Director – Nicolas Roeg
Cast – Donald Sutherland, Julie Christie, Hilary Mason, Clelia Matania, Massimo Serato, Renato Scarpa, Giorgio Trestini, Leopoldo Trieste, David Tree, Ann Rye, Nicholas Salter, Sharon Williams
Release Year – 1973
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Don’t Look Now is one of horror’s most well-known ghost stories, and in a “sense” gives us what The Sixth Sense gave us 26 years later. Containing more drama than horror, the film paces slowly and takes its sweet time developing, but thanks to fantastic direction and a unique storyline we are given a positive watch in the end, one that includes one of horror’s most shocking climaxes to date.
Donald Sutherland(Virus, Fallen) and Julie Christie star as John and Laura Baxter, a happy couple who moves to Venice after the drowning death of their young daughter. One day Laura comes across two sisters, one of them a psychic, who tells her that she has seen her now deceased daughter. Laura is skeptical at first, until the psychic describes her daughter in full detail. Laura believes the psychic, but John refuses to believe such nonsense. Soon after, John begins to see a young girl in a red cloak similar to the one his daughter wore on the day she died, and these visions worsen when they coincide with a series of murders occurring around Venice. The irony of it all is that while John does not believe in such supernatural occurrences, they believe in him, and his demise lingers in front of him.
If you have not had a full night’s rest I would recommend that you wait off on giving Don’t Look Now a watch. This is definitely a story-based film that moves at a very slow pace, which I did find some fault in but I do understand that this is not necessarily a pacing issue due to bad writing or direction, but simply the way the film was intended to play out.
I did find the story to be a unique watch and an interesting take on the “ghost story” sub-genre of horror films. I went into this film expecting it to be much like The Changeling given both stories involve the protagonist(s) moving away after experiencing the death of a loved one only to find that their new home harbors supernatural elements. Don’t Look Now takes off that way, but soon focuses on the drama that unfolds when John and Laura suffer at the hands of the psychic who says she can see their deceased daughter, which unfolds negative emotions from both of our protagonists. I will not say that I necessarily enjoyed all of the drama(I’m not a “drama” kind of guy…) but I will admit that the drama is well written, well acted, and very well executed. The majority of the films 110 minute runtime is focused on the drama and some mystery elements behind the girl in the red cape that John keeps seeing, and it is not until the last 10-15 minutes of the film that the horror finally kicks in. I was not keen on having to wait such long for the horror to kick in, but what we do get in those last 15 minutes is highly satisfying and as I mentioned earlier…very shocking.
I also mentioned that The Sixth Sense shares many similarities with this watch, and the shocking climax is not the only one. We get several scenes of premonition in this film, which we were also given in The Sixth Sense(although they were well hidden), and the usage of the girl in the RED cloak may or may not have had an impact on M. Night Shyamalan’s decision to use the color RED to symbolize death in The Sixth Sense. I’ll let you be the judge of that when you have given both films a watch.
Direction-wise we get a fantastic delivery from Nicolas Roeg who goes for somewhat of an “art house” feel for the film. We get many stunning sets that deliver awesome visuals, and his execution of the drama our protagonists bring us is top-notch as well. Despite the film’s slow pacing I did not feel overly bored with what was going on, and that is thanks to his ability to sell the film to the viewer, including its numerous slow sequences. While the climax is a well written masterpiece of how to deliver some good shock in a slow film, his direction during the final sequences equally sells the matter and left me with chills that I never saw coming. You are lead to believe that something is not right when the final sequence ensues, but despite this knowledge I still was not prepared for what I saw, and I credit Mr. Roeg for expertly executing one of the best climaxes I have ever seen, which in my opinion saved this film from its snoozer of a story.
Overall, this is a great watch if you know what you are getting into. The story moves very slow and never delivers anything remotely horror except for random tidbits and the film’s final sequences, but good direction and great performances from Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie should be enough to keep you engaged if you enjoy these types of films.