Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Fear In The Night

Cast: Judy Geeson, Ralph Bates, Peter Cushing, Joan Collins, and Gillian Lind

Director: Jimmy Sangster

94 minutes (12) 1972
Widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Studio Canal blu-ray region B

Rating: 6/10
Review by Steven Hampton  

This is a Hammer horror in hi-def just in time for happy Halloween. Peggy (Judy Geeson) is newlywed to Robert (Ralph Bates), an unhappy ‘teacher’ at a boarding school for boys. Peter Cushing portrays the kindly but decidedly odd headmaster, whose wife Molly (Joan Collins) is a scheming sculptress. Even before she leaves London, there is a scary trauma for the heroine when she’s attacked by a strange man with a prosthetic arm. Moving to a house in the school grounds, there’s plenty of creepy atmosphere and suspense unfolding to upset and threaten the heroine. After a second mysterious attack, Peggy is left alone in the cottage with a shotgun. Soon, her tormentors will be sorry they ever bothered her.

“Do you like tying knots in things?”    

Not so much a bloody shocker, in the traditional manner of classic Hammer productions, but a nonetheless effective chiller with modest ambitions as days of delirium follow nights of fear. Cleverly fusing odd elements from Clouzot’s masterpiece Les Diaboliques (1955), a subgenre defining thriller of French cinema, with obvious influences of Polanski’s classic Replusion (1965), that established the era’s trend for mystery drama centred on neurotic women, Fear In The Night pulls its varied aspects of predatory crime and psychological crisis into a meltdown of confusion and catatonia, under a gaslight plot that goes horribly wrong. The movie’s themes of stalking and isolation lead to disquieting revelations about a tragic history of the countryside location, and certain scenes here predate Kubrick’s The Shining (1980).  

In the final analysis, this is an understated, very British offering, coasting along through a story-line of increasing suspicions, buoyed by Geeson’s performance as the beleaguered heroine. It’s memorable for just a few iconic images, including the gloved hand clutching the victim’s neck, the curiously dream-like impact of shattered glass in the headmaster’s spectacles (see the DVD & Blu-ray cover artwork), and that particularly haunting first scene of the hanged man.     

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