SYMPTOMS

PrintE-mail Written by John Townsend

The BFI Flipside series has been created to uncover and re-release films from the past; whether overlooked, mis-appraised at the time of their release, or simply having passed into cinematic folklore. The latest in a line of unheralded classics is Symptoms, José Larraz’s 1974 melancholic gothic drama that was once considered lost altogether.

Helen (Pleasance) is a frail, sickly, almost ethereal young woman who has suffered from an unnamed illness for some time. To aid her recuperation, and accompanied by her newly single friend Anne (Heilborn), she retreats to her family’s country home. There Helen is plagued by strange visions and noises, perhaps within her head, perhaps not, and the seedy attentions of the estate’s handyman Brady (Vaughan).

There is a clear nod to Polanski in the way Larraz constructs his narrative. While not wholly original in its plotting, certainly by today’s horror standards, it is in the way Larraz draws you inevitably towards a finale that is interesting. From the outset you know something is amiss. A brooding, malevolent undercurrent flows through every scene; you’re aware that there is more to what you are watching, and are uncomfortably expectant, but so little is revealed for much of the film that you could argue virtually nothing really happens. This theme is signified by the belated introduction of Cora (Mailleux), a woman from Helen’s past who may or may not still inhabit the house.

An unexplained sound here, or a cryptic vision there – nothing is ever straightforward. That is, until Larraz wants it to be and the repressed violence you’ve been expecting is released in a flurried pique of passion.

Much of the intrigue in Symptoms comes from the lesbian courtship at the heart of Helen and Anne’s relationship. Mostly platonic, more so from Anne’s side, this is a burgeoning love that is never truly given clarity, and their subtle verbal and gestured exchanges are soon interrupted by Anne’s prim and proper ex-boyfriend. This dose of reality fuels a pathological reaction in Helen that changes the film’s pace and tone; the narrative now spinning out of control towards a darkly shocking conclusion.

As a psychological thriller, and one that follows a character’s descent into madness, Symptoms is not as impressive an example as Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby. That said this is a film that warrants attention. Larraz understood how to draw every gothic breath from an English countryside rarely pictured so bleakly. Mysterious portent flows down from the trees, oozes from the estate’s lake, and seems to both influence and judge the films events. Symptoms may not be a classic, but as a previously lost rarity it is a film to be enjoyed.

SYMPTOMS (1974) / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: JOSÉ RAMÓN LARRAZ / SCREENPLAY: JOSÉ RAMÓN LARRAZ, JOSEPH LARRZA, STANLEY MILLER, THOMAS OWEN / STARRING: ANGELA PLEASENCE, PETER VAUGHAN, LORNA HEILBRON, NANCY NEVINSON / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW




Suggested Articles:
Caradog W. James’ new feature Don’t Knock Twice is an interesting film, but not necessarily for
First broadcast in 1973 as an episode for the long running, German detective series, Tatort (which s
Based on Adelaida García Morales’ short story El sur, this 1983 film version was voted one of the
We’ve always been sceptical of health farms and diet pills, and this obscure little gem from Down
scroll back to top

Add comment

Security code
Refresh

Other articles in DVD / Blu-ray Reviews

DON'T KNOCK TWICE 20 January 2017

DEAD PIGEON ON BEETHOVEN STREET 15 January 2017

EL SUR 15 January 2017

BODY MELT (1993) 12 January 2017

VALLEY OF THE SASQUATCH 12 January 2017

FIRST MEN IN THE MOON 10 January 2017

SAUSAGE PARTY 09 January 2017

HEAD OF THE FAMILY 09 January 2017

CREEPY 09 January 2017

THE GLASS SHIELD (1994) 09 January 2017

- Entire Category -

Sign up today!
Banner
Banner
Banner
Banner
Banner
Banner
Banner
Banner
Banner
Banner
Banner

      
      
 
 
 
 
 
...
 
Notice: Undefined index: sub_content in D:\inetpub\wwwroot\modules\mod_yt_content_slideshowii\tmpl\theme4.php on line 144
Notice: Undefined index: sub_content in D:\inetpub\wwwroot\modules\mod_yt_content_slideshowii\tmpl\theme4.php on line 144
Notice: Undefined index: sub_content in D:\inetpub\wwwroot\modules\mod_yt_content_slideshowii\tmpl\theme4.php on line 144
Notice: Undefined index: sub_content in D:\inetpub\wwwroot\modules\mod_yt_content_slideshowii\tmpl\theme4.php on line 144