Fear in the Night

July 15, 2013 at 12:12 am (5 Heads, Fear in the Night) (, , , , , )

Fear in the Night – 1947 – United States

A banker has a nightmare about murdering a stranger. Upon waking, he finds speckles of blood on his body and is convinced the dream was real. His detective brother-in-law is skeptical, until the banker (by happenstance) locates the house where the murder occurred. Questioning the local police, the banker and the detective discover that two people were recently killed within. Through a poorly-detailed series of deductions, the detective determines that the culprit is a hypnotist who mind-controlled the banker to commit the crime. In the climax, the banker is hypnotized again, resulting in a shootout and a chase before the hypnotist’s car plunges off a cliff.

Unfortunately, Fear in the Night never quite delivers on its excellent premise. Too much of the plot relies on coincidence, and the motivation of the hypnotist and his relationship to the banker is never explained. At least some of the scenes are compelling as the banker feels increasingly guilty. Becoming withdrawn, he will not go to work, breaks up with his girlfriend, and attempts suicide.  Optical and matte effects are used to hallucinogenic effect, especially during the chaotic dream sequence.

Fear in the Night is based on a story by the crime writer Cornell Woolrich. The film was remade by the same director as Nightmare (1956). Hopefully the later version was the director’s attempt to do it right, not just Hollywood recycling.

Rating: 5/10 Shrunken Heads. This is no accomplishment considering the terrifying premise alone is worth 4 heads.

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