19 March 2018



'One of Robert Altman's greatest masterpieces, IMAGES is a tour de force of psychological horror. Dealing with hallucinations and apparitions, the film deftly blends reality with nightmare as Susannah York's children's author is terrorised by visions of mayhem and murder. On its release, IMAGES reaped accolades although it has now become one of Altman's lesser known works, so this ARROW ACADEMY release marks the perfect time to rediscover it.'

IMAGES is the kind of psychological horror film where 'people throw ducks at balloons and nothing is as it seems,' as Homer Simpson from THE SIMPSONS said once about the exotic mystique of carnival folk, in the hilarious episode where they lose the house to double-dealing carnies. It's a cunning mixture of reality, fantasy and sheer nightmarish hallucination.

Posh totty Susannah A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS York plays Cathryn, the author of children's books around whom the plot revolves. Her books are fantasy books about unicorns and an imaginary Universe, like Middle Earth in THE LORD OF THE RINGS or Hogwarts Wizardry School in the HARRY POTTER books.

It actually sounds a lot like the 'Equalia' of Lisa Simpson's and her weird friend Juliet's imaginings in that other episode of THE SIMPSONS where Lisa finally makes a friend, the daughter of a John Grisham enthusiast. It also sounds like the 'Borovnia' created by Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey's characters in HEAVENLY CREATURES (1994), a based-on-a-true-story film about two teenage girls accused of a shocking crime.

I'm not crazy about the fantasy genre, although I do love THE LORD OF THE RINGS films. All that other stuff about unicorns and wizards leaves me cold, so I'm afraid I wouldn't have queued up at midnight, colour-coded wristband obediently in place, to buy any of Cathryn's books. They're just not my cupan tae, as we say here in Oireland.

Anyway, the opening of the film sees Cathryn freaked out by a series of telephone calls from a woman who doesn't seem to want to know if she's 'checked the children,' but who does seem determined to ask her repeatedly if she knows where her annoying, cigar-chomping hubby Hugh is. According to this woman, Hugh's having an affair with a younger woman.

Hugh denies this, of course, as all husbands would deny it, and the married couple head off to their second home, a place called Green Cove in Ireland, of all places (I'm in Ireland!!!), for a few days of peace and quiet. 

No such luck though, as Cathryn is plagued there by actual visitations from Rene, a lover who died three years previously. The smooth-talking Frenchman laughs off her notions of his being dead and delights in popping up the minute the irritating Hugh's back is turned. Is he real, or just the product of a diseased mind...? 

Is he some kind of pregnancy-induced illusion, the result of one of Susannah's pregnancy cravings, perhaps? Is there 'more of gravy than the grave about him,' as old Ebenezer Scrooge might have said in A CHRISTMAS CAROL

I always thought that that was one of the funniest lines Charles Dickens ever wrote. Maybe Rene too is a blob of mustard or a bit of undigested beef, although I'm sure it would hurt his Gallic pride to be so thought of. No-one ever wants to be a blob of mustard, lol.

I had cravings myself during both my pregnancies but they weren't for anything as foul as pickled-gherkin-and-coal sandwiches. No, I craved nice citrussy oranges and orange-flavoured sweeties like winegums, which was harmless enough, I think. 

And I certainly never had hallucinatory visions of ex-lovers during those times, which was probably just as well. The 'chains I forged in life' are pretty f**king heavy. I'll need to hire a trucking company (or two) to lug them into the Afterlife with me. Is that at your own expense, I wonder, or is the cost covered by some kind of heavenly fund? I'll need to check that out.

Back to the fillum, anyway. Not only is Rene haunting the place, which I think you'll agree is quite bad enough, but a still-living ex-lover of Cathryn's decides to rock up to the holiday house as well for steaks and wine with his posh chums. 

Big, brutish, egocentrical Marcel is a guy I could personally get on board with. He's the kind of fella I routinely fall for, a selfish sex maniac who doesn't care whom he hurts as long as he gets what he wants. Sigh, just my type...!

While Marcel is pressuring Cathryn to revive their old sexual affair, his young daughter Susannah, whom he's seen fit to drag along with him just because he's gotten custody for the moment, is sitting in the living-room, poring over an old jigsaw puzzle from Cathryn's childhood.

Meantime, the French fella Rene flits in and out of the picture, alive or dead, and Cathryn has some deeply disturbing visions of herself as well, both around the house and up in the gorgeous
mountains that surround the place. Irish mountains, I'll have ye know.

She sees her own exact doppelganger numerous times. What does it mean? Is Cathryn going mad? Has that ship already sailed? What if she decides to take control of her hallucinations by trying to kill them off? Would that work, do you think...?

I thought I saw myself once on the local street, crossing the road up by the pedestrian lights with a bag of shopping and a dog in tow. It wasn't me- on closer inspection, it didn't even look that much like me, and also I don't currently own a dog- but it gave me quite a turn, as the English might say.

I was worried for days afterwards that my untimely death was imminent. Isn't that what they say is meant to happen after you come face-to-face with your own double? Good job it wasn't my exact double and, in any case, we were never face-to-face, even for a second.

If you look at the credits of IMAGES, by the way, you'll see evidence of a rather delightful jape on the part of the five-piece cast. I won't spill the beans as I don't want you to miss out on the jolliness of it all. 

And just to mention casually as well that IMAGES is out today on Blu-Ray from ARROW ACADEMY with a brand-new 4k restoration, which is good news for fans of the film which was once thought lost.

Yep folks, it was once rumoured that the original negatives of this film were burned by Columbia Pictures, believe it or not. No film's so bad that it deserves to be burned, surely. Every film has its merits, right? Surely we can learn something about every picture, even if it's how not to make a picture, right? Surely even movies like HOT TUB TIME MACHINE...? Nah, go ahead. Y'all can burn that one right away.


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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