Initially completed in 1988, Friedkin's anguished thriller follows through on the legal response to crimes which put the definition of sanity to the test. McArthur is truly terrifying as the young man who wanders unannounced into suburban homes and slaughters innocent families, imbibing their blood in a private ritual beyond rational understanding. It's not giving too much away to reveal that he's arrested relatively quickly, but where does justice lie in such instances? Troubled prosecutor Biehn is under instruction to secure the death penalty, and Friedkin's adaptation of William D Wood's novel is acutely aware of the complexity of the issues involved. So much so, in fact, that when the film was left unreleased due to the financial travails of the De Laurentiis Group, he took the opportunity to re-edit it. Friedkin's first cut, which emerged briefly on video in Europe, rages against the pointlessness of the death penalty; but in the revised edit now (2003) in circulation, the focus is on the pain of the victims betrayed by a justice system scrabbling for a clearly defined response. Powerful, provocative film-making either way, assembled with a crisp restraint that commands attention.
Cast and crew
Michael Biehn Alex Mcarthur Nicholas Campbell Deborah Van Valkenburgh John Harkins Art LaFleur Bill Green Bush Grace Zabriskie Royce D Applegate