Homicidal (1961)

At first glance this can’t help but feel like William Castle’s shameless riff on Psycho but it slowly distorts into something else entirely. Freakier, stranger, more lurid and more violent than Hitchcock would ever allow himself to go, Homicidal also isn’t afraid to directly engage with the queer and sexual undertones that arise from the material, making it a rich and rewarding text that is complex beyond its years in ways Hitchcock’s seminal film isn’t.

Castle’s B-shocker might be painted on a postcard canvas of sleepy towns, quaint diners and sunny pharmacies but the whole thing simmers with a nervous, twitching energy that occasionally jolts into bursts of sudden violence, both emotional and physical. It’s a tale populated by dark and broken people, who look at one another with faces plagued by suspicion or fear. Characters are scarred by trauma, confined in wheelchairs or fall prey to sexual desire. By the end, the plot has risen to such heightened levels of hysteria that Castle’s “Fright Break” gimmick, as silly and cheap as it is, might actually be justified. At the very least, there wouldn’t be a ride on a stair lift this deadly until Gremlins over twenty years later.

I’m only a handful of films into his filmography, but I’ve no doubt Homicidal will prove to be one of Castle’s most satisfying and unpredictable efforts, existing in the same horrors-hidden-behind-white-picket-fences milieu that David Lynch would one day explore so artfully in Blue Velvet. This is a fucking wild ride into netherworld Americana.

Watched on Indicator blu-ray

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