Director – Roman Polanski
Cast – Catherine Denueve, Ian Henry, John Fraser, Yvonne Furneaux, Patrick Wymark
Release Year – 1965
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Before he was drugging young teens(sorry Polanski, I should have said “teen”, not it’s plural form) at Jack Nicholson’s house, director Roman Polanski cave us three great films as part of an unofficial “apartment trilogy” focusing on the horrors of the space-renting life. Repulsion is the first film in this trilogy, and was followed by the superior Rosemary’s Baby and the little-known and underrated flick The Tenant. His first flick to be filmed in English, Repulsion is Polanski’s breakthrough into the psycho-horror genre(or, horror sub-genre) and is a perfect example of how atmosphere and mood set the tone for true horror.
The film stars the Oscar-nominated Catherine Deneuve as Carole, an anti-social and extremely soft-spoken young woman forced to stay with her older, loud-mouthed adulterous sister. Carol is scarred due to her sister’s relationship and is therefore unable to confide in her potential suitor, Colin. Her sister soon goes away on vacation, leaving Carol all alone in the apartment. The emptiness around her leads her to suffer from extreme hallucinations as her fears begin to get the best of her.
Psych-horror is one of my favorite horror sub-genres. The idea behind your mind causing you pain and fearful discomfort is a genius way to display horror, given there really are not any tangible enemies other than the person you’d least expect…yourself. Not being able to tell what is real and what is not real provides the ultimate conflict for the antagonist in these types of films and if effectively done, can lead the film’s viewers to the same confusion the antagonist is going though. Genius, remember?
Carole’s descent into psychological turmoil is an interesting one given that it is aided by an element that has been making women crazy(and making Polanski a wanted man) for ages. That element, is sex. Her hallucinations of rape and seduction torment her already fragile mind and bring her to the point of murder on several occasions. Her transformation as the film progresses is an interesting watch and towards the end brings us some pretty creepy footage(the scene involving the hallway is my favorite).
Polanski’s direction in this film is great, and although the film tends to move slow at times that is made up for when Carol’s irate behavior brings the flick back up to speed. Her hallucinations were interesting, and I am sure were very scary at the time that this film debuted, ESPECIALLY the scene involving the hallway. Heh.
My only real complaint with this film was Catherine Deneuve’s acting. She went on to be nominated for an Academy Award later on in her career, but in this film I found her acting to be a bit annoying and unconvincing.
Overall, this is a great psych-horror film that shows Polanski’s creative genius that opened the door to him delivering us some of the best films of all time(Rosemary‘s Baby, Chinatown, The Pianist). Watch this if you can find it.