Janice and Bill Templeton have a simple and happy life with their young daughter Ivy. Suddenly a stranger (Anthony Hopkins) begins following them around, particularly Ivy. When they confront him, he reveals that his name is Elliot and he believes Ivy is the reincarnation of his daughter, Audrey Rose, who burned to death in a car accident. Janice takes him seriously after Ivy has an episode of terrible nightmares—which occur every year around her birthday—that cause her to leap out of bed and pound the windows, all the while screaming for her daddy. Janice allows Elliot to comfort her as Audrey Rose’s father, and the dreams become manageable in his presence. Bill continues to scoff, wanting Elliot out of their lives, which prompts Elliot, who believes she’s in danger, to take them to court for custody of Ivy.
I first watched this with my sister Leslie; when we were teenagers, we decided to review every horror movie at the now-defunct Hollywood video, in alphabetical order (alas, we started and ended with A).
So there’s a pretty heavy nostalgia factor for me. But aside from that, there’s still a lot to like. I enjoy the courtroom scenes, when an exotic troupe of people come forth to testify for the existence of reincarnation. The performances are great, with special kudos to Susan Swift as Ivy. The characters are fairly likable; Bill gets on my nerves after a while for his stubbornness, but I’d be up in arms too if a creepy stranger were hounding my family and calling to say: “I didn’t see Ivy at school this morning. Is she all right?”
My only gripe is that I hate the aesthetics of the ‘70s; I like brown, but not mixed with orange and plaid. The Templetons’ apartment, with its wacky color scheme, epitomizes the decade (the only thing missing is a fondue pot), and is the most disturbing aspect of the film for me—though it may be evocative for others.
Despite the somber subject matter, the film has a message of hope: death is not the end, and that with death, “The soul is free.” Elliot has made a kind of peace with his loss. Boogie on down and give it a look if you’re in a philosophical mood (or want to see a young and tasty Anthony Hopkins).