Directed by Michael Crichton [Other horror films: N/A]
For as long as I’ve known about this film, IMDb has labeled it as a ‘horror’ film (other genres are drama and mystery); of course, today, that label is now missing. It’s a mystery and drama, no doubt, but while there are horror elements, going as far as to call the whole of the film horror is a bit of a stretch, even for someone with as liberal a definition of horror as I do.
I’ll count it though – there’s a sequence, decently suspenseful, too, where a killer is chasing someone (though to be fair, it’s more an assassination attempt than a slasher, but hey, someone’s getting killed, so that counts?), but to be fair, this is much more of a medical-focused mystery dealing with a wide-ranging conspiracy. If people want to label this horror, who am I to complain?
And since it is considered horror by some, it becomes one of the two horror films with Michael Douglas (the other being an early 1970’s TV movie titled When Michael Calls). A few years before this, he was in the cop crime show The Streets of San Francisco, and this may be one of his first bigger films, so that’s somewhat fun. His character is mixed – it’s the typical “I don’t believe in any conspiracy despite the proof, you’re paranoid” type, but his character grows later on.
The main character, though, is played by Geneviève Bujold (would reminded me amazingly of Famke Janssen throughout the film), and she did a great job playing a woman simply trying to get at the truth despite the obstacles in front of her. Rip Torn (A Stranger Is Watching and Dolly Dearest) and Richard Widmark (Blackout and To the Devil a Daughter) were both decent playing the old-fashioned, somewhat chauvinistic doctors of the past.
There are some solid scenes in this film, and also some quite striking scenes (such as the first time we set eyes upon the seemingly-empty Jefferson Institute), but I suspect a lot of people might not find quite the horror they were hoping for. There were some small drops here and there, which is why I personally can see it as such, but if someone saw purely a conspiracy movie, I couldn’t blame them.
Whether or not this is horror doesn’t matter, though, as the movie’s still good. It has plenty of thrilling scenes (when Bujold is climbing the ladder, for instance, or when Douglas is trying to save someone’s life at the end), and it’s a movie that’s recommended. And if it sweetens the deal any, it’s based off a novel written by Robin Cook, and the film’s directed by Michael Crichton.
4 thoughts on “Coma (1978)”
I never thought of the actual genre term for Coma. It can certainly qualify as an ethical drama on how some doctors can abuse their power which we know has been a real problem in the world. I would at least classify it as a quite traditional good-vs-evil story with good winning in the end and with a most humanly realistic heroine played by Genevieve Bujold. Thanks for your review.
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Yeah, this one has a lot of ideas crammed in (I imagine that’s both due to it being based on Robin Cook novel and being directed by Michael Crichton). Medical drama, thriller, suspense, some mystery and dashes of horror – this movie has a lot of interesting things going for it. Whether it all comes together at the end is another question, but definitely a memorable film.
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