The Premonition directed by Robert Allen Schnitzer and written by Anthony Mahon and Louis Pastore came out in 1976 the same year as Brian De Palma terrific crazy telekinetic horror Carrie. Sharing some similarities it seems The Premonition remained relatively unknown until that is Arrow got hold of it for a brand new Blu-ray release.
Telling the story of two very different couples linked through one child, the film opens like a family drama with renowned Prof. Miles Bennett and his wife Sheri (paled by Edward Bell and Sharon Farrell) living an idyllic life with their foster daughter Janie (Danielle Brisebois) in suburban Mississippi.
In the same town but residing in a rundown trailer on a carnival are clown Jude (Richard Lynch) and his girlfriend Andrea (Ellen Barber) who met in a psychiatric hospital and have ever since been searching for Andrea’s child who was taken from her at the time of her incarceration.
Getting a lead at last that the little girl is living with the Bennett’s nearby, Andrea is desperate to get her daughter back however her mental state is too fragile to fight through the conventional means resulting in her and Jude staging a failed kidnapping that sees Sheri scared to death by Andrea in Janie’s room attacking her and snatching a doll and yelling “she’s mine, she’ll always be mine!”
As the Bennett’s bring in the police to try and capture the unhinged pair as they flee to a country hide out Miles is even more unnerved by his wife’s insistence that she saw Andrea in a premonition and she keeps returning stronger and more disturbing each time.
Coincidentally an expert in parapsychology Dr. Jeena Kingsly (Chitra Neogy) has recently arrived at his university and as Sheri’s visions become darker and more disturbing Miles must turn to the professor for help to understand what is going on.
Taking its time to build characters and drama The Premonition waits a full 20 minutes or so before any real horror arrives in the first of Sherri’s shocking but very real hallucinations after which we see the disparate lives of all the main characters unravel before us as the film progresses further into an all-out thriller.
Interestingly until this point the plot cleverly keeps us guessing who in fact is the real victims in the scenario with the troubled Andrea and her bohemian boyfriend Jude painted just as sympathetically as the more conventional Bennett’s.
In fact even when it seems The Premonition is following a more traditional pattern with Andrea as a vengeful almost supernatural villain attempting to destroy her maternal replacement there are still some twists and turns to keep the audience engaged even if they think they might have the power to tell what lies in the films future.
Although the science part of the story seems somewhat silly the balance between magic and the paranormal versus scientific superhuman abilities and more straight forward madness is well maintained. Sheri must constantly battle not only to protect her daughter but also convince the world around her she isn’t going crazy and that her premonitions are real even if she herself believes they are manifestations of Andrea’s black magic rather than her own psychic powers.
With some great acting all round especially from Richard Lynch as Jude and Night of the Comet’s Sharon Farrell as Sheri, The Premonition also benefits from the sensational score from classical composer Henry Mollicone which has more of an influence on the twisted tale than it might seem.
A forgotten horror gem from a period featuring some of the genre’s best The Premonition still remains fresh and frightening by not following the traditional tropes other parapsychology pictures put forward.