild and long-lasting stress, during which Laura appears in every location that John has just left. John, despite scolding his wife for hoping to catch a glimpse of their daughter in the afterlife, follows a red-coated figure into a church and gets knifed in the neck. Yep. The person in the coat is not little Christine, but a smiling old person who inexplicably carries a knife. They don’t even stab poor job–they just sort of slap him with the blade and let him pour house-paint textured blood all over the place.
While the climax isn’t super satisfying, especially with all of John’s premonitory images flashing through his head, and the movie doesn’t give any clear reason for his heavily foreshadowed death–no curse, no revenge, no huge mistake–but that is a plus for a lot of horror fans (myself included in some cases, but this just felt a little too unsatisfactory for my little brain, I think.)
But, hey, the actors did awesome, and I got to experience all of the 70s horror zoom ins that I wanted. Don’t Look Now is meant to be paid attention to, and, in all honesty, meant to be watched more than once. I think reading du Maurier’s short story would probably lend a lot of material to create a mental landscape around, too. But, in the end, this movie wasn’t the old, thrilling, supernatural move that I was looking for. Still, I enjoyed it, and Sutherland and Christie did what they could with an artsy, foreshadow-filled, slow-burn thriller. There just weren’t as many thrills as I wanted.