The Premonition (1976)

Article 2836 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-12-2009
Posting Date: 5-19-2009
Directed by Robert Allen Schnitzer
Featuring Sharon Farrell, Edward Bell, Danielle Brisebois
Country: USA

The natural mother of a girl given up for adoption plots to kidnap the daughter from her new parents. Helping her is a carnival clown with a psychotic streak. Unbeknownst to her, however, the child’s adoptive mother has psychic powers…

At the time of this writing, this movie is sitting with a 2.1 rating on IMDB, which leads me to believe that the movie is held in very low esteem. The movie does have some real problems, and, if I wanted to, I could just bring those up and quickly dispense with the film. However, I can’t quite do that; there’s something unique and engaging about the basic story here. And some of the condemnations that could be thrown at this film I can’t quite swallow. First of all, horror fans will be mightily disappointed by this one, because it really isn’t a horror film; despite the fact that it has several people who could be described as not sane (one of which who is homicidal), it’s much more of a drama about psychic powers, and is best watched without any of the expectations you would have for a horror film. Also, the plot relies on what seems to be at first glance some outrageous coincidences; however, if you are willing to buy one of the central premises of the film (that a woman’s spirit has returned from the dead and is influencing the lives of the people in the movie), then it is possible to see the coincidences as manifestations of the dead woman’s power.

However, other problems aren’t disposed of that easily. The movie’s physical-world-vs-metaphysical-world theme is clumsy and distracting. Certain scenes misfire badly. There’s something a little shrill about the movie as a whole (especially the mother’s psychic visions), despite the fact that it makes effective use of subtlety here and there. The biggest problem, though, is that the character of the adoptive mother is unconvincing; we’re supposed to feel for her and be caught up in her suffering and pain, but she often comes across as mentally unbalanced, and seems no saner than either the real mother or the psychotic clown. As a result, I found it very hard to warm up to her, and that feeling is necessary for the movie to have its emotional impact.

In short, the movie is badly flawed, though I still think it’s much better than a 2.1 rating would suggest. Still, it’s easy to see how some people might hate the movie, so use your own judgment. If you do give it a try, I suggest one thing; set aside your usual horror expectations.


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