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Director - José Ramón Larraz - 1974

"Greasy movie"
Complete with lesbian ghostly sex, this chilling, lost and forgotten very British horror movie from 1974 has now been found and restored, and it is guaranteed to give you nightmares

Symptoms is a 1974 British horror film directed by late Spanish filmmaker José Ramón Larraz, better known for erotic vampire flicks. It was entered into the 1974 Cannes Film Festival, but soon after the originals went missing and the film fell into an undeserved oblivion. Then last February the BFI announced that the missing footage had been found, restored and that the film would finally be released on DVD.

Helen (the very creepy-looking Angela Pleasence, pictured above) invites her friend Anne (Lorna Heilbron) to spend a few days with her in her enormous countryside mansion somewhere near London. She lives with the estranged housekeeper Brady (Peter Vaughan), whom she despises and fears. Soon ghostly noises and sightings suggest that the three are not alone in the mansion. Anne begins to show an introspective and dysfunctional behaviour, and she urges her friend Anne to stay with her for a few more days.

“They are about to return”, Helen warns at the start of the movie without giving any further explanations. Is it the “symptoms” in the movie title? Is it the ghosts? Or is it her fear and dark secrets that are about to come back? One can only speculate.

Despite being made by a Spanish director, Symptoms is a very British film in all six senses. Helen constantly describes the weird smells, the different tastes, the sounds and the sensations of the English countryside. She also claims that she can hear “things” nobody else can. The woods, a large spooky mansion and constant rain provide the perfect backdrop to this spooky tale.

Symptons is very elegant and effective, particularly in the first half. Some very unexpected and subtle scares will make you jump out of your seat. The eerie photography and shriek soundtrack of the film were very carefully concocted to make the countryside look like a nightmare. There are plenty of squeaky staircases, window and mirror shots, in the good old tradition of horror. There are also very sexual and lesbian elements, a trademark of Ramón Larraz often described as exploitative.

This is not a perfect horror movie, however. The plot has some loose ends that make the film disclosure a little awkward, if still creepy. This does not diminish the artistic merit of a film worth rediscovering – preferably alone, at night and in a countryside house.

The BFI has now restored Symptoms and it is finally available for purchase at the BFI Shop – just click here for more information.

You can watch the movie trailer below:

"Greasy movie"

By Petra von Kant - 03-05-2016

By Petra von Kant - 03-05-2016

Petra von Kant is a filmmaker, critic and performance artist. She was born Manoel Almeida to Brazilian parents in 1971 in Bremen, Germany. Her parents were political refugees fleeing the military dict...

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