For her second feature, an adaptation of Jim Thompson's novel, Greenwald almost gets it perfect. As she charts the sordid lives of various no-hopers struggling to make it in a seedy, wintry East Coast resort, she revels in the laconic dialogue, vicious motivations and downbeat mood beloved by Thompson fans. What these losers, each involved in activities like drug abuse, adultery, incest and so on, have in common is their hatred for Luane Devore, an elderly, bed-ridden gossip whose malicious mouth is itself a reason for killing. But which of her victims, finally, will murder her? Loretta Gross, memorably nasty as the twisted invalid, is backed up by equally efficient unknowns, while Declan Quinn's camerawork creates a vivid atmosphere of claustrophobic despair. As a thriller, however, the movie is short of real suspense: comparison with Blood Simple highlights Greenwald's slow pace, while Le Corbeau, Clouzot's misanthropic masterpiece of 1943, provides far more psychological complexity, moral rigour and nail-biting tension in its corrosive examination of paranoid corruption.
Cast and crew
Andrew Lee Barrett