1965. Directed by Roman Polanski.
The first film in Polanski's Apartment Trilogy, and second feature length film, Repulsion is a masterpiece in psychological horror that is one of the most terrifying films ever made.
Carol is an awkward woman who has trouble forming relationships She lives with her older sister Helen and struggles with accepting her sister's relationship with her boyfriend, Michael. When Helen and Michael leave on a vacation, Carol begins to experience strange phenomena and hallucinations as her sanity quickly erodes.
This film exudes an atmosphere of dread in every frame. Gilbert Taylor's stunning black and white cinematography is claustrophobic and relentless, chronicling Carol's descent in an up close and extremely uncomfortable presentation. The audience is a silent witness to the madness that envelops Carol's apartment, which serves as a symbol for her tortured and haunted psyche. The camera, like Carol's devolution, moves painfully slow at times, making even the film's pace part of the terror. Repulsion achieves it's insidious goals by using minimal effects to focus on the most terrifying thing in existence: something that could happen to anyone. The creature is a wounded mind with no hope for recovery, not a beast from beyond.
Catherine Deneuve gives a tour de force performance, defining insanity and vulnerability in a beautifully raw style that harnesses everything you've never wanted to know about mental illness. The film never dips beyond the mental arena, there are no horrors in the shadows, only the very real personal demons that haunt Carol's solitary hell. Deneuve was critically robbed during awards season, but his is not a film about triumphing over mental disease. Polanski did not make this film to stand on an stage. He's in the basement, in the abyss, waiting for you to step inside his very real nightmare with open arms.
Polanski's directorial command is meticulous. The film is filled with repetitive audio cues. The ticking clocks and chiming bells, mundane signals, become accusatory voyeurs to the madness and bloodshed. Sex, one of Polanski's hallmarks, is also a conspirator. The film delivers it's treatise on sexual abuse and politics in brutality and bloodshed, showing how dark seeds planted in the past irrevocably poison the future of their victims.
Available digitally for rental or in a stunning Criterion blu ray, Repulsion is mandatory viewing for cinema lovers and anyone who wants a front row seat to the destruction of the human soul. There is no hope, no redemption, only a suffocating hysteria that is the product of abuse and a refusal of confrontation and acceptance. Highly recommended,