Horror, Thriller

The Psychic aka Seven Notes in Black (1977)

Comments Off on The Psychic aka Seven Notes in Black (1977) 12 September 2013

the psychic

Studio: Severin

Theatrical Release: August 10, 1977 (Italy)

DVD Release: October 30, 2007

Director: Lucio Fulci

Not Rated

Review by James Klein

While The Psychic does have some traditional Fulci-isms such as camera zooms, some familiar faces in the cast, and his love for graphic violence (there is actually only one semi-graphic death) this isn’t your typical Fulci film. Before he went balls to wall crazy with 1979’s Zombie , his  psychological thriller is more…shall we say, mature? The Psychic, in fact, pays more homage to Alfred Hitchcock than the Grand Guignol.

The opening sequence of The Psychic starts off with a mother committing suicide as her young daughter, hundreds of miles away, watches in terror thanks to her psychic abilities. This is the only semi-graphic death in the entire film and one that had me giggling in shock. Despite the dated special effects, the suicide is pretty nasty as the mother jumps from a cliff to her death while her face smashes along side on her way down. While the suicide serves little purpose to the story, its used to great effect by capturing the viewers attention and establishing this child’s psychic powers.

The Psychic 4

Jennifer O’Neil (Scanners) plays the now grown up child, Virginia. As Virginia is driving to see her husband and his new home, she gets a vision of several images that she believes is a woman who was killed, with her body being hidden behind a wall. While Virginia is at the new home, she gets the sense that maybe this is the home where the body may be hidden. Knocking down a wall, she finds a skeleton and her husband is quickly to blame, thus being arrested. Believing her husband is innocent, Virginia searches for clues as to who killed this woman. With the help of a friendly psychiatrist (Marc Porel) and her rude sister-in-law (Ida Galli) Virginia soon finds out that it’s not the past that she is seeing, but the future.

The Psychic 1

While I enjoyed The Psychic for the first half of the film, despite some of the awful dubbing and bland direction, the movie ultimately fails due to one major issue: the film ruins the surprise or twist of the story half way through the movie!  Once the audience finds out that Virginia is seeing the future, only an idiot wouldn’t be able to realize what’s going to happen next. The movie then becomes dull and tedious. It also doesn’t help that The Psychic is rather bland looking. Most of the film is shot indoors and feels almost like a stage play or a made for TV movie. I do respect the fact that Fulci wanted to try something different but it just didn’t work for me.

The Psychic 2

However, the movie isn’t a complete failure and that’s because of the excellent cast. O’Neil has always been a great actress and I never understood why she never become more well-known. I also especially liked Galli as the sarcastic and rude sister-in-law. The screenplay by Roberto Gianviti and Dardano Sacchetti is captivating and plays like an old Hitchcock film or a Twilight Zone episode until the half way mark where I felt the viewer is let down by the revelation of the twist.

The Psychic 3

The DVD by Severin is also disappointing. The picture jumps from being grainy with print damage to crystal clear which can be distracting. I also thought the Dolby Digital sound was lousy. It was very difficult to hear the dialog and I had to crank up the volume to the extreme just to hear what was going on. The limited special features also disappoint. There is an audio interview with Sacchetti, costume designer Massimo Lentini and editor Bruno Micheli that can be interesting at times regarding the making of the film (Fulci’s reputation as being hard to work with/for is once again confirmed). There is also the American trailer which was released in 1979, two years after its debut in Italy.

While I appreciate the change of pace and effort that Fulci was trying to do by making a psychological detective story, his later films such as Zombie, The Beyond, City of the Living Dead, and The New York Ripper far surpass this mediocre thriller.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

 

 

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