Though the antagonist in this film isn’t a banshee per se, his voice does cause death like the mythical beast. THE SHOUT is a somewhat artsy film, slowly paced with very little blood and gore, so it may be something fans of modern shocks and grue might want to pass by. But it is a film with an overwhelming sense of dread and discomfort and though the devilish Crossley (played perfectly by Alan Bates) has a shout that can shatter mountains and kill any living thing within close proximity, the real terror comes from the more realistic horrors he inflicts on the rest of the cast.
And the rest of the cast is fantastic too. John Hurt plays Anthony Fielding who is a…well he’s the kind of character John Hurt plays a lot. Nebbish, intelligent, somewhat gullible, yet somewhat brooding and distant. In THE SHOUT, he is a sound technician and spends his time collecting different sounds from around the English countryside he lives in. Well, that’s what he tells his wife Rachel (played by the recently departed Susannah York) at least, but occasionally he’s off diddling a fellow churchgoer. While on one of his walks, Anthony comes across a strange man (Crossley) and strikes up a conversation with him. The man tells Anthony of a power he learned from the aborigines giving him a voice that can kill instantly. Anthony is fascinated and invites Crossley to his home. From that point on, Anthony’s life goes completely pear-shaped.
Crossley takes over every aspect of Anthony’s life to an extent that is truly horrifying to watch. Yes the depictions of Bates belting out an unearthly sound that kills herds of sheep and causes mountainsides to crumble is pretty ominous, but the true terror of this thriller is the way Bates seduces away Rachel right out from under Anthony’s nose. Forced to be a cuckold, watching his wife be manhandled by the brutish Crossley, Anthony is driven to the point of madness.
Watching Crossley worm his way into Anthony’s life was pretty unsettling. Director Jerzy Skolimowski focuses on bizarrely bland and natural events, sounds, and surroundings to focus on, making this supernatural tale all the more jarring. This is a slowly paced movie, but I was riveted to this film to see how it would all pan out. I had never heard of THE SHOUT until I happened upon it on cable a few months ago. It really is an original tale of a relationship put through the most extreme stress by a horrific invader. Seeing Hurt’s Anthony hollowed out to be a shell of a man by Crossley is a tough thing to watch. Though the trailer below is a bit hokey, there’s nothing lame about this film. THE SHOUT is a harsh and horrific thriller that deserves a bigger audience.