16 November 2005 | ThrownMuse
Eerie film about mass panic
Lorna Webster (Nancy Kelly) is a young woman returning by bus to her home town of Eben Rock. Just outside of town, the driver swerves to avoid hitting an old woman and her dog. The woman boards the bus and sits next to Lorna, claiming she is a 300 year old witch and knows the Webster family history. Lorna, who has descended from a judge notorious for burning innocent women at the cross hundreds of years ago, understandably freaks out. The bus goes over a cliff and Lorna is the only survivor. She goes back to the empty house she inherited, and gets back in touch with the lover she walked out on two years ago. The townspeople don't take well to Lorna's presence, as she is a woman who both left and returned under mysterious circumstances. Strange things start to happen to around her, and Lorna convinces herself that she has been possessed by the spirit of the woman who sat next to her on the bus. Before long, others in town start to believe she is a witch and mass hysteria ensues.
I had never heard of this movie until I watched "The Bad Seed" last month. I was impressed with Kelly's performance as the tortured mother of the fiendish child. I decided to check to see if she did any other work in the genre and stumbled across this interesting film. Her performance is just as strong and believable as the confused and tormented Lorna Webster.
The film is rather eerie and beautifully filmed. There are creepy scenes with excellent lighting and shadow play, where Lorna is alone in her family's dark mansion, thinking about her ancestors' history, haunted by nighttime sounds and shadows. The dog that belonged to the woman on the bus seems to follow her wherever she goes and has a very ominous presence. Is Lorna going crazy, or is she really possessed by a witch? While the movie tries to straddle this line between psychological and supernatural, and is effective part of the time, it works best as a statement about mass panic and judgment. The townsfolk know that Lorna is descendant from a judge who condemned innocent women as witches, yet are quickly thrust into the 17th century themselves as soon as Lorna shows that she's a little off-kilter. The movie works on another level, as Lorna is a small-town woman in the 40s who asserts her independence by leaving her home and her lover without explanation. She is secretly reviled by everyone upon her return for these reasons, as well as being the only survivor of the bus accident, which is probably why they are so quick to jump to conclusions about her presence.
The film is rather short and the ending is sort of a groaner that in that it is wrapped up too easily and makes some of the earlier scenes seem questionable. But overall, this is a good, eerie film with a strong lead performance.