The Premonition (USA, 1976)
After enjoying Dark August earlier this month, I decided to dig through the other 1970s indie oddities Shudder had added around the same time. The Premonition stood out as having the highest IMDB score, and the mentions of psychic powers and a creepy clown finally sold me.
The Premonition is currently available on Shudder in the UK.
Sheri Bennett and her annoyingly paternalistic husband Miles are the happy adoptive parents of Janie, a young girl whose birth mother, Andrea, was institutionalised with psychiatric problems shortly after Janie’s birth. Now that Andrea has been released, however, she follows a tip from her boyfriend Jude, a clown and photographer, who spotted Janie at the fairground where he works.
Andrea starts stalking the Bennett family, looking for an opportunity to take her daughter back. This brings her into conflict with the lovesick Jude, who feels Andrea’s obsession is driving them apart.
At the same time, Sheri starts having psychic visions, warning her obliquely of the dangers posed by Andrea and Jude. These visions are vague and confusing, often making the situation worse. While Miles is initially dismissive, his colleague at the university and apparent lover, Jeena Kingsley, believes Sheri’s visions to be real.
Of course, all of this is building towards murder, kidnapping, and general child endangerment. Will Sheri’s psychic visions be Janie’s salvation or are they just making things worse?
As I mentioned in my review of Dark August, there was a surge of interest in all things paranormal during the 1970s. The Premonition touches upon the pseudo-scientific interest in psychic powers of the time, via Dr Kingsley’s academic study of paraphysics. While the little snippets we see of her experiments look pretty standard for media of the time, with volunteers taped up to electrodes and encouraged to tap into their psychic abilities, it amused me that she’s referred to as being part of the physics faculty.
The scenes involving Dr Kingsley talking bollocks about telepathy are the highlight of the film. It’s just a shame there aren’t more of them.
Also, the most ’70s thing about The Premonition is a brief shot of a pile of Reader’s Digest condensed books sitting on a table in the Bennett residence. It took me right back.
Given the elements that make it up, The Premonition should be a lot weirder than it is. For a story involving a creepy clown, crimes of passion, and psychic visions, it’s an oddly sober film. While there are some strange moments, it feels much like a ’70s TV movie, if a pretty dour one. For the first hour, in particular, we are tantalised with the possibility of unsettling things, but they never quite materialise. There are some unexpected turns as things progress, although not enough to stop the film from feeling safe.
The final act almost saves The Premonition, however. What seems initially like a series of disjointed events starts coming together into something satisfying. The very end manages some of the weirdness I craved, but it was a bit of a slog getting there.
And all this isn’t to say that The Premonition is a write-off. Both Ellen Barber and Richard Lynch put in delightfully unhinged performances as Andrea and Jude the clown respectively. Each manages to capture a simmering madness and potential for violence without ever losing the humanity of their character.
Ultimately, The Premonition is a pretty average supernatural thriller, with a slow pace that does it no favours. A few more shocks and a willingness to embrace its weirder aspects could have turned it into so much more.
The October Horror Movie Challenge
Please do join in and share your own thoughts with us about this or any other films as the month goes on. You can usually find us on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Discord, or lurking in the dark corners of your home.
If you would like to play along at home, my provisional selections are:
- Dark August (USA, 1976)
- Huesera: The Bone Woman (Mexico/Peru, 2022)
- The Banishing (UK, 2020)
- Brooklyn 45 (USA, 2023)
- Bloody Muscle Bodybuilder in Hell (Japan, 1995)
- Pyewacket (Canada, 2017)
- Grave Robbers (Mexico, 1989)
- You Might Be The Killer (USA, 2018)
- No One Will Save You (USA, 2023)
- The Sect (Italy, 1991)
- Last Night in Soho (UK, 2021)
- Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil (Spain, 2017)
- 47 Metres Down (UK/USA, 2017)
- The Oskars Fantasy (Philippines, 2022)
- In the Earth (UK, 2021)
- Something in the Dirt (USA, 2022)
- Blood Flower (Malaysia, 2023)
- Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II (Canada, 1987)
- Older Gods (UK, 2023)
- Come to Daddy (New Zealand, 2020)
- Shrew’s Nest (Spain, 2014)
- Totally Killer (USA, 2023)
- The Premonition (USA, 1976)
- Murder Me, Monster (Argentina, 2018)
- The Gruesome Twosome (USA, 1967)
- Talk to Me (Australia, 2023)
- Gaia (South Africa, 2021)
- Demon (Poland, 2015)
- Juju Stories (Nigeria, 2022)
- El Conde (Chile, 2023)
- The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (Hong Kong/UK, 1974)
A Final Note
If you have been enticed here by these posts, please do look around at some of our other film reviews. We also have a podcast, called The Good Friends of Jackson Elias, which occasionally covers horror films. If this appeals, you might want to check out some of the following episodes.
- The Night House
- The Changeling
- The Endless
- Our favourite Cthulhu Mythos media
- The Fly
- A Dark Song
- The Thing
- The Ritual
- The Wicker Man
- The Stone Tape
- Event Horizon
- The Witch
- INLAND EMPIRE
- Nightbreed and Lord of Illusions
- Maléfique and The Ninth Gate
- Re-Animator and From Beyond
- Repulsion and The Babdook
- Man Bites Dog, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon and S&man
- A selection of weird films
- David Cronenberg
- The films that scared us most
If you dig through the archives, you will also find episodes about a wide variety of horror stories and games. Happy nightmares!