The Premonition Blu-ray Review

Psychic Terror Strikes a Girl’s Adopted Parents in this 1970s’ flick

Arrow Video continues their dedication to cult horror cinema with their American Horror Project: Volume 1 set. The lavish box set collects three rare, unrelated horror films from the Seventies. Director Robert Allen Schnitzer’s The Premonition is an assured piece of filmmaking from 1975, grounded in concepts taken from parapsychology which were popular at the time. A mentally unhinged woman seeks to kidnap the daughter she gave up for adoption as disturbing psychic visions plague her daughter’s new mother.

A proper understanding of the cultural milieu is necessary to understand where The Premonition’s subject matter came from. Springing out of the Sixties’ counterculture, parapsychology briefly became a legitimate field of scientific interest for a time in the Seventies. Clairvoyance, ESP and mental telepathy had a modest whiff of possible credibility, mostly driven by well-meaning academics looking to cash in on the fad. Naturally, parapsychology quickly became a hot topic in underground horror.

Andrea (Ellen Barber) is a mentally unstable young woman, having only recently left a mental hospital. The crazed mother is desperate to get her daughter Janie back from her adopted family. The five-year-old girl has been adopted by Miles (Edward Bell) and Sheri Bennett (Sharon Farrell). Andrea is assisted in the kidnapping plan by a performer at the local carnival, Jude (Richard Lynch). Andrea and Jude have a half-baked plan to kidnap Janie from the Bennetts. Given the parental hysteria about stranger danger today, it seems almost quaint when Andrea walks right up to Janie at her elementary school without a second thought by anyone else.

Unlike some directors, Schnitzer approaches his genre material in a serious tone reminiscent of The Exorcist.

Miles happens to be good friends at his college with an expert in parapsychology, Jeena Kingsly (Chiitra Neogy). When the police can’t solve Janie’s disappearance, the desperate Miles and Sheri turn toward the paranormal in rescuing their adopted child. Psychic visions and spiritual communication play a key role in eventually solving the riddle left behind.

The atmospheric thriller, shot in Mississippi, has a perfectly creepy vibe. While being a low-budget horror film, The Premonition is not the sleazy kind of grindhouse cinema that marked the Seventies. This is a moody thriller that embraces and explores paranormal concepts without heavy-handed gore and blood. There are grisly deaths, but they mostly occur off-screen. Unlike some directors, Schnitzer approaches his genre material in a serious tone reminiscent of The Exorcist. That tone certainly helps The Premonition stand out from other low-budget horror films of its era.

Arrow Video has unearthed a nearly forgotten horror gem. More importantly, The Premonition is a well-made film that stands the test of time. Solid performances from the cast, including an electric turn by Ellen Barber as the mentally unstable Andrea, mesh under a shockingly solid script. Richard Lynch also turns in a great performance as Jude, Andrea’s hopeful boyfriend that soon realizes she is not dealing with a full deck. Psychic terror has rarely been handled this well in a mature, sophisticated story.

Movie ★★★★☆

The Premonition Blu-ray screen shot 7

Arrow Video goes above and beyond the call of duty in most cases when restoring vintage horror and The Premonition is no exception. Featuring a 2K film scan of the best-surviving elements, this is a film-like presentation of adequate clarity and rich detail. In this case “best elements” mean a stable film print with a few remaining cue marks still visible. The atmospheric cinematography is fairly soft, shot occasionally on hand-held cameras.

The 93-minute main feature comes on a BD-50. Presented in its native 1.85:1 aspect ratio at 1080P resolution, the movie receives a perfect AVC video encode. This is a high-bitrate affair that transparently captures the movie’s native grain structure and dark color saturation. There is no significant degradation to the film print aside from a couple of running vertical lines that briefly appear around one hour into the movie for a few seconds.

The heavier contrast isn’t much of an issue for this authentically vintage film presentation. Black levels are average, though definitely not extraordinary. Arrow did not attempt tweaking the contrast and colors to “juice” the video up for high-definition. What we get instead is an unfiltered, mildly soft transfer from secondary film elements. For a movie like The Premonition, that is more than enough to capture most of its raw detail and definition.

Video ★★★★☆

The Premonition’s audio comes with its original mono soundtrack in 1.0 PCM. Composer Henry Mollicone provides a mildly haunting score fairly typical for the period in more reserved horror movies. Dialogue is clean and intelligible, while fidelity for the overall sound is acceptable. This is standard-sounding audio quality for a lower budgeted horror film. Don’t expect pristine dynamics or sonic pyrotechnics. Some minor hiss is unavoidable but easy to tune out.

The nicest bonus comes in the form of an isolated soundtrack for the score in lossless PCM. Arrow Video provides optional English SDH subtitles in a white font.

Audio ★★★☆☆

The Premonition is only available for the moment in a limited edition set, Arrow Video’s American Horror Project: Volume 1. The six-disc set comes with three movies, the other films being The Witch Who Came From the Sea and Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood. Each film comes on a Blu-ray and DVD edition in the set. See separate reviews for those movies on DoBlu.

The set is a feast of forgotten American horror, prepared with love in a lavish set. This is a nice round of supplements, including a new interview with the director which goes into even more detail on its background.

  • Reversible sleeves for each film featuring original and newly-commissioned artwork by the Twins of Evil
  • American Horror Project Journal Volume I – Limited Edition 60-page booklet featuring new articles on the films from Kim Newman (Nightmare Movies), Kier-La Janisse (House of Psychotic Women) and Brian Albright (Regional Horror Films, 1958-1990)
  • Pictures From a Premonition (21:19 in HD) – Director Robert Allen Schnitzer, composer Henry Mollicone and cinematographer Victor Milt are interviewed in this informative behind-the-scenes documentary about the movie. Schnitzer has very interesting things to say on making the film, including his dabbling in a vision quest and inspiring him to make it.
  • Audio commentary with director-producer Robert Allen Schnitzer – Schnitzer gives a flowing, easygoing discussion of his second film. He seems to have been pleased with how it turned out and provides excellent contextual information. Certainly worth a listen for horror fans.
  • Interview with director Robert Allen Schnitzer (05:05 in SD) – An older interview that goes over the movie’s initial financing and distribution.
  • Interview with actor Richard Lynch (16:06 in SD) – An older archival interview, Lynch rambles a bit on acting and his experiences in the business.
  • Three Robert Allen Schnitzer short films: ‘Vernal Equinox’ (30:08 in HD), ‘Terminal Point’ (40:45 in HD) and ‘A Rumbling in the Land’ (11:05 in HD) – Early student films made by Schnitzer.
  • 4 “Peace Spots” (03:38 in HD)
  • Theatrical Trailer (02:23 in HD)
  • TV Spots (03:27 in HD)

Extras ★★★★☆

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

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Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.

  • Koroshiya1

    Thanks for the review. Of the 3 movies in the American Horror Project-set, I thought this one was the best.

  • My favorite of the three American Horror Project films was probably The Witch Who Came From the Sea, but it was close with The Premonition.

  • Koroshiya1

    Yeah, that one is pretty good too. However, I thought the artwork for ‘The Witch Who Came From the Sea’ was even better, than the actual movie, haha. They don’t make movie artwork like they used to…

  • Koroshiya1

    Yeah, that one is pretty good too. However, I thought the artwork for ‘The Witch Who Came From the Sea’ was even better, than the actual movie, haha. They don’t make movie artwork like they used to…

  • Great movie posters disappeared sometime in the 1980s. They used to be critical to a movie’s marketing campaign before that decade.

  • Koroshiya1

    I remember the packages of Nintendo & Sega games, having quite beautiful artwork too in the 90’s. Luckily there are companies like Arrow & Criterion that use the original artwork on their releases or get an artist to make something artsy.