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Audrey Rose is a 1977 supernatural-horror drama from acclaimed filmmaker Robert Wise (The Sound of Music, The Haunting). The film was released to mixed reviews upon release as it was compared to The Exorcist (though not in a positive way by most: it was suggested as a inspired attempt at remaking or 'cashing-in' on the success of the film).
The story of the film focuses on the Templeton family. The family seems to be doing just fine at the beginning of the film: afternoon trips together and a carefree day in the sun start of the film's story. Both the parents are well-off and have a high-end apartment to raise their daughter in. Janice Templeton (Marsha Mason) is the mom, Bill Templeton (John Beck) is the dad, and daughter Ivy Templeton (Susan Swift) is their daughter.
Then one day the family meets a strange and mysterious man named Elliot Hoover (Anthony Hopkins, in an early role) who tries to convince them both that their daughter is also the reincarnation of his deceased young daughter, Audrey Rose. Is Elliot right or is he just a complete kook? As the story unfolds, John takes Mr. Hoover to court but as a surprising campaign goes underway to show Audrey Rose exists in the body of Ivy Templeton, the surprises begin to unfold. Susan Swift does a compelling job of suggesting both the quiet character of Ivy Templeton and the nightmare world of Audrey Rose (who died tragically after a car accident).
Robert Wise is, well, wise (to bluntly use a pun) to not strictly keep the film to the horror genre. Implementing genre elements of supernatural-sci-fi to family drama storytelling conventions, Audrey Rose does in fact find ways to surprise. The film has its fair share of the elements it was criticized for but something about this film is much more intelligent. It's the undercurrent of the performances brought out by Wise and the way it was directed. The music score by Michael Small is effectively simple, creepy, and unsettling during the film. Many sequences are made more effective from the ambiance implemented by the composer. Continuing to explore dark score terrain, Small created a score which works quite well in providing a backdrop to the film. The soft and ominous music makes a serious impression.
Ultimately, Audrey Rose tends to work more as a thriller with an undercurrent of supernatural attributes. It probably was never intended as being seen strictly as a horror film, but has been unfairly referred to as only being one of many Exorcist rip-offs. While a certain degree of the story does seem inspired by films like The Exorcist, Audrey Rose stands out from the bunch as an interesting and well-made exploration of the concept of reincarnation. Whether or not someone believes in reincarnation, the solid direction of Robert Wise makes the experiment more interesting to behold. Audrey Rose is a compelling and memorable slice of genre-filmmaking from the seventies.
Audrey Rose arrives on Blu-ray with a pleasing (if unspectacular) high definition presentation. Most of the film seems to be suggest a remarkably strong film presentation true to the source material and the entire experience feels like watching a high quality film print (though not a restored film-print presentation). Clarity and depth are excellent - this transfers seems to be remarkably well encoded.
Some viewers might compare the look to an age-worn paperback horror novel from a used bookstore, though. This is because the cinematography and the overall stylistic appearance is somewhat muted in color, features inconsistent contrast, and largely inconsistent grain structure (with some scenes having so much film grain that it actually is something more reminiscent of digital noise). Nonetheless, Audrey Rose looks impressive in 1080p High Definition despite a few drawbacks in the presentation quality and most fans will still find it a worthwhile upgrade over the previous non-anamorphic DVD. Certainly, the film benefits in having a high bit-rate encode which helps to create a much more "filmic" viewing experience.
Presented with a lossless 24 bit DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo audio presentation, Audrey Rose is a reasonably engaging film in terms of the audio clarity and stereo sound design. The composer of the film, Michael Small (Marathon Man), has done an excellent job enhancing mood throughout the story.
Subtitles are presented in English SDH (for the deaf and hard of hearing).
This release includes a booklet featuring an essay from Julie Kirgo, an isolated score track featuring the work of composer Michael Small, and the original theatrical trailer.
Audrey Rose is an unusual attempt at a gothic horror film. Clearly inspired in part by the huge success of The Exorcist, the story centers upon the idea of reincarnation and is more thoughtful and intelligent in its approach than is to be expected as typical genre films from the time period were much more interested in simply creating some audience jumps and thrills. Director Robert Wise (The Day The Earth Stood Still, The Haunting, West Side Story) has done a solid job with the film, even if it's not on the same level as one of his great masterpieces. Twilight Time's new Blu-ray release is a solid presentation of the film (the best available on home media) and is worth a look for fans.
Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.