Brooke Shields made her film debut at age 12 in this eerie, effective chiller from director Alfred Sole. However, her role can be summed up in one word -- cameo -- as she is quickly and shockingly strangled and burned to death. The fact that her murder is set on the occasion of her first Holy Communion only further serves to set the stage for a horror film with strong Roman Catholic overtones that could easily have become an Exorcist rip-off. Fortunately, the script by Sole and Rosemary Rityo is a Hitchcock-flavored murder-mystery that sustains suspense throughout and provides a couple of great surprises. The question of who killed Shields and committed the subsequent murders is answered at an unexpected juncture, but rather than defusing the tension, the revelation actually keeps the viewer guessing. This sets up the film's final act, which is beautifully carried on the backs of several first-rate performances including Mildred Clinton, Rudolph Willrich, and Linda G. Miller. Shields is not on the screen long enough to leave an impression, but fellow child actress Paula Sheppard is solid as the malicious Alice and Alphonso De Noble is over-the-top, but unforgettable as the disgustingly obese landlord she torments. Early Hollywood star Lillian Roth appears in a small role as a pathologist -- her first film performance in more than 40 years. From a technical standpoint, the film stands out for its strong murder sequences (certainly an influence on the slasher film craze), as well as for Stephen Lawrence's spine-tingling music score. The camera work by John Friberg and Chuck Hall is excellent and perfectly capture the chilly feel of the film and its Paterson, NJ, locations.
by Patrick Legare review