Unburied Trailers: Premonition (1972)

Unburied Trailers: Premonition (1972)

Horrorific content by penguin_pete on July 11th, 2018 | Trailers |

Welcome to our new series: “Unburied” ! Each week, we’re going to select one forgotten oddball horror movie from way back and dig it up so you can play with the bones.

Are you ready to turn on, tune in, and die out? Premonition is a fascinating historical relic of Flower Power culture, but deservedly obscure. If it were issued on DVD, it would have to come with a pack of Zig-Zag rolling papers. Its original title was “Head,” but had to be changed to avoid confusion with the 1968 film Head by none other than The Monkees. This happened a lot in the days before the Internet.

What is this?

It just barely qualifies as a horror movie at all, being more of a psychedelic “trip movie.” It may look like an original idea in the modern age, but this kind of movie was actually all too common in the turn of the decade 1960-1970, as popular media gave up and decided to market to hippies since it looked like they weren’t going to go away.

So we have Neil (Carl Crow), who starts out narrating to us about a job he once had helping an archaeologist explore American native burial grounds. They come across a skeleton which they’re excited to find and haul into a truck, but in an ill-explained event the truck heads over a cliff and blows up. Much later in the movie the archaeologist gives the most tripped-out classroom lecture ever about the skeleton incident, which is loosely connected to these red blossom flowers growing in the area, which the archaeologist refers to as “devil weed.”

Later, Neil and his two friends, Andy (Tim Ray) and Baker (Winfrey Hester Hill) are in a band and rent - say it with us, horror fans! - “a cabin in the woods” which just happens to have these red flowers growing in the woods around the area. Andy gets into smoking these blossoms and having bad trips, acting weird and freaking out his friends. Eventually some loose connection is suggested between the red weed, the ancient native, and bad trips with visions of death in them.

While not without its amusing moments and the occasional humor, the whole experience is this dated cultural shrine to psychedelic trips, drug worship, and flower child navel-gazing. There’s many long sequences of trippy random visuals over wobbly electronic ambient tracks, sounding like UFOs from the 1950s are approaching, as Neil and Andy are having synchronized nightmares. Neil looks like Zonker Harris stepped straight out of the Doonesbury strip. Picture a bunch of stoners sitting around spouting these lines: “Hey, I remember, I saw the devil here! She was here! I dreamed it.” “I got so, I don’t know when I was me. I got so real!” “I’m getting closer to it. Closer to me.” This is what Baby Boomers grew up on, kids. Now you know how they got that way.

Written and directed by Alan Rudolph

This scatter-brained mess of psychedelic porridge is the work of writer-director Alan Rudolph. He does have his fans and followers, but mostly he’s remembered for having one of the most wandering and aimless careers in cinematic history, his permanent mediocrity matched only by his desperate, but frustrated, ambition to escape it. He studied under director Robert Altman for so long that he started looking like him. Premonition was Rudolph’s feature film directorial debut, coming off a stint from being assistant director for - are you sitting down for this? - The Brady Bunch.

And if that sounds random, the rest of his catalog ranges from sappy romantic comedies like Choose Me (1984) to tepid thrillers like Endangered Species (1992), to box-office bomb disasters like Breakfast of Champions (1999). This last was the one time he was given a decent budget and permission to make any film he wanted, so he set about mangling the Kurt Vonnegut book of the same name in an adaptation that stands today as an embarrassment for all involved, including stars Bruce Willis, Albert Finney, and Nick Nolte. Vonnegut himself declared the film “painful to watch.”

Oh yes... Just after Premonition, Alan Rudolph tried his hand at a more conventional horror movie, Barn of the Naked Dead, a real title that actually happened, but it’s also known as Nightmare Circus and Terror Circus. It’s about a man living in the desert with a barn full of women he keeps chained up as his own pet entertainment, while he dresses as a circus lion tamer and whips them. Yup, from The Brady Bunch to this in just two movies. So, Mr. Rudolph, is there anything about your childhood you’d like to discuss?

Where are we now?

But at least the music in Premonition jams! The band Sweetwater makes an appearance at the impromptu concert scene. This film is also one of the first films avant-garde electronic musician Harold Budd worked on; from here he would go on to collaborate closely with legendary producer Brian Eno for several albums. If you’re into late acid rock, this movie is your groove.

As for Premonition, you might classify it with Shrooms (2007), Toad Road (2012), or Beyond the Black Rainbow (2010), for being movies with psychedelic trips that all try to end on a “Drug are bad, m’kay?” message. Come to that, pair it with Blood Freak (1972), because for all its attempt to get inside the head of generation Woodstock, Premonition doesn’t get much wiser than that turkey-headed abomination. Look, they even came out the same year and everything!

The below trailer is fan-made, and good luck finding any other proof this movie even existed.


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