Homicidal (1961)

Genres - Horror  |   Sub-Genres - Slasher Film  |   Release Date - Jul 26, 1961 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 87 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Donald Guarisco

William Castle's attempt to capitalize on the success of Psycho lacks the distinctive performances and genuinely unsettling shocks of its model, but remains entertaining thanks to Castle's gift for showmanship. Hitchcock fans may hem and haw over Robb White's script, which lifts a majority of the key plot hooks and set pieces from Psycho, but it is actually a fairly clever pastiche with a few unexpected twists of its own. It is also surprisingly intense for its time, especially the scenes where Emily menaces her mute, crippled mother. Homicidal further benefits from an amazing, full-throttle performance by Jean Arless, who deploys a level of scenery-chewing histrionics worthy of Joan Crawford as she essays the troubled character (a jaw-droppingly over-the-top scene where she ritualistically destroys a romantic rival's flower shop is a highlight in this respect). However, the key element of Homicidal is William Castle's direction, which mixes the grittier elements of Hitchcock's approach with pure B-movie flamboyance. In the process, he crafts a number of suprisingly effective shocks, including a shock scene set on a staircase that sets a similar scene in Psycho on its ear and stopping the film right before its climactic revelation to offer the audience a "fright break" (complete with ticking clock on the screen). In short, Homicidal may not be as artful as Psycho, but its campy shocks offer a special kind of fun for horror fans with a sense of humor.