The Movie Waffler New to Shudder - THE PSYCHIC | The Movie Waffler

New to Shudder - THE PSYCHIC

the psychic review
Hoping to clear her husband of a murder charge, a woman investigates the violent premonition she experienced.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Lucio Fulci

Starring: Jennifer O'Neill, Gianni Garko, Marc Porel, Ida Galli

the psychic poster

Italian exploitation filmmakers were known for cashing in on the latest trends in Hollywood. Lucio Fulci's 1977 thriller The Psychic (released in Italy under the wonderful title 'Murder to the Tune of Seven Black Notes') is one of the rare cases where Italy was actually ahead of the curve. A year later Hollywood would deliver a glut of movies concerning psychic powers with the likes of The Eyes of Laura Mars, The Medusa Touch and The Fury.

Of those three movies, The Psychic skews closest to Laura Mars. Like that film, The Psychic concerns a glamorous lady who experiences a premonition of a killing. As detailed in a gruesome prologue, as a child Virginia (Jennifer O'Neill) experienced a vision of her mother's suicide. Fulci stages the death in a rehash of the climax of his best film, 1972's Don't Torture a Duckling, with Virginia's mother hitting every rock on her plummet down a cliff side.

the psychic review

Virginia continues to be plagued by odd visions through her life, but with the help of a therapist, Luca (Marc Porel), has learned to live with her unwanted "gift." One day, while driving through the most poorly lit tunnel in Europe, Virginia is struck by a vision of the killing of an elderly woman by a man with a beard and a limp. The killer appears to wall up his victim in a room with a distinctive red lamp.

While her husband Francesco (Gianni Garko) is away on business, Virginia decides to begin the task of renovating his childhood home. When she enters one particular room she discovers it resembles the very same room she saw in her vision. Compelled to knock down the wall, Virginia discovers a skeleton. But rather than the older woman she saw killed, the police claim the corpse is that of a 25-year-old model. With her hubby arrested for the young woman's murder, Virginia sets out to clear his name, but her investigation leads her to believe that her vision may be of an event that has yet to occur.

the psychic review

His largely forgotten comedies aside, The Psychic is arguably Fulci's most mainstream movie. Aside from the gory prologue, it's largely free of bloodletting. For roughly its first half it's a rather routine procedural thriller, as Virginia interrogates various characters and pieces together clues. It's halfway through, when Virginia puts two and two together and realises she's seen a vision of her own destiny, that Fulci's movie makes you lean forward in your seat.

Along with editor Ornella Micheli, Fulci brilliantly assembles a metaphysical thriller in which time appears to fold in on itself. It's something of a Giallo Tenet, but far more comprehensible than Christopher Nolan's head-scratcher. Here, Fulci appears as obsessed with the ideas of time and destiny as Nolan famously is. A woman's watch with a distinctive alarm chime straight out of a spaghetti western becomes a key prop in the narrative, playing into its Edgar Allen Poe influenced finale (The Psychic is a better version of Poe's 'The Black Cat' than Fulci's actual adaptation of that story).

O'Neill was coming off Luchino Visconti's The Innocent when Fulci cast her as his protagonist. With her expressive eyes you can see why Italian filmmakers would be enamoured of her. Like the best horror heroines, O'Neill combines fragility with strength, and if you're going to constantly crash zoom into a pair of eyes, there aren't many better. Once the curtain has been pulled and the movie shows its hand, there's a real sense of dread throughout. O'Neill's Virginia seems to walk headlong into trouble, unable to escape her destiny.

the psychic review

The structure of the back half of the movie suggests a feeling of running along a threadmill that's sliding your fate towards you. Fulci and Micheli do a superb job of hardwiring the necessary elements of Virginia's premonition into our heads. When we see those elements pop up later in real time it creates a chilling sense that our heroine can't escape her fate.

With a moody score by Fulci regular Fabio Frizzi and some beautiful framing by Fulci's go-to cameraman Sergio Slavati, The Psychic makes for a dreamlike sensory experience. But unlike many Italian genre movies of the period, The Psychic is a rarity in boasting a plot that actually makes sense and is easy to keep track of. For this reason it's an ideal starting point for anyone unfamiliar with the joys of Giallo.

The Psychic is on Shudder UK now.