Thursday, June 24, 2021

Beyond and Back...ish

Films: Audrey Rose
Format: DVD from Manteno Public Library through interlibrary loan on the new portable.

It seems like a year since I’ve posted something (and it has been almost two weeks). Daughter’s graduation and last show with her dance school, preparation for college, end of term for me, and a death in the family will do that. It honestly feels like more than a week since I’ve even watched a movie. When life spirals out of control, entertainment and hobbies are the first things to drop off. This hasn’t changed the fact that there is a stack of movies to my immediate right. Now that things are starting to calm down, it’s time to get to them. The one movie from interlibrary loan seemed like a good place to start, thus this review of Audrey Rose.

I remember vaguely when the book Audrey Rose was published only because one of my sisters was intensely weird about it. The basic story is that a little girl named Audrey Rose dies in a car accident and is immediately reincarnated into the body of another girl. Audrey’s father searches for the new vessel of his daughter’s soul and eventually finds her. That’s pretty much the story of the movie as well, just with added Anthony Hopkins and Marsha Mason.

Honestly, that paragraph above is essentially the entire plot of Audrey Rose. The accident that kills Audrey is 11 years in the past of the movie’s present. We’re going to start with the Templeton family, father Bill (John Beck, looking exactly like he did as Moonpie in Rollerball), mother Janice (Mason), and daughter Ivy (Susan Swift). Their lives seem completely normal, aside from the fact that they start noticing the presence of a strange man on public transportation, at Bill’s job, and (most disturbingly) outside of Ivy’s school.

That man is Elliot Hoover (Hopkins), the grieving father of Audrey Rose. He eventually confronts the Templetons with what he thinks is going on, and Janice, initially skeptical and a bit terrified of Hoover, starts to buy into his story when she realizes that Ivy has bizarre, inexplicable nightmares every year around her birthday—which coincides with Audrey Rose’s violent death. Hoover takes his encounters with a few psychics as evidence for his case, but Bill—presented here as a skeptical atheist, and thus not trustworthy in 1970s Hollywood, finds that to be more than a bridge too far. But more and more things start to demonstrate Hoover’s beliefs as reality, not the least of which is his ability to calm down Ivy during her nightmares by using the name of his dead daughter.

Eventually, Hoover kidnaps Ivy, kind of, which leads to a big ol’ show trial, which is how the movie spends the third act. I honestly wasn’t expecting this to end in a courtroom drama with John Hillerman in the role of the Templetons’ attorney.

Where Audrey Rose fails is in the scare department. The trailer is relatively creepy, helped a great deal by the disturbing cover art for the book. And the trailer is far more upsetting and disturbing than the film could ever hope to be. There’s one really good creepy moment—Ivy is spending a night in a hotel with her mother. Janice awakens and finds Ivy standing in the bathroom, looking at herself in the mirror, and more or less asking for Audrey Rose to come out, a la Candyman. It’s a great moment in a movie that really could have used more of them.

My biggest issue with Audrey Rose is the casting of Marsha Mason. As I’ve said a number of times on this blog, I’m not a fan. There are a number of actors who I have learned to love by watching them over and over. Believe it or not, if you go back far enough, you can find a post where I wonder why everyone seems so blown away by Bette Davis, who is now one of my favorite all-time actresses. I’ve warmed to Renee Zellwegger and I have a much nicer opinion of Keanu Reeves and Clive Owen. Marsha Mason, though, I still don’t like. I can’t think of a movie (Cinderella Liberty…maybe…, and she’s better than James Caan in Chapter Two) where I wouldn’t want someone else in the role. She immediately pulls me out of any movie I see her in, and it doesn’t help that in Audrey Rose she spends a lot of time crying or looking like she’s about to cry.

Audrey Rose is fine. It’s billed as a horror movie, but is one only tangentially, and only because it deals with reincarnation. It’s a lot closer to a drama with elements of magical realism than anything else, so it’s a disappointment in that respect. I can’t imagine needing to watch this a second time.

Why to watch Audrey Rose: It feels like a very different plot than seems typical for horror.
Why not to watch: Marsha Mason is the best you could get?


  1. Congrats on your daughter's graduation, and my condolences for your loss. It's crazy how things seem to happen all at once, and can either slow or expedite the passage of time in our minds. I'm glad things are calming down for you.

    As for the movie, I've heard of Audrey Rose, but that's about it. Before reading this post I had no clue what the plot was, or even who was in it. Thanks, but per your recommendation, I'm still in no rush to see it.

    1. You're safe avoiding this. If you want this era Hopkins in a movie that leans creepy, go with Magic.

      Everything does seem to happen all at the same time. I've been behind in movies all year in terms of what I normally watch, but it's been taking days to watch anything. It was hard to focus on anything pretty much until today.

  2. I like Marsha Mason a great deal more than you do, and to your "Why not to watch" statement you have to remember that when this was made she was very much in the ascendant so the film makers were surely delighted to land such a big name, and of course Anthony Hopkins is always good value but I was disappointed in this film.

    I'm not big on horror as you know but this read more as suspense and with that cast I was all primed to really like it but it was rather ponderous.

    1. I think I might have been turned off on Marsha Mason originally because of just how terrible her character is in The Goodbye Girl. I remember getting to the end of that and thinking that there's a reason all of the men in her life dump her. I don't often associate a person with a character, but I did with her--but unlike Zellwegger, Owen, and Monty Clift (I forgot to mention him above), she's never gotten past my initial distaste.

    2. I can certainly understand that. I had a similar problem with Julianne Moore when she was starting out. I can't remember the film but I didn't like her and it took quite some time for that to pass but now I'm an enormous fan.

      With Marsha if it helps a friend of mine works at the D.C. Shakespeare Company co-running the wardrobe department and said when she was doing a play there a few years ago she was a delight. Very friendly, accessible and best of all flexible and undemanding.

    3. Actually, it does, a bit. I probably still won't love her as an actress, but it's nice to know she's a decent person.

  3. Sorry for your loss. Congrats on your daughter! That's great that she got to do a final show given the pandemic.

    I went and watched the original trailer for this on YouTube, and having grown up during the 70s, loved that mid-seventies horror vibe. But really, the trailer overdoes the single word thing.

    The child. The mother. The father. The cousin. The second-cousin once removed. The stranger. The trial. The window. The sandwich.

    We get it, trailer!

    1. It was nice--she'll likely keep dancing in some level, but not with this studio. It was kind of the end of an era for her and for us.

      I would agree the trailer is pretty heavy-handed. It's a good example, though, of a trailer that makes the movie look a lot better than it actually is.

  4. Sorry for your loss. Congrats for your daughter. I'm just glad you're back. I don't know if I want to see this as I don't think I'm that familiar with Marsha Mason.

    1. A lot of people like Marsha Mason just fine. She's like biting on tinfoil for me.