(Lisa is currently cleaning out her DVR. It’s taking forever and she’s loving every minute of it. This is almost as fun as a Degrassi marathon. Lisa recorded the 1992 psychological thriller, Illusions, off of Indieplex on March 1st.)
Illusions gets off to a pretty good start. In a blue-tinted room, a man and a woman make out, with the whispered dialogue suggesting that they’re doing something that they’ve specifically been told not to do. The woman is worried when an older woman opens the door but the man assures her that the older woman can’t see. Soon, the film is switching back and forth, from the forbidden lovers to the old woman chopping up a huge chunk of meat. The opening reminded me of the classic Italian horror film, Beyond The Darkness.
It’s an enjoyably surreal scene, one of many to be found in Illusions. When we first meet Jan Sanderson (Heather Locklear), she’s waking up from a nightmare. She’s in a hospital, recovering from some sort of earlier breakdown. Her doctor (Susannah York) doesn’t think that Jan is ready to leave the hospital but Jan disagrees. Jan can’t wait to rejoin her husband.
Her husband is Greg Sanderson (Robert Carradine), an archeologist who is currently working at a dig and who doesn’t appear to have much in common with Indiana Jones. When Jan leaves the hospital, she moves into a house near the dig, one that Greg is renting. As soon as Jan moves into the house, strange things start to happen.
For instance, she meets the caretaker, George (Ned Beatty). George is an alcoholic, one who has recently been abandoned by his wife and his children. According to Greg, George has a skill for telling scary stories. For instance, there’s the one that he tells Jan about a murder that occurred in the house years ago. Maybe George isn’t exactly the guy you want to have talking to someone who is recovering from a nervous breakdown?
However, before Jan can spend too much time getting freaked out about George, something else happens. Greg’s sister arrives. From the minute that Laura (Emma Samms) arrives, it’s obvious that she and Jan don’t like each other. That Jan is nervous around her sister-in-law is understandable. I love my future sister-in-law and I still spend hours worrying about whether or not she thinks I’m as cool as I think I am. What’s strange is that Laura seems to view Jan as almost being a romantic rival. From the minute that Laura arrives, she and Greg are whispering to each other and sharing flirtatious jokes.
(The fact that Greg and Laura were the couple in the film’s opening scene certainly doesn’t do anything to make them any less creepy.)
Jan finds herself suspecting that Laura may be conspiring against her. When she orders Greg to tell his sister to go home, Greg says that he will. When Jan wakes up the next morning, Laura’s gone. Greg says that he kicked her out. But Jan is haunted by a nightmare in which she murdered her sister-in-law and Greg helped to cover it up…
WHAT’S GOING ON!?
Well, you probably already know. You’ve seen Gaslight, right? You’ve seen Diabolique. Maybe you’ve even seen a few Lifetime films. You know how this stuff works. Illusions is not exactly a surprising film and the movie itself occasionally feels disjointed. The use of body doubles during the nude scenes is jarringly obvious and Jan’s narration was supplied by an actress who clearly wasn’t Heather Locklear. Locklear, Beatty, and Samms all gave good performances but Robert Carradine was oddly cast. His presence in the film made me think of Illusions as being Sam McGuire: The Early Years.
And yet, I still kinda liked Illusions. It’s got just enough weird dream sequences for me to enjoy it. You know me. There’s nothing I love more than a weird dream sequence. Many a mediocre film has been saved by blue mood lighting.