Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Robert Wise|
|Screenplay by||Frank De Felitta|
|Based on||Audrey Rose (novel)|
by Frank De Felitta
|Music by||Michael Small|
|Cinematography||Victor J. Kemper|
|Edited by||Carl Kress|
|Distributed by||United Artists|
|Box office||$2 million|
Audrey Rose is a 1977 American psychological horror drama film directed by Robert Wise and starring Marsha Mason, Anthony Hopkins, and Susan Swift. It was based on the novel of the same name by Frank De Felitta. The plot is about a young girl who is believed by a man to be a reincarnation of his dead daughter.
Ivy Templeton (Susan Swift) is a ten-year-old girl, living with her parents, Janice and Bill Templeton (Marsha Mason and John Beck), in New York City. Her parents notice a stranger stalking them over the course of a few weeks, and discover, over dinner with him, that his name is Elliot Hoover (Anthony Hopkins). Elliot is convinced that Ivy is a reincarnation of his daughter Audrey Rose, who died in a fiery car accident, along with his wife, two minutes before Ivy was born. Elliot had come to believe this through information given to him by two clairvoyant psychics. Bill asks a friend of his, an attorney, to hide in their apartment to hear Elliot's full story to build a case against him, but when Elliot speaks Audrey's name out loud, Ivy hears him from her room and enters an altered state where she cannot be calmed down without the assistance of Elliot. In this state, she bangs her hands on a window and becomes burned, which Elliot says is a result of his daughter's experience of being burned alive in the car.
Janice is afraid of Elliot but is also concerned for her daughter, while Bill is hostile to Elliot and demands he stay away. Ivy continues to be disturbed by nightmares, which worsen. Elliot appears at their home during one of her nightmares, and at the request of Janice, the man is able to calm Ivy down by calling to her as Audrey Rose but is arrested for allegedly briefly abducting her to his recently rented upstairs apartment.
The film then segues to an ongoing trial, where Elliot is attempting to persuade a jury that his actions were necessary to grant his daughter's spirit peace. The trial has become a worldwide phenomenon, with a Hindu holy man giving an explanation of reincarnation as testimony. Elliot testifies in court that after his daughter's death, he had traveled to India and become a believer in reincarnation and Hinduism. Janice comes to believe Elliot's story, and testifies as much, but Bill does not, and has their lawyer request Ivy be hypnotized to show she is not a reincarnation of Audrey Rose. During the hypnosis, Ivy revisits the traumatic car crash as Audrey Rose and dies during the relived trauma.
The last scene is Janice writing a letter to Elliot thanking him for transporting Ivy/Audrey's ashes to India, and indicating this is with her husband's permission, whom she says has started to accept what she and Elliot believe to be true. The movie closes on a quotation from the Bhagavad-Gita:
"There is no end. For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does it ever cease to be. It is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval..."
The film has a score of 50% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 16 reviews.
Vincent Canby of The New York Times wrote: "The soul of the movie is that of The Exorcist instantly recycled." Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film three stars out of four and called the first hour "excellent" but the second half "pretty bad ... The picture falls apart as it turns into a dumb legal melodrama replete with cross-examination and a hypnotized key witness." Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles Times praised the "first-rate acting" but added "In a way, 'Audrey Rose' may go too far in denying the mystery and proclaiming the certainty of reincarnation. The handling denies the story of some of the spookiness of an exercise in style like Don't Look Now, and the literalness has a way of putting off those who might be willing to go along for the ride." For Newsweek, Janet Maslin wrote that Audrey Rose lacked "not only any sign of intelligence, but also that other prerequisite of a good horror movie - fast pacing"; and Judith Crist in the Saturday Review]] wrote that the film "starts out as a titillating little thriller, but after 20 minutes, it bogs down in a series of minilectures on reincarnation that wipe out whatever dramatic potential the story might have had."
More mixed was Richard Combs writing for The Monthly Film Bulletin: "Before the film collapses into [...] bathetic nonsense [...] it displays a dramatic rationale and figurative substance that makes it at least as diverting as Rosemary's Baby, and a cut above the special effects hocus-pocus of its nearer predecessors in the demonology genre."  Paul Petlewski for Cinefantastique was measured in his assessment: "Although Audrey Rose is an honourable film, it isn't particularly memorable or even an important one [...] Its interest is partly historical the [Val] Lewton connection and partly aesthetic - the pleasure derived from watching a talented director attempt to transcend his silly material."