The Premonition (1976)

A while back I received the American Horror Project, released by Arrow Video. The set includes three American horror films from the 70’s that were largely ignored upon release or had suffered from poor distribution on home video. The idea was that these were unique horror films that didn’t play by the traditional horror rules. These were horror films for adults that were more psychological in nature with no werewolves or zombies in sight. They were also independently made on modest budgets. The first of these films that I have watched is The Premonition.

The Premonition is about a woman who has a baby but that baby is taken away because she’s unfit to be a mother. The baby is adopted by a nice couple while the woman spends five years in an asylum. Upon her release, she wants her baby back. She befriends a carnival mime/photographer (played by genre vet Richard Lynch). The two hatch a plan to kidnap the girl and start a new life together. The little girl’s adopted mother begins to see mysterious visions that provide clues as to what will come, hence the title. Her husband, a professor of parascience, wants to believe in her visions but has his doubts.  The film becomes more supernaturally charged in the back end of the film but I won’t spoil it for you.

The Premonition is indeed a unique film the likes of which I haven’t seen before. The film focuses on mental illness from a realistic point of view and doesn’t turn the biological mother into a monster but rather a tragic character that is both frightening and sympathetic. Lynch’s character as well isn’t totally evil and his motivations are borne from his love of the troubled mother. The exploration of the adopted parents’ marriage and the strain the visions put on it is also unique. As I said, this film deals with adult themes and adult fears. What parent hasn’t feared that their child might be taken away? How terrible would the reality be? Both of those fears are explored in The Premonition from both sides: that of the adopted parents, and that of the biological mother.

The film does not have any overt violence, nor does it have any monsters skulking in the bushes, and the supernatural elements could also be either real or all part of the adopted mother’s visions. It’s hard to say. The villains of the film are somewhat sympathetic or at least not one dimensional monsters. The film is one that likely won’t resonate for viewers under 30. I know that if i had seen this movie in my youth I would have hated it. Seeing it later in life I can appreciate the themes explored and the fear that is grounded in familial worries. The Premonition is a film for older horror fans, and that’s certainly not a bad thing.

The disc itself has some great interviews with cast and crew which is fantastic for such an obscure and underseen film. The image looks better than it likely ever has though the source print does have visible imperfections like scratches and general wear. Some of Arrow’s releases are ground up restorations that look absolutely pristine. This is not the case here, but don’t let that sway you. The image is crisp, the colors rich, and the sound is clear. I doubt the film will ever look better.