in Shocktober

The Fury (1978)

Because I’ve been in the Shocktober spirit lately, I revisited an old T3 podcast in which we talked about our favorite horror movies.  I remember there’s one point where Sean says he had trouble drawing the line between what constitutes a horror movie and what constitutes a thriller, before John says “That’s my life.”  And as a non-horror aficionado this hasn’t ever been a huge problem for me, but I can certainly see how it could be frustrating for someone who obsesses over these kinds of movies.  And in fact, I kept having to grapple with this thin bloody line between genres as I was watching The Fury, which felt to me like a thriller for about 3/4 of the movie and then goes into some pretty over-the-top directions that gave it much more the tone of a horror movie.  And since that last 1/4 sticks out a lot more in my mind than the first hour-and-a-half, I say The Fury is a horror movie, if a somewhat half-baked one.

It took me a while to actually figure out was this movie was about, but basically it’s about two young people with psychic powers.  One of them is named Robin (Andrew Stevens) and the other is Gillian (Amy Irving), and basically they’re caught in a game of cat and mouse between Ben Childress (John Cassavetes), who wants to use Robin’s powers for evil after abducting him from his real father (Kirk Douglas).  Gillian meanwhile is sent off to some sort of psychic academy where her powers are revealed, before Kirk Douglas shows up and tries to use Gillian to prevent his son from growing more powerful and destructive.  Also, there’s an unnamed government agency that Kirk Douglas is constantly running from which John Cassavetes might be a member of, maybe.  Ok, now that I think of it, I don’t think I ever completely figured out what this movie is about.

fury 3

So if there’s one thing this movie has taught me, it’s that sometimes authors shouldn’t adapt their own books into movies.  The Fury‘s screenplay was written by John Farris, who also wrote the novel that it’s based on, and he probably could’ve been a little less precious in reconfiguring his story for the big screen.  Because as we all know, movies are an entirely different medium than books.  For one, movies are typically much more structured, and The Fury could’ve been a little more blunt in setting up these characters and why they’re doing what they’re doing.  Granted, we eventually get there, it’s just that having to go the first half hour without knowing what exactly Kirk Douglas is up to doesn’t give the movie a ton of momentum to thrive on.

Yet despite The Fury‘s shortcomings from a storytelling angle, it’s still a really good example of how effective of a director Brian De Palma was during the ’70s.  It’s definitely one of those De Palma movies that reeks of Hitchcock, and there are a number of great flashback sequences that seem to riff on Vertigo in their own violent and hallucinatory manners.  Also, I suppose it makes sense that The Fury was De Palma’s follow-up to Carrie, since it similarly stars a misunderstood teenage girl with psychic powers, and similarly features a strong performance from a young actress in Amy Irving.  It’s just too bad that De Palma’s visual expertise was put in service of a script that probably could’ve used a bit of reworking.

Also, this might be a bit of a spoiler since it’s literally the very last scene of the movie, but I feel it’s my duty to inform you that we see a human being’s entire body explode in this movie.  Honestly, it might be better than the guy’s head exploding in Scanners, which makes me curious why I’d never heard of this scene before or why it’s not on YouTube.  But trust me, it’s ridiculous and amazing and if you don’t mind this movie being spoiled (don’t worry, you’ll probably never see it), you can see the scene here.


Kirk Douglas does some weird shit in this movie.

  1. I’d never seen that explosion and it made my day. I love that they have to show it from about 13 different angles. Welcome to the life.

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