I have a superb and seldom seen recommendation for you guys today. This is exactly the type of near impossible to find treasure that keeps me so enthusiast about Netflix Streaming. 1969’s I START COUNTING (based on a novel by Audrey Erskine-Lindop) is a coming of age horror/thriller and it fits nicely as a sort of missing link between HITCHCOCK’s SHADOW OF A DOUBT and 1985’s SMOOTH TALK. It stars a young JENNY AGUTTER, who you’re sure to know from AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, and it’s directed by DAVID GREENE who also helmed THE SHUTTERED ROOM (1967). From what I can tell it never made an appearance in the US, either in theaters or on television. The subject matter does walk a fine, leering line sometimes but to me, it reads more frank than exploitive.
AGUTTER plays Wynne, a fourteen-year-old who has developed a fervent crush on her much older (he’s 32) half-brother George (BRYAN MARSHALL). This situation would be complicated enough but as Wynne’s obsession leads to stalking she also finds many a reason to suspect that George is directly responsible for all of the dead ladies that have been popping up all over town. Rather than allow George’s apparent violent, deviant side to dissuade her though, Wynne grows more and more infatuated and condoning while her courting of danger escalates. Again and again she finds herself gravitating towards the abandoned wreck of her childhood home, a place that she has been warned never to go. Eventually she discovers that her dark imaginings are a couple shades lighter than what’s going on in the real world and that her yearnings have clouded her view.
I START COUNTING does a beautiful job of capturing the confusion of being trapped in a limbo between a dissolving childhood and an alluring, yet threatening adult world. It’s quite a character study as we are granted near full access to Wynne’s haunting memories and current fantasies. It’s a beautifully shot film utilizing an almost uniform palate of gray and beige hues and the soundtrack and locations bring to life an idiosyncratic bubble of history during radically shifting social mores. (Wait until you get a load of the record store Wynne’s other brother Jim (MICHAEL FEAST) works at!) Best of all, I START COUNTING delivers a pretty steady pulse of suspense and even a few punches of horror. Its focus on the psychological, strong use of symbolism and willingness to jump freely between what’s going on in reality and what’s going on in Wynne’s head insures that the viewer always has something to chew on.. You may figure things out before Wynne does but that just makes things all the more nerve racking. I don’t want to ruin too much, so I’ll say no more. Now get watching!