Welcome back! We’ve made it through the twenties and we’re into the teens now. So, ya know, progress! Coming in at #19 on my list of The Best Horror Movie Kills of All-Time: the finale of Don’t Look Now (1973).
Listen, folks, I spelled it out in the header. This is the climax of the film, and as such will be SPOILER-ific. So I’m saying it right now: if you haven’t seen this movie and wish to some day (as you should, because it’s great) do not read any further.
Ok, here we go.
The film’s plot centers on a couple, John and Laura Baxter (Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie), who lose their daughter in a drowning accident at the start of the film. After the
tragedy, the grieving pair temporarily relocate to Venice, which is as much of a character in this film as the human counterparts are. Wrought iron gates, arching bridges, gondolas, and decaying stone structures with endless stairs and figures carved into the stone are just some of the contributing elements in this one scene, alone.
The couple is there, essentially, because John is in charge of restoring an old building, but ultimately they are trying to recover from losing their daughter. Along the way they
encounter two elderly sisters, one of whom is blind and has psychic abilities. Laura befriends the sisters and seeks their council while John maintains a skeptical mind-set about their intentions. The psychic predicts danger in their future, which John brushes off as nonsense but Laura is a believer. It’s almost a slasher film mentality: the guy/girl who gets killed is usually warned about danger, but they dismiss it and go on about their business.
Don’t Look Now is not a traditional horror film, though there are enough genre elements to qualify. Nicolas Roeg is a renowned art-house film director, with the
enigmatic Performance (1970) and Walkabout (1971) having preceded this movie in his filmography. He brings his personal style into the genre in the same way Stanley Kubrick brought his style to The Shining (1980).
Roeg begins the film with tragedy and allows the lingering dread of that incident to envelope the rest of the film and these characters. Constant bad omens and apparitions materialize and are gone just as fast as they appeared, which is how we come to the scene I’ve chosen.
In the beginning of the film we see the accident that befalls John and Laura’s daughter, Christine. She drowns in a lake dressed in a red rain coat, which becomes a recurring motif throughout the film, and no doubt red was chosen for its relation to blood and violence. John repeatedly sees a small figure dressed in a similar red rain coat in photographs and on the streets, and he comes to believe the figure is his daughter.
The climax sees John chasing the figure in the red coat through the foggy, densely quiet streets of Venice. The scene goes on for 5+ minutes so I boiled it down to the final 3
minutes when John corners the figure and attempts to make contact.
The finale of this film has been touted as one of the most surprising, jarring, and terrifying in film history. You have to see it to believe it.
Ok, that’s the set-up. I highly recommend this film, with a caveat that it’s a little more artsy, less profane, slow boiling type of film. I hope you enjoy the clip and check back on Thursday for #18!