Have I ever started a review with “Where has such and such a movie been all my life?’ because I shoulda and coulda done it here. I’m not entirely sure how I would have responded to A REFLECTION OF FEAR if I had seen it at a younger age but I do know that it currently has all the markings and behavior of a pet movie I’d like to wrap in a blanket and deliver a saucer of milk. A cluttered mansion, a barely tolerable protagonist, psycho-sexual family skeletons falling out of the woodwork, a shadow faced killer on a rampage and a malevolent talking doll. It’s like THE ATTIC and PIN had a baby out of wedlock and I get to adopt it! REFLECTION is based on a novel by (DELORIS) STANTON FORBES and yes, I already ordered a copy and made sure it was plenty used and lived in a library. Hopefully it will be so moldy that I nearly suffocate while enjoying it.
Ethereally yet confidently directed by WILLIAM A. FRAKER the cinematographer of ROSEMARY’S BABY (!), REFLECTION introduces us to an unsung psycho sister of Norman Bates named Marguerite. Koo-koo, microscope-obsessed doll collecting Marguerite is played by SONDRA LOCKE and wholly crap is it a performance. Pale and fluttering like a sun-bleached sheet on a clothesline, she still manages to dominate anyone in her vicinity. No small feat when ROBERT SHAW is on the guest list. Young Marguerite has led a sheltered existence that has given birth to an intricate universe within her head. She barely exists at all but struts like a deity before her menagerie of dolls and the amoeba caught beneath her owl gaze. When Marguerite’s long lost father (SHAW) bounces into town with fiancée SALLY KELLERMAN on his arm, folks start getting beaten to death by a killer who wields a wooden plank like a possessed Punch puppet. The actual reveal of the mystery killer will hardly leave you doing a spit take but the way the material is handled is seriously haunting regardless.
I’ve always thought the scariest part of 1973’s DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK was the eerie conspiratorial bookend whispers. REFLECTION carries a similar unearthly vocal element when dealing with Marguerite’s once treasured now vanquished doll Aaron (voiced by GORDON ANDERSON whose lone other voicing credit is that of the titular RATBOY in LOCKE’s directorial debut). REFLECTION’s PG rating, which it apparently endured many cuts to achieve, may leave it relatively dry in the flowing blood department but it continues to gush with the steady flow of genuine creeps. Really, this film, which sat on the shelf for two years, is a perfect example of the type of fear derived not from violence or bloodshed but from the unease that something generally wrong and unnatural is about to take place. I wasn’t shocked by its ending (man, do I want to ruin it) but I was genuinely disturbed and left with a feeling of unbalance. There are few choppy holes and the action jumps around in a way that left me unclear a few times but the one-two punch of LOCKE’s performance and FRAKER’s sometimes placid and dreamy, sometimes rabid and unruly direction overpowers all. Everybody who knew about this movie and didn’t tell me about it, I am now officially mad at you.