Sunday, July 18, 2010

"She Burned Her Hands On A Cold Window!" or Audrey Rose (1977)

If there's one thing we know about the 1970s, it's that, following the success of The Exorcist, Hollywood couldn't churn out more Supernatural Child movies fast enough. Audrey Rose, although it positively reeks of post-Exorcist possession mania, is not actually a bad film. Far from it, actually. It's not excellent, but it's not horrible either. It was, after all, directed by Robert Wise, a horror legend for his 1963 masterpiece, The Haunting. Not to mention The Sound of Music and West Side Story. But, just because the movie has a few things going for it, does not mean that there isn't plenty to snark on. Behold, the poster:

Suitably creepy, I guess. I could do without the little Brooke Shields drawing above the title because it looks kind of random compared to the rest of the poster, but it's ok.

We open on a cold, rainy day, when the titular Audrey Rose and her mother are killed after their car crashes and catches on fire. Eleven years later, we are introduced to the family that we will be watching for the next two hours: Janice and Bill Templeton and their daughter, Ivy. Ivy Templeton, by the way, is one of the most irritating children I have ever seen on film. And it's not really because the character herself is annoying. Well, she is, kind of, but not especially so. No, what makes her REALLY irritating is the fact that the little girl playing her quite obviously got "acting" confused with "whining constantly and making stupid faces."

So anyway, the Templetons are enjoying a fine day of family fun in Central Park, riding bikes and feeding baby seals out of their hands and laughing gaily as they chase balloons together, and I half expect everybody to join hands and engage in a chorus of "It's A Wonderful Day For Pie." I think I just got brain diabetes from all that sugary sweetness. They're having so much wholesome fun that they don't notice the strange bearded fellow who has been stalking them wherever they go all day.

Creeptastic! They go home and Janice develops the 5,948 pictures she took of Ivy's smiling mug that day. She gazes at these pictures adoringly with a sickeningly sweet grin, and I have a feeling that, were this movie set in the present day, Janice would be posting every last one of them on Facebook. And then she would get all offended when nobody commented on them because nobody has time to sit and go through them all. Because they have lives. Ahem.

Janice goes to pick up Ivy from school the next day, and whaddya know? Bearded Man is there looking all suspicious and stuff. And then he follows them home, which is....yeah. Ivy goes on and on about some chick at school who she thinks is a big fat liar because she said she got her period already. Ivy, you're a bitch and nobody cares. Bill comes home and, as Janice gets to work making his martini like a good little '70s housewife, he visits with Ivy. Ivy thinks they should buy Janice a camera that's full of "little dinkys," and I really don't care.

That night, as Janice and Bill are entertaining some friends, Ivy has what I assume is a nightmare, but which sounds more like a hot sex dream, judging by the amount of moaning and panting going on. Janice checks up on her and Ivy tries to angle for a day off school the next day by claiming she doesn't feel well. Janice informs her that she doesn't have a fever or anything, really, to indicate that she's sick, but that she may stay home from school anyway. Because Janice is an enabler. She tries to voice her concerns about Bearded Man to Bill before she turns in for bed, but Bill is already snoring away. Men.

No matter, because Bill has already noticed Bearded Man and his creepy stalking behavior. In particular, he has noticed that Bearded Man seems to enjoy loitering outside of Ivy's school. Bill tries to complain to the police, who are all "Sorry, can't help ya." Since Bearded Man has not actually made physical contact with any of the Templetons, the police can't legally charge him with anything. So, he is free to be creepy for another day. A freedom he exercises by calling Janice at home and asking why Ivy wasn't in school, and later sending her a new purse on top of the groceries Bill brought home. Ivy thinks Bill got her the purse, but seriously, when gifts become involved, this is SUPER FUCKING CREEPY and ass needs to start being kicked, whether any laws have technically been broken or not. That night gives us the first blatant Exorcist homage shot, wherein Ivy lies in bed with her eyes open, staring blankly.

The next morning, Janice checks the mail to discover that Bearded Man has sent them a newspaper clipping containing a short biography of himself. They now know his name (Elliot Hoover), but not much else that would explain why he's creepily stalking their 11 year old. Janice and Bill discuss the clipping over lunch, which cuts awkwardly to a scene of Janice having a fainting spell in the middle of the street for absolutely no reason. Seriously, there's no explanation for it and it's never mentioned again. Because of it, Janice arrives at Ivy's school to pick her up and finds it completely empty. Running like a lunatic through the streets, she runs right into Elliot Hoover, who, quite politely, informs her that he not at all creepily helped Ivy across the street after school. Janice tears into the apartment and shakes the hell out of Ivy for following a stranger. Ivy whines and they both dissolve into dramatic bitch tears. The amount of scenery being chewed is astonishing and we're only half an hour in.

That night, Elliot Hoover calls the Templetons and begs them to let him explain himself. Yay. They agree and meet a freshly beardless Elliot at a nearby restaurant, where he tells them a long, convoluted, boring story involving psychics and shit, the short version of which goes like this: His wife and daughter (Audrey Rose) died in a fiery car crash 11 years ago/A psychic told him his daughter was still alive/He believes that Ivy is the reincarnation of her. Totally credible! This little meeting is interrupted when Janice and Bill receive a call from Ivy's babysitter telling them to come home right away because Ivy is having another sex dream nightmare. Could this have something to do with her possession/reincarnation/whatever? Could Hoover be right? THE MIND BOGGLES!

Bill meets with a lawyer friend of his to ask what can be done about Hoover and his ridiculous theories. The lawyer suggests that he invite Hoover over to the apartment and ask him a series of questions in order to get some evidence to build a case against him. Bill does so, with the lawyer hiding on the stairs as a witness. Turns out Hoover can't actually verify any of his story because all the psychics he talked to are dead or something. I dunno. I kind of checked out because it was yet another long and boring Oscar Bait monologue. He tells the Templetons about his time in India, where reincarnation is apparently a widespread belief. He also confirms that Audrey Rose's date and time of death coincides almost exactly with Ivy's time of birth.

In the midst of all this, Ivy walks out into the upstairs hallway and starts freaking out and having a flailing, screaming, waking nightmare while banging on the windows. At least, that's what it's supposed to be. Given the acting skills of this kid, it looks more like a 4 year old's tantrum over not being allowed a cookie before supper.

But, I digress. Everyone tries to calm her down, but only Elliot Hoover is successful. He calls her "Audrey Rose" and gives her a hug. This father-daughter reunion, such as it may be, calms Ivy down enough for her to be put back to bed. Bill is pissed that this guy and his charming British accent could calm her down so quickly when he could not. He starts to beat the crap out of Elliot, but stops and just tells him to get the fuck out and don't let the door hit him in the ass. Meanwhile, Janice has noticed something quite odd and troubling about Ivy. It seems she has burned her hands quite severely. When she points this out to Bill, he's all "Must have been the radiator." Janice retorts, with dramatics that would make a 1930's studio star proud, that Ivy wasn't anywhere near the radiator and that her hands were burned on the cold, rainy windows. She also points out that Ivy's nightmares always seems to occur around her birthday (death day?). Bill is like "Bitch, you's crazy," and the topic is dropped.

The next night, Ivy gives her Linda Blair impression another shot (and still fails...miserably so). Janice was smart this time and thought to put a screen in front of Ivy's window. Unfortunately, she neglected to safeguard the stairs, the tables, the lamps, the curtains, and most of the other furniture in the apartment, so Ivy instead crashes into all of those things like a little crack monkey. Bill isn't home, so when the doorman rings and informs Janice that Elliot is in the lobby, she sends him on up. He calls her "Audrey Rose" again. and Ivy makes the ugliest cry face I have ever seen on anybody, ever. Behold:

This is by far the most frightening thing in the movie, for reals. Anyway, Elliot calms her down while Janice sits in the corner and prays. When Ivy has been put back to bed, Janice and Elliot discuss just what the hell is going on here. Elliot theorizes that Ivy is in danger because of the whole "having another person's traumatized soul inside her" thing. If they don't find a way to set Audrey Rose's soul free from Ivy's body, he says, Ivy could totally die. Then he launches into another drawn out speech about the stuff he learned in India about reincarnation. Janice seems to be starting to believe.

When Bill gets home, he is none too pleased to hear that Elliot has been there again. He bitches Janice out, to which she replies "You weren't here, waah waah waah, bitch bitch bitch!" At least, that's what it sounded like to me. The level of hysterics she displays here are truly impressive. Bill decides not to argue and vows to be home more.

The nightmares and freakouts continue unabated. Elliot shows up one night in the middle of a particularly nasty episode for Ivy, and Bill goes absolutely apeshit and starts beating the fuck out of him. The two men have a hilarious brawl in the hallway while people in neighboring apartments step outside their doors and watch, looking only mildly perturbed. Elliot breaks free and barricades himself inside the Templeton's apartment. The po'po arrive and get the door open to discover that Elliot and Ivy are gone. He has taken her up to the apartment he has recently rented on the 8th floor. Hey, whatever makes stalking and kidnapping more convenient for ya. He is, of course, promptly arrested.

Which brings us to the courtroom drama portion of our tale, wherein it must be proven whether or not reincarnation exists. Because I am a total nerd, I notice right off the bat that the judge presiding over Elliot's trial is the same guy who played the psychiatrist in the episode of The Golden Girls where the girls were all pissed at each other and considering moving out. Yay for being a TV junkie! Ahem. Anyway.

While Elliot is being put on trial, Ivy has been sent to a Catholic boarding school. She and some other students are walking in a circle, chanting while some kind of big-ass snowman is being built. I have no idea what that's about, but it sort of reminds me of The Wicker Man. One nasty little snot stops chanting long enough to call Ivy a freak. Cut to the headmistress showing Janice a newspaper confiscated from a student that contains the reincarnation trial story. Oh dear. Janice keeps Ivy overnight at a hotel and they have a heart to heart. Janice wants to take Ivy home and Ivy protests because the Sylvester, the Wicker Snowman, is going to be crowned soon, and dammit, she isn't going to miss it. Uuuum....ok? They discuss reincarnation some, and Ivy waxes poetic about how awesome it would be if everyone would live forever and ever and never die. Shut up, Ivy. If that were to happen, parking spaces would disappear really fast and then Black Friday would suck even more ass than it already does. Embrace the circle of life. Anyway, they go to bed and Janice awakens in the middle of the night to find Ivy standing in front of the bathroom mirror, whispering the name Audrey Rose to herself over and over. And, ok, that is a little bit freaky.

We then segue into some more courtroom scenes, which are really boring so I'm just going to gloss over them. The main thing that happens is that the driver of the car that crashed into Audrey Rose and her mother's car gives testimony and it's really depressing. So yay for more of Ivy's new school! Their evil looking snowman is being crowned in the middle of a bonfire while the children dance and chant something about "Old Man Winter." Except for Ivy, who is entranced by the fire, so much so that she crawls right into it. The headmistress sees this dire situation from an upper story window and nearly yells herself hoarse trying to get the attention of the nun in charge of supervising the Crowning Of The Snowman. The supervising nun is in la-la land and therefore completely oblivious to both Ivy getting up close and personal with the bonfire and the headmistress yelling like a banshee about it. Somebody needs to get demoted.

Ivy is rushed to the hospital to treat her burned face. Bill is furious and asks why the hell there was a bonfire at school in the first place. Good question. Ivy whines like a little bitch and is all "Whyyyyyy did I do that Daddyyyyyyy, whyyyyyyyyyy?" The drawn out syllables are not for dramatic effect here, that's totally how she says it. Meanwhile, Janice is called to the witness stand at Elliot's trial, and her testimony boils down to that she totally believes in reincarnation and that Elliot should be set free because he is Ivy's only hope. Yay.

In light of this, the prosecution develops a radical idea. They will put Ivy under a special hypnosis in order to determine if she remembers anything from a previous life. Even though such a test has never actually been attempted before. Wow, there's NO WAY this can go wrong. Janice is vehemently opposed to this nonsense. Unfortunately, Bill has already agreed and Ivy has been sweet talked into agreeing to it as well. So, hypnosis it shall be.

Ivy is led into a room with a one way mirror with the hypnotist while Elliot, Bill, Janice, and some doctors and court officials watch from the other side. The hypnotist starts the whole "You're getting sleepy, close your eyes" bit, and it takes for freaking ever for her to finally shut her damn eyes. It goes on for so long, in fact, that I am tempted to close MY eyes out of boredom. Anyway, once she's under, she is told to revert back to her 8th birthday party. Then her 4th birthday, where she says something about her cake being homemade and then whines something incoherent. Seriously, I rewound the movie about 5 times and absolutely could not determine what she's crying about. Then she reverts to being a baby. And then, the hypnotist tells her to go back to a time "BEFORE you were BORN." That phrase is apparently this movie's answer to "The power of Christ compels you," because it repeated approximately 76,947 times. Ivy is indeed able to revert to BEFORE she was BORN, because she starts screaming and re-enacting Audrey Rose's death. Complete with choking on smoke and everything.

Seeing that this could potentially have nasty results, the hypnotist quickly attempts to awaken her. For a minute, it seems he has succeeded. However, Ivy goes right back to screaming and choking until she collapses, lifeless, onto the floor. Oops. Good job, Bill. You insisting she go under hypnosis has killed her. You know, again.

Several months later, Janice writes a letter to Elliot thanking him for taking Ivy's ashes to India. Ok, then. The camera pans over Ivy's baby pictures as Janice narrates her letter. She makes no mention of whether or not she has kicked Bill's ass to the curb after he essentially killed their kid, but that's what happened in my noodle. Roll credits.

Stay tuned for next time, when we recap the crap out of The Amityville Horror '05!


Anonymous said...

I just wanted to say I really love your movie reviews. :-) they really crack me up and are so much fun to read. keep up the good work.


Angela_Baker said...

Thanks! I'm always glad to hear from people who enjoy my work :)