Retro-review: New on a special edition BluRay from Arrow Films; help me out and pick it up on DVD/BluRay here on Amazon!

Robert Altman’s IMAGES (1972)

Directed by Robert Altman
Written by Robert Altman, Susannah York (novel)
Starring Susannah York, Rene Auberjonois, Marcel Bozzuffi, Hugh Millais, Cathryn Harrison, John Morley, Barbara Baxley

It’s not often that a horror reviewer gets to review a Robert Altman film. The master filmmaker has covered emotions, topics, and situations across the board, but horror is its own beast and for a filmmaker of his caliber to dip his pinky toe into the black abyss of the horror genre, it truly is something special. Now, Robert Altman’s IMAGES is not your typical horror film. It doesn’t have a ton of blood or a monster, but it does deal with the horror of an unhinged mind and does so in a chilling, capable, and engrossing manner.

Katherine (Susannah York) is a well to do children’s novelist and married to a charming businessman Hugh (Rene Auberjonois), but despite her idyllic lifestyle, Katherine is a woman on the edge of sanity. Experiencing visual and auditory hallucinations of dead lovers, whispering women, and even a laughing doppelganger of herself, Katherine and Hugh go to their country home in hopes to get some well needed peace and quiet. But crazy simply follows Katherine to the country home and her grasp on what is real and what isn’t is quickly loosening.

IMAGES would be a great double feature to watch with Roman Polanski’s REPULSION as both do a fantastic job of showing the layers of sanity chip, crack, and fall away. York offers up an amazing performance as someone who can’t trust her own senses and paired with Altman’s filmmaking style, you really are riding this whole ride on York’s shoulders, experiencing her hallucinations alongside her. Though some amazing edits and nothing else, this effects-light film is fantastically effective in playing tricks with your perceptions. People change form from one frame to the next. Katherine is making out with her husband with her husband one second, and her dead lover the next. And once pushed to the edge and brandishing weapons like knives, shotguns, and scissors, it’s intensely paralyzing to see how Katherine doesn’t know who it is she is talking with from one minute to the next. It’s this immersion into schizophrenic insanity that makes IMAGES for of an experience than an out and out movie. It simply drags your mind right through the muck along with Katherine’s. There’s a depth to this film, from the symbolic way the shots are composed with multiple images of Katherine to overlaid imagery to jarring edits meant to unhinge and a puzzle that just doesn’t seem to want to be solved. It’s just a rich film that will leave you talking about it long after it’s done.

There’s a fair portion of blood in parts when Katherine goes on a sort of rampage (or maybe this rampage is all in her head). This gore is done in pure grindhouse fashion, spattering all over the victim’s bodies and across the floor. But it’s the paradise like countrysides and vast cloudy skies that really highlight the insanity in how the peaceful landscape contrasts with Katherine’s turbulent mind. Seeing Katherine wander around madly in the rolling hills and beside a magnificent waterfall only shows her instability all the more. This is a gorgeous looking film, but while you are trying to soak in the scenery, you can’t help but notice how much of a personal trip through hell the story truly is.

IMAGES is a film you most certainly won’t forget. The acting is top notch, with York delivering a convincingly unhinged performance that is truly iconic. This version of the film comes with commentary tracks from Samm Deighan and Kat Ellinger, scene-select commentary by writer-director Robert Altman, an interview with Robert Altman, a brand new interview with actor Cathryn Harrison, an appreciation by musician and author Stephen Thrower, and the theatrical trailer. Get this film. It’s a descent into madness story that done with a skill, passion, and caliber that one doesn’t often see in a horror film.

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