Bored while officiating a cricket match at a psychiatric hospital, Crossley tells Graves (a visitor) the tale of a mysterious stranger (also named Crossley) who invades the lives and house of a local musician and his wife. The stranger claims knowledge of real magic, which he uses to displace his host and dominate his wife. The musician must find a way to combat Crossley and his seemingly implacable powers. Graves doubts Crossley's claim that the story is true, and begins to believe that Crossley is actually one of the patients.
During a cricket game in the grounds of an asylum, patient Charles Crossley is telling a story to his opposite scorekeeper Robert. He tells of how he came across musician Anthony Fielding outside church one day, and he invited back home for dinner. Over dinner he tells Anthony and his wife Rachael that of his last two decades of living in the Australian outback, where he learned many spells from the aboriginal witch doctors and one being the shout. It can cause instant death when heard. Soon Charles settles into the homestead, where he has Anthony and Rachael under his thumb, as he fears him and she's infatuated by him.
Weird, baffling and truly novel passes through my mind whenever I watch this sedately complex, courageous and alienating late 70's British experimental thriller. The way it has layer upon layer, goes on to ambitiously build a minor and gripping structure, which its inspired psychological strangle hold and mystical air takes shape as to how genuine the pieces are and if they do come together. Does it make sense? Well, it's hard to say what the bigger picture means, but it is indeed curiously haunting, daunting and truly unpredictable. The non-linear story and compact script chips away with plenty of cryptic messages inter-cutting the soft, dream-like touch brought on by director Jerzy Skolimowski. He gives the film such an hypnotic appeal amongst its arty brushes, where its swirling electronic score peaks in the right places and Mick Molloy's sublime framing emits elegant photography work. Those scenes involving the 'shout' are lethal, and only increase to the lurking eeriness created by top-notch sound FX. Visually the film has a powerful, isolated and lush setting that works with the story's spiritual and supernatural journey. The three lead performances are sensational, but it's Alan Bates who dominates the show with his startling and obscure turn as the tramp/patient. John Hurt as the downtrodden turned bewitched composer gives in a stellar performance and Susanna York, as his wife is also great. The talented Tim Curry shows up in a small, but effective role.
Quite an unusual puzzle, which is strangely compelling, unique and very well made.
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