PHONEY PSYCHICS | Offscreen
Spiritism, fortune-telling, clairvoyance... this by definition non-scientific form of extrasensory perception is often the subject of fraud and deception, especially when it occurs in the context of public (and paid) performances. A film noir like Nightmare Alley (both the original classic from 1947 and the recent remake by Guillermo del Toro) illustrates in a story about a traveling carnival how easily the line blurs between paranormal entertainment and charlatanism. However, films about spiritualistic deception can also play the card of fantasy or horror, thus opening the door to ontological doubt or the supernatural.
In Black Rainbow, Jason Robards and Rosanna Arquette portray an alcoholic father and his clairvoyant daughter who travel through the southern American Bible Belt, pulling tricks to give gullible souls a better feeling about their deceased loved ones. Until a prediction turns out to be true... The story of shady deception takes a series of chilling turns as Mike Hodges subtly blends different genres (crime film, conspiracy thriller, and gothic horror).
In The Frighteners, we meet Frank Bannister, a man who, after his wife's death, can see ghosts. He befriends three spirits, whom he asks to scare the residents of a small town so that he can extort money from the victims to drive the ghosts away. Filmed just after the widely praised Heavenly Creatures and five years before The Lord of the Rings, this film proved to be a flop with an audience unfamiliar with Peter Jackson's earlier low-budget genre hybrids such as Bad Taste and Meet the Feebles. Meanwhile, Jackson's quirky mix of unconventional comedy, rollercoaster horror, and virtuoso proto-CGI horror has also built a steadily growing cult following.
Martha Travis is a medium who, during public performances, makes contact with spirits "on the other side." The problems begin when she delivers a message from a woman's deceased husband during one of her public appearances. Shocked, the woman insists that her husband is not dead... not yet. Preceded by a bilingual introduction.