Scripted by Tom Tryon from his own novel, Mulligan's supernatural foray into the troubled world of childhood mercifully avoids the gory excesses of superficially similar films like The Exorcist, made the following year. It might have been mere mumbo-jumbo: his already fertile imagination further stimulated by the promptings of a wise old Russian-born grandmother (Hagen), who teaches him how to empathise totally with other creatures (human and animal), a young boy refuses to believe in the death of his twin brother, whom he blames for a series of mysterious killings. If the level of suspense is lowered by the fact that we soon realise who is responsible, Mulligan none the less produces a genuinely unsettling atmosphere, undermining the idyllic veneer of his '30s pastoral setting by refusing to romanticise his characters and stressing the claustrophobic elements of living in a close-knit community. As so often with this director's work, the film is craftsmanlike rather than brilliant, but the performances, Robert Surtees' lush camerawork, and Mulligan's solid psychological insights make for thoughtful, sometimes even chilling, entertainment.
Cast and crew