Also known as Seven Notes In Black, The Psychic is an Italian paranormal thriller that was made and released in 1977, shortly before the film’s director, Lucio Fulci, reinvented Italian horror with Zombi 2.
For years, Virginia (Jennier O’Neill) has been haunted by visions. When she was a child, she saw a vision of her mother jumping off a cliff. It turned out that, at the same time Virginia had her vision, her mother was doing exactly that. 18 years later, Virginia is living in Rome and she’s married to a wealthy businessman named Francesco Ducci (Gianni Garko, who also starred in several Spaghetti westerns). Virginia would seem to have the perfect life but she’s still haunted by disturbing visions. She sees an old woman murdered. She sees a wall being ripped apart. She sees a discarded letter. Is she seeing the past, the present, or the future? She does not know. Ducci insists that her visions mean nothing but Virginia is convinced that something is reaching out to her.
While Ducci is away on business, Virginia visits an abandoned house that her husband has recently bought. Virginia wants to renovate it but, as soon as she sees it, she realizes that the house previously appeared in her visions. When she investigates, she discovers a skeleton in one of the walls. With the police now convinced that Ducci is a murderer, Virginia tries to figure out the meaning behind her visions and looks for a way to clear Ducci’s name. Strangely, Ducci still doesn’t seem to be that concerned about any of it….
Along with Lizard In A Woman’s Skin and Don’t Torture A Duckling, The Psychic is a film that gets a lot of attention as an example of Fulci’s pre-Zombi 2 horror output. After Zombi 2, Fucli would become best known for making films that were full of gore and that often seemed to be deeply angry with the world. The fact that Fulci was also a brilliant stylist who created some of the most dream-like images ever to be captured on film would often be overlooked in all the controversy over the often violent content of his movies. One thing that makes The Psychic interesting is that, visually, it’s clearly a Fulci film. The cinematography is lush and vibrant. The visions are surreal and disturbing. However, there’s very little of the gore that came to define Fulci’s later films. Instead, the emphasis is on the atmosphere and the mystery. This is one of the few Fulci films that you could safely show an older relative.
Fulci was often (a bit unfairly, in my opinon) portrayed as being a cinematic misanthrope, as a director who little use for the characters that populated his films. That’s certainly not the case with The Psychic, though. Virginia is probably one of the most sympathetic characters to ever appear in a Fulci film and Jennifer O’Neill does a good job in the lead role. Even more importantly, Fulci seems to like her and, from the start, it’s clear that the film is fully on her side. The entire story is told through her eyes and she’s a character who you immediately root for. Like Fulci himself, she’s a visionary whose visions are often underappreciated until it’s too late. Though the film ends on a characteristically downbeat note (happy endings were rare even in Fulci’s pre-Zombi 2 films), Virginia is still allowed her triumph with one final and rather clever little twist.
The Pyschic is a bit slowly-paced but it’s still a far better film that many Fulci critics seem to be willing to acknowledge. (One gets the feeling that many critics resent any film that indicates that there was more to Fulci than eye damage and zombies.) It’s an entertaining and intriguing latter-era giallo and proof that there was more to Fulci than just blood.