In the late 1970s and early 80s, glossy Hollywood horror, though having its fair share of big budget shocks, frequently favoured a subtler, more psychological approach. Where these films were concerned one director reigned supreme – Brian De Palma. Even amongst his films however – renowned for mixing gruesome set-pieces with intense character scrutinisation – one stood out from the rest. Released on pin-sharp Blu-ray this week, The Fury (1978) is a film in which the isolation and sense of bewilderment felt by the central characters is as damaging as the catastrophic events that unfold.
Gillian Bellaver (Amy Irving) has a rare telekinetic gift. After a freak accident at high school, she’s sent to the specialist Paragon Institute in order that a group of experts can find out more about her unusual powers. However, someone else is also interested in Gillian. Peter Sandza (Kirk Douglas) is determined to find his son, Robin (Andrew Stevens), a boy endowed with similar abilities to Gillian who has apparently been kidnapped by a mysterious organisation. Sandza wants Gillian to help in his search – a voyage that ultimately ends with a shocking conclusion. Some films, though very much of their time in style and approach, are timeless in their ability to unnerve. De Palma’s The Fury is one such fine genre exercise.
As in many of his other films including Dressed To Kill (1980) and Blow Out (1981), De Palma – who has built a reputation as a master of ‘Hitchcockian’ suspense – achieves the ultimate arresting effects by interspersing everyday, almost mundane situations, with totally unexpected and often highly visceral sequences. Such is the case with The Fury, whose spectacular set-pieces pepper an otherwise restrained and often introspective film. The abilities of Gillian may indeed be unnerving, but they are not as you might think, unique to her. Analyse her character, and the similarities between Gillian and another De Palma heroine are marked.
Carrie White, who had terrified audiences two years previously in Carrie (1978), was also a misunderstood teenager living with an unsympathetic mother, and plagued by an unwanted psychic ‘gift’, the use of which culminates in devastation for those who mistreat her. However, though viewers could be mistaken for thinking the two films share much in common, The Fury is shot with such sparse style, and in such a fresh, warm palette, that they can’t help but be drawn into Gillian’s insular world, resulting in them being just as horrified during the unexpected climax as she is – a climax which fills the screen with an image that no one who sees it will ever forget.
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