In a role almost tailored for actor Tom Cavanagh, George Grieves, unassuming, innocuous, even incredulous to a fault is brought to terms with all his secret fears. Fears whose horror is heightened by going from a circumstance of comfort and loving family setting to one of stark terror, increased and extended by the extent of his own “powers of expectation” unleashed against himself.
Such a setting has been experimented with many times in cinema before, but never comparable to this. Hitchcock was a master in directing psychological horror, yet he never envisioned anything on this scale. Clive Barker, even Stephen King could well treat the demons they inserted into their victim’s head, but again not near as well as progressed here. John Russell, John Collier, H. H. Munro, and the irascible Ambrose Bierce collaborating with Marcel Aymee could not invent a story line like this. It would take a conventionalizing of Franz Kafka (bringing him up to snuff) to make such a leap. Such a near criminal imagination. Shudder, shudder, shudder.
Director Tony Krantz and writer Erik Jendresen have succeeded the former masters in producing horror that sets its own standards. CHILDREN BY NO MEANS SHOULD BE ALLOWED WITHIN A MILE OF ITS SHOWING. Nor the faint of heart. This movie could well serve as shock therapy for the anal retentive. It’s already cured a few petulant little peeves this reviewer had. (I’m just happy not to be in any hospital.)
One of the best supporting performances given in this reviewer’s recollection is gifted the viewer in this criminally intense film. No irony it is in a role where a care provider becomes the ultimate sadist, the ultimate “inquisitor”. Delivered by Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, the role is that of a character conjured up purely in the mind of our protagonist, representing a secret fear George Grieves has sustained by the guilt felt over whites once dominating blacks. Sustaining this interpretation is the very name accorded Hilton-Jacobs’ role, Mandingo.
Bear in mind one factual development and the scriptwriter’s elegant way of creating its foreboding, is the actual “iatrogenic disease” wrought upon our hero by incredibly bad medicine. The foretelling even adds to the viewer’s dilemma in trying to figure out what particular plane of the parallelism created is manifest, fears driving drug-induced hallucination or actual reality (not a contradiction in terms for this movie.)
Cross play between imaginary extra-marital exploits of Grieves’ wife (beautiful Kathleen York) with his offending doctor, Dr. Sharazi, played by Cas Anvar; with the concocted fantasy indulged by himself with a seductive nurse, all come to represent efforts within delusion to build a credible parallel for the viewer crescendoing to denouement. Is this all conspriracy against the poor man by collaboration of wife with doctor utilizing perverted players?
Actually that would be the easy way out, that more sane anyway. Ultimately the worse case scenario is realized, something like being buried alive without the prospect of delivering death, only worse. Until….what all the arsenal of symbolism employed, even that of the Tree of Life (most interestingly placed) come to resolve in contextual climax.
A movie where more thought is to be expended in resolving meanings after viewing than while.