Splatter Time Fun Fest 2014: Don’t Look Now (1973)

don't look now

I’m not looking most of the time!

Screenplay By: Chris Bryant & Allan Scott
Directed By: Nicolas Roeg

I don’t think that anyone can comprehend the loss of a child, even those who have lost a child. This idea is at the heart of Don’t Look Now. It’s a film about loss, and how we deal with loss. The film ultimately moves past loss and gets into the realm of not being able to comprehend. A person laughs because they don’t know how to do anything else. A parent latches onto a psychic because anything that may allow contact with their deceased child is valuable to them. Another parent rejects the psychic because to accept them would be to truly accept that their child is gone. I don’t know what it’s like to lose a child, but I can only imagine that there has to be truth in not being able to comprehend that loss.

At first glance Don’t Look Now is more of a psychological drama than a horror film. Sticking with the film through the end I was surprised by how much of a horror film Nicolas Roeg had truly crafted. The lack of jump scares, ghosts, and killers leaving blood and guts everywhere does not mean the film in question is not a horror movie. Not being able to truly comprehend, or deal, with the loss of your child is as horrific as it gets. Mr. Roeg presents the horror of losing a child as atmosphere. He doesn’t use music or swanky camera work to create this atmosphere, he uses the absence of an essence.

In an opening scene Laura and John Baxter are playfully barbing at one another. There’s a sense in that scene that they are whole, that they are happy, and that their is love behind every joke, barb, and comment. Fast forward a little in the film and there are a handful of scenes where the Baxter’s are again joking around with one another. Only this time there’s something lacking in those scenes. It’s not anything tangible, rather it’s the spiritual essence of their daughter. Her death haunts their jokes, it stays in their eyes, and it affects their every movement and motion. The atmosphere created in Don’t Look Now is about lacking something and not being able to find it no matter how hard someone looks.

I’m still wrestling with the sex scene in Don’t Look Now. I understand the purpose it serves, and in that regard it’s no different than any of the scenes of the Baxter’s joking around. However, the emotions that are laid on the table during the sex scene could have been exposed in a scene where the Baxter’s had their clothes on. I’m trying not to be prudish, but the more I think about it the more I get the feeling that the sex scene in Don’t Look Now is present simply for there to be a sex scene.

Don’t Look Now is a well-made film in just about every possible way. The acting is top notch, and the screenplay does much with very little. That being said, this is Mr. Roeg’s film through and through. The atmosphere and ambiance that he creates is of the most importance to the film. Don’t Look Now is a film about atmosphere and about longing for something intangible. A movie about loss, and what happens after the loss has occurred; Don’t Look Now is atmospheric horror of the finest order.



Bill Thompson

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