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The Psychic – 8

Director – Lucio Fulci

Cast – Jennifer O’Neill, Gabriele Ferzetti, Marc Porel, Gianni Garko, Ida Galli, Jenny Tamburi, Fabrizio Jovine, Riccardo Parisio Perrotti, Loredana Savelli

Release Year – 1979 (US)

Reviewed by John of the Dead

Italian horror director Lucio Fulci is known by many as “The Godfather of Gore”, and rightfully so. Zombi put him in the international market, and his gorefest zombie films City of the Living Dead, The Beyond, and The House By the Cemetery solidified this. Before he made his mark on the zombie sub-genre he had already made his mark in the giallo scene with A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin, Don’t Torture a Duckling, and The Psychic. Known as one of the most overlooked and under-appreciated horror gems, The Psychic brings a crafty story, superb direction, but comes limited on the horror. At times the lack of horror makes this feel like an uncharacteristic Fulci experience, but in the end this directing maestro excels at delivering a solid thriller.

Throughout her life Virginia has been cursed with clairvoyant abilities, beginning with seeing her mother’s suicide in a vision. Her most recent vision, where an old woman is murdered then hidden within a wall, becomes reality when she decides to renovate her husband’s abandoned mansion and finds a skeleton hidden in the exact same manner. With her husband charged with the killing, Virginia tries desperately to clear her husband’s name, only to realize the possibility that she too may share the victim’s fate.

Fulci and his longtime writing collaborators Dardano Sacchetti and Roberto Gianviti pen a captivating story that envelops us into the horror going on within Virginia’s mind. Her terrifying visions are proving true, and much to her dismay her husband is deemed responsible with the most recent one. We are left to assume he did not do it, as his traveling outside of the country should be a solid alibi, but the writers will keep you guessing until the very end. Several possible suspects come to light, each with their own questionable backgrounds and whereabouts for the night, making this a classic giallo storyline. Watching Virginia slowly descend into madness over the ordeal is haunting in itself, and things only worsen when she begins to realize that she is on a direct path to suffer the same fate as the woman buried within the wall. I mentioned earlier that this film is low on the horror for a Fulci film, and that is because there is absolutely no gore and very few kill sequences. In fact, most of the kills occur in Virginia’s visions and not during the present time, as with most other giallos where suspects are being eliminated as the story progresses. This is not a bad thing though, and I still consider this a horror film. Fulci finds ways to insert horror here and there, especially during the kills seen in Virginia’s visions. I will say that Fulci’s goal was not to terrify or shock the viewer like his other films, but that does not mean The Psychic lacks punch – it has plenty of that without resorting to gore.

Fulci’s direction is where the film truly excels, and he does a fantastic job of bringing this somewhat tame (for Fulci) experience to life. His execution of the kill scenes is phenomenal as always, including a face-smash on a cliff scene that should remind you of a very notable death in Don’t Torture a Duckling. Fulci brings with him his longtime cinematographer Sergio Salvati, who makes this a very visually appealing and engaging 90 minutes. The horror is full-frontal, the atmosphere is fantastic, and as with many of Fulci’s giallo films he makes excellent use of colors. I cannot comment on the acting performances because they are of course dubbed in English, but I will say that the dub was a bit on the negative side at times regarding volume. Ultimately Fulci’s direction proves to seal the deal for this piece, which includes a phenomenal closing sequence that will leave you in awe.

Overall, The Psychic may be one of Fulci’s lesser known efforts, but it is up there as one of his best. With a great story and even better direction, this “tame” experience is one you should check out.

Rating: 8/10

…Additional Stills…

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