The Appointment (1981) – Blu-Ray Review

The Appointment is a British horror movie that I don’t think ever really had a proper release, although it did come out on VHS as an early straight-to-video project. The best version is the analogue one-inch broadcast tape as the original negative has not been found. The full film was held in the Sony Pictures archive. That’s a shame, because it’s actually pretty good. The film is directed by Lindsey C. Vickers, who worked his way up in the British film industry, becoming an assistant on a lot of the Hammer and Amicus films, but this was his only feature as a director.

The only thing I can really compare it to is The Shining: it has a similar sense of dread. It starts with a terrifying opening sequence where a young girl is captured by this force in the woods, then it jumps ahead to three years later. The opening is amazing, but no matter how good what comes later is—and it is quite good—the rest can’t quite compare to it. Now another girl’s family is affected by this same force, at first through dreams, and then their dreams become reality… Samantha Weyson has the daughter’s role, and her mother is played by Jane Merrow, who is best known for her part in The Lion in Winter.

Most of the action is set during a single day, the day of “the appointment” of the title. It mainly focuses on the relationship between the girl and her father, who is played Edward Woodward of The Wicker Man fame, and who has a very strange relationship with his daughter. There is an implication that there could be an issue of sexual abuse, but it is never made explicit. This is another parallel with Kubrick’s film with the relationship between Jack and his son and Danny. In the story itself, not a huge amount happens between the intense opening and the last 20 minutes, but it maintains an uneasy feeling throughout the entire film. It doesn’t give the audience many answers by the end, either.

I think the fact that this is the best copy that BFI could get, although they have done the most clean-up possible during their restoration, actually adds to the strangeness of the film. Today this would be an A24 movie, as it has that art-house horror aspect to it. It’s simply a very unique picture. It’s not a big-budget movie, but interestingly shot for a story that in some directors’ hands could have been a quite boring movie.

The BFI disc includes a commentary with Vickers; interviews with Vickers and the cast and crew; an earlier short film from the same director, The Lake; an interview with an actor from The Lake; and two versions of both film scripts (with and without annotations). In addition, there is a commentary track with the director, image galleries, and a booklet featuring pieces from various writers about the film.

★★★★

Ian Schultz

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