That `80's Guy Who Misses Video Stores
...is feeling burned out after all. This will be the last review for a while. It was a good run. There are three remaining movies. The inside-out bear from 1979's "Prophecy" has a fairly well-known reputation. "Horror Hospital," from 1973, is British horror with Michael Gough. And "Savage Weekend," from 1981, looks to be one more "Halloween" rip-off and not a remarkable one from what I've read.
Movie #23: Homicidal (1961)
Following every innovative horror film is a string of rip-offs and parodies. "Halloween," along with its equally established partner "Friday The 13th," inspired an impressive number of such films. "Scream" inspired a dozen knock-offs of its own. Now, what about "Psycho," the innovative Alfred Hitchcock film from 1960? It also must have inspired its own string of rip-offs. How could filmmakers not take advantage of such an opportunity? And how could William Castle, director of 1958's "House on Haunted Hill" and 1960's "13 Ghosts," also not take advantage of it? He did here with "Homicidal," featuring the unofficial and anything-but-subtle subtitle "The story of a psychotic killer!"
Meet Emily. She is a nurse taking care of Helga, who is mute and confined to a wheelchair after suffering a stroke. Warren is Helga's son and is step-siblings with Mariam. Oh, yeah, and also, Emily is homicidal. She is a lunatic. She's nuts in the head. The movie begins with an unusual setup and proposition by Emily, and it leads to a sudden outburst of violence. Yes, a woman is revealed to be the psychotic killer in this rip-off, or homage, as suggested by film historians, of "Psycho." A gender reversal is fitting for a different stab at Hitchcock's classic.
This is one more film with a tricky plot. There is a lot that is best not revealed here. The movie gives away one surprise in the beginning and has more surprises toward the end. What can be said is that Helga is terrified of Emily. She cannot speak and warn others, nor can she get up and run away. She is trapped, and the actress portraying her shows more range of emotion on her face than some of the other actors with written dialogue. Was Emily clever and cruel enough to not leave any notepads and pens around in the house? Mariam is suspicious of Emily's behavior and finds out for herself the disturbing truth.
"Homicidal" is a clever rip-off/homage, but is no "Psycho." Its killer is uniquely different from Norman Bates, but is still no Norman Bates. But it is an inspired enough take-off with a decent story and execution that hits the mark. Having directed the campy "House on Haunted Hill," William Castle was a good choice to contrast Alfred Hitchcock's serious craftmanship. This cannot be taken as seriously as "Psycho," but does generate some honest suspense. By following "Psycho," it had a responsibility to create its own compelling mystery and it does just that.
**1/2 out of 4
Recommended as a rental or purchase.