“It’s only when hate is dammed up that it breaks out in murder!”
An attractive blonde (Jean Arless) with deadly motives murders a justice of the peace (James Westerfield) under an assumed name, then returns home to wreak additional havoc.
William Castle’s notoriously popular B-grade follow-up to Psycho (1960) comes across as laughably inferior today, with predictable plot twists, uneven acting, bad dubbing, and outrageously naive behavior by every character involved. The film’s primary plot twist is obvious from a mile away, and its storyline is too ridiculous to be genuinely frightening. Amazingly enough, audience members at the time reacted differently, with many kept in the dark about the true identity of one of the key characters, and some actually taking advantage of Castle’s highly publicized “Fright Break” gimmick, in which they could leave the film pre-denouement for a full refund by carrying a yellow “I am a bona fide coward” card and waiting in the corner of the lobby.
Despite its obvious flaws, however, Homicidal comes across today as a reasonably enjoyable cult film, primarily because all its ludicrous elements add up to such silly fun. Plus, though the primary plot twist is far too easy to guess, the hidden secret behind this twist comes as a genuine surprise. If you forget that Homicidal was ever meant as a serious rival to Hitchcock’s masterpiece, you’ll probably get a kick out of its enjoyably campy approach to sibling rivalry, gender, loyalty, and murder.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- A deliciously campy sensibility
- Good use of Solvang, California as a small-town locale
- Effectively eerie use of lighting and shadows
- An interesting second plot twist (but you’ll guess the first one immediately!)
Yes, simply for its notoriety as a follow-up to Psycho.