Daddy Issues, Indeed
Grace (Brooke Mills) was abandoned as a child by her father and left to live in an orphanage. Why this happened is never explained, we just know that Grace loved her father deeply and never forgot about him. She was adopted by a very religious family and grew up in a strict environment. Eventually, she joins her stepbrother Paul (Michael Pataki) as a member of his travelling evangelical show. They go from town to town, preaching and converting souls and healing the sick. Grace has a special show where she dives from a great height, showing her faith in God that she does not get hurt upon her landing. Her other stepbrother, Patrick (Paul Prokop), is a doctor and practices healing of the scientific kind. He and Grace sort of have a thing for each other, although Patrick also cares deeply for one of his students, a fiery, liberated doctor in training named Shirley (Donna Anders). With each town they travel to, Grace looks for her long-lost father, eventually finding him. He is dead and her search is done. Overcome with grief, she cries over his corpse, her tears animating him, bringing back to full, breathing life. Now he is going to live with her again and be her Daddy. Grace could not be happier, dressing like a little girl and doting over him as completely as possible. The thing is, it’s all in her head, as Grace has in reality snapped. And God help anyone who gets in the way of her new relationship with her father…
This is a real weird movie. It’s slow but never boring, and it’s creepy as hell. Watching Grace lose it is uncomfortable and moving, Mills giving a great performance. The backdrop of the travelling religious show, as well as the gothic feel of the rustic settings, combines to make this an atmospheric delight. The movie drips with psychological horror (and a little bit of the red stuff, too), as the real chills come from the strange sexual tension between Grace and her “Father” and the cold evil that she emanates whenever someone tries to come between her and her long-awaited reunion. The final confrontation with Patrick and Shirley is genuinely suspenseful, not because of daring set-pieces or wild action, but because it feels real and very, very personal. And I guess in the end that’s how this movie comes across, as a personal, heartbreaking descent into madness.
Part of a boxed set, Dream No Evil is a good get. It’s not the kind of movie that will make you scream or jump or clap along. It is the kind, however, that will settle into your bones, and the more you think about it, the better it will grow in your estimation. It did in mine. Not a perfect film, but certainly an interesting document of an interesting time, when Women’s Liberation was butting heads with Traditionalism. The old fought the new, and the old was repressed and driven insane while the new was wobbly and defiant and growing stronger. There’s certainly nothing wobbly about this movie, a definitive psychological horror film.
Three Stars out of Four