“The Appointment”/Directed By: Lindsey C. Vickers
By no means do I think that I’m a taste-maker. I fully realize my appetite for scuzzy B movies from the 80’s might not be shared by the majority of the film seeking public. Most of the movies I will be reviewing and “unearthing” here on Fearphile might be of questionable quality that will only be enjoyed thoroughly by genre fanatics. There will be some films that are genuinely well made and severely underrated. “The Appointment” is one of those productions.
A British film shot in 1981, “The Appointment” was directed by Lindsey B. Vickers. Searching her credits on IMDB it appears this is her first and only feature though she was credited as assistant director on a number of Amicus and Hammer horror from the 70’s. It’s a shame as Vickers shows tremendous promise for a first time effort and one can only imagine the nightmares she could of conjured up if she had continued down this career path.
This is a hard film to categorize as it’s a film about a haunting but it doesn’t play out in any way we’ve come to expect from the subgenre. There are no billowy specters, creaking doors, or Priests or mediums brought in on the third act to cleanse the house. “The Appointment” is a small tale about a family besieged by something unseen. The film slowly reveals its hand one card at a time, and once you see where everything is headed it becomes agonizing to watch as you know the outcome is inevitable and you just can’t look away.
I was hooked immediately by the opening scene. We’re introduced to a little girl walking home from school who takes a shortcut through the woods. The scene is narrated by a deep voiced man who relays details of “the case” as if he’s Fox Mulder agonizing over an unsolved X-File (wait..was there ever an actual solved X File). The narrator is never heard from again, much like the opening of “Suspiria” (there I go with my Italian references) but it sets the dry tone for the rest of the film. This is a case study in spooky.
After the quick jolt of an opening not much really happens for the next third of the film. We’re introduced to a seemingly normal family. Ian, Edward Woodard (The Wicker Man, Hot Fuzz) is dreading breaking the news to his overly sensitive daughter, Joanne, that he won’t be able to make it to her band recital the following day. There was a last minute shuffle at work that will have him making an out of town trip first thing the next morning. Joanne doesn’t take it well. Ian’s wife, Dianna, feels they need to have a firmer hand with their daughter as her reliance upon her father’s affection is a bit much. While this is by no means an exploitation film and doesn’t go there as far as implying any incestuous intentions between father/daughter, their relationship still feels kind of icky in its closeness. It’s a testament to Vickers, as well as the score by Trevor Jones who went on to quite a successful career composing for films such as “The Labyrinth” and “Dark City”, that these mundane slice of life moments are still perpetrated by an overwhelming sense of dread. As a viewer you have no idea where it’s all headed at first, but you know it can’t be good.
The film certainly rewards the patient viewer for outside of the opening scene there are two more major shockers to be found. I wouldn’t dare spoil these surprises, but the first few genuinely “horror” moments are like quick shotgun blasts. They go bang and then left my mouth agape in the silence that followed. The climax of the film breaks this mold in a truly hair-raising display of tension that left me holding my breath, eyes glued to the screen.
It’s a shame this film isn’t more well known to warrant a modern day release, because a proper remastering could only help to enhance the experience. I tend to love the lo-fi grunge of a video nasty but this film warrants better. The version I saw was poor VHS quality with night scenes I could hardly make out. I feel certain clues are given to shed light on the true nature of the haunting; the camera slowly zooms in on framed photos, certificates, and notes but they were are all ineligible on the version I saw. While nothing is spelled out, I certainly have my own theory and those reviewers on IMDB stating the opening scene had nothing to do with the rest of the film probably missed a few of the hints that Vickers subtly drops throughout the runtime. Connect the dots, people.
“The Appointment” is a rare film that has not had a proper release since VHS, but those fans who truly want to see a hidden gem would do well to do a bit of digging online to find a copy. This is a slow burn haunting film that doesn’t settle for cheap “got ya” moments. There are no cats lurking in this family’s cabinets just a really frustrated spirit intent on getting its way. Follow this one through the cracks.
Unfortunately there is no trailer for this film…so, I give you the opening scene. Enjoy!