Directed by William Castle [Other horror films: Macabre (1958), House on Haunted Hill (1959), The Tingler (1959), 13 Ghosts (1960), Mr. Sardonicus (1961), The Old Dark House (1963), Strait-Jacket (1964), The Night Walker (1964), I Saw What You Did (1965), Let’s Kill Uncle (1966), The Spirit Is Willing (1967), Shanks (1974)]
William Castle is probably one of my personal favorite directors when it comes to pre-1970’s horror. His campy style never fails to entertain, and though his movies may rarely be necessarily special (with the exception of House on Haunted Hill, which is definitely special, and perhaps Mr. Sardonicus), they’re almost always entertaining, and Homicidal is no different.
Partially influenced by the success of Psycho from a year previous, Homicidal gives us a story filled with different characters and plenty of mystery, along with a conclusion of which the influence of Psycho can clearly be gleaned. Just because the film shares some elements with it’s better doesn’t mean Homicidal is without credit, though, because this movie has a lot going for it.
The cast throughout is stellar. It’s true that Joan Marshall gives one hell of a performance, and though maybe a little over-the-top at times, it’s a Castle movie, so I don’t imagine many could hold that against her. What’s even more impressive, though, is the performance given by Eugenie Leontovich, who plays a mute character, and must express herself solely via facial expressions. The terror that her character felt in certain scenes was palatable, and I loved it.
Patricia Breslin (who also popped up in Castle’s I Saw What You Did) was pretty good as the focal character past a certain point, and though she wasn’t really near as stellar as others, I definitely appreciated her presence. Somewhat similar is Glenn Corbett – he was perfectly fine in his role, but he didn’t stand out quite as much as other cast members.
Being a movie from the early 60’s, and also being black-and-white, Homicidal doesn’t have a lot to offer in terms of gore (though there are two scenes of note – one a multiple gut-stab, the other the results of a decapitation – that are worth seeing), but it does give us a decent little mystery with a really fun finale (following Castle’s corny Fright Break, of course, which allowed theater-goers 45 seconds to leave prior to the film’s conclusion).
Since I’ve seen this once or twice before, I obviously knew how the film was going to end, and I suspect that most modern-day audiences, hard-wired to see plot twists coming from a mile away, will spot this one from, well, miles away, but that doesn’t, in my mind, make the conclusion any less stellar. It may well be obvious to new-time viewers, but I recall being surprised the first time I saw this, and while that may just mean I’m gullible, I still felt appreciation for that.
What I also appreciated was the opening to this film, which had director William Castle speaking to the audience, referencing previous works (Macabre, House on Haunted Hill, The Tingler, and 13 Ghosts) and having a jolly time with it. It reminded me a bit of Edward Van Sloan’s speech which opened up Frankenstein. It’s corny, but it’s fun, which I think Castle excelled at.
Homicidal may not be my favorite work from Castle, but I do think it’s a pretty good movie, and I definitely recommend it to fans of the classics the genre has to offer.