Symptoms (1974)

Posted: May 31, 2021 in Uncategorized

José Larraz’ Symptoms (1974), which I watched last night, is a slow burn of the best kind. Angela Pleasance, whose performance makes her both pitiable and terrifying, arrives at her isolated country house with Lorna Heilbron. The only other person around is odd-jobs man Peter Vaughan, who radiates creep vibes from the word go. Then things happen very, very gradually, so gradually in fact, that when the Holy Shit moments come, and they do, they strike without any warning and all the more effective for it.

As with Whirlpool and Vampyres, Larraz lavishes his attention on the English countryside. The forest that surrounds the house is a thick, lush tangle, a Pre-Raphaellite painting come to life, and rotting with its excess of life. The lake at its centre, stagnant, covered in leaves, its depths utterly hidden, is Pleasance’s self manifested in nature, and the scene where she and Heilbron row across it, with the ripples shimmering across Pleasance’s face, is a striking moment of quiet eerieness. The film’s resemblances to Repulsion, to the point of being its rural equivalent, have been well-documented, but there are influences too of Psycho, The Innocents, and even Persona. A heady mix, then, but it also makes the mix its own. Intoxicating stuff.

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