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us title: The Psychic
italian title: Sette note in nero
year: 1977
director: Lucio Fulci
composer: Fabio Frizzi
full details: IMDB
overall score: 68

Bottom Line: A Worthwhile Deviation
Breaks some important rules and comes out on top as a result.

WARNING: Spoilers Below

score analysis

Lucio Fulci's trajectory as a film director was unlike any other in Italian cinema. Looking back on his carrer, there is a definitive pattern of peaks and valleys. At his best, films like Don't Torture a Duckling, Zombie and The Beyond have achieved legendary status, while films like Murder Rock, Cat in the Brain and Demonia fail to excite even the most hardcore Fulci fans.

It is with this background that I approached Fulci's fourth Giallo, The Psychic (aka Seven Notes in Black) and now having seen the film for the first time, I have yet to determine if it lands on the upturn of a peak or the downturn of a valley within his filmography.

But first, a bit of a disclaimer. Since launching this is the first film that I had never seen before. And as we have discussed at great length on the Giallo Ciao! Ciao! podcast, the present day Giallo watcher is separated by 4 decades time, language and culture from when these films were released and may require more than one viewing to truly appreciate the film within its intended context. In other words, I think I need to watch The Psychic again, but this analysis will be based on my one and only time through the film.

By comparison to other Giallo, The Psychic is slow in its pacing. But, in retrospect there's really no other way to pace the film in order to perform all the setup necessary to make the final 37 minutes so effective. Unfortunately, impatient viewers (myself included) may lose interest along the way and end up missing some of the "a-ha" moments in the final act of the film. Given the genre's typical treatment of dream sequences (All the Colors of the Dark, Lizard in a Woman's Skin), I regarded Virginia's initial vision in the tunnel as mostly abstract. But after re-watching the opening scene I realized that every single clue in the vision is fully represented and referenced later in the film.

In addition to the use of slower pacing, most of the action of The Psychic takes place indoors, in more rural locations and without a lot of characters to confuse the viewer. This is not typical of the Gialli from the early 1970's and it seems obvious that Fulci was experimenting with the gothic horror atmosphere that would be fully featured in his later films. The scene where Virginia excavates the skeleton from the wall could have been a scene straight out of The Beyond or House By the Cemetery.

And there are other indicators that The Psychic is a transitional film for Fulci. The opening scene showing Virginia's mother falling over the cliff is an exact replica of the final scene in Fulci's own Don't Torture a Duckling (I'd like to believe that this was an homage, but it's just as likely to have been lazy film making). While conversely, the main musical theme of seven notes (that originate from Virginia's wrist watch) will be heard again, in slight variation, in the opening notes of Fulci's next (and most famous) film, Zombie.

To conclude, a score of 68 makes sense for this film. It is by all acceptable definitions a Giallo, but by 1977 the genre was certainly getting stale and Fulci seems to have incorporated just the right amount of variation to make The Psychic an effective hybrid of suspenseful whodunit and atmospheric horror. 

As for me, I think a second viewing on a large screen in a dark room will do wonders for my appreciation of this film.

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score breakdown

Hint: Hover over a score item for more details
Staples : 40/60
Italian Director10 points
Hidden Identity10 points
Black Gloves5 points
Amateur Detective5 points
Motivation: Blackmail/Gain5 points
Director > 15 points
Standards : 20/30
Body Count >= 34 points
Flashback Revelation3 points
Italian Location3 points
Mistaken Identity2 points
More than one killer or accomplice4 points
Suspects >= 34 points
Signatures : 8/10
Airplane1 point
Animal, Number, Color, or "Death" in title1 point
Death from Falling1 point
Foreigner1 point
Odd Clue1 point
Photography/Glamor/Modeling/Art1 point
Spiral Stairs1 point
Visual Misinterpretation1 point
Total Points : 68/100



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Published: 2014-03-28