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The Eternal Reviews

Where many contemporary horror films rely on special effects at the expense of character development, this fright flick explores its characters' deep-rooted psychological fears. Unfortunately, its excessive artiness undermines the laudable effort to make character more important than blood and guts. Coddled by her trust fund, socialite Norah (Alison Elliott) and her enabling husband, Jim (Jared Harris), drift through life in an alcoholic haze. With their small son, Jim Jr. (Jeffrey Goldschrafe), in tow, Norah heads for her Irish country homestead in hopes of starting a new, sober life. But instead of bucolic peacefulness, Norah finds bickering relatives Uncle Bill (Christopher Walken), who keeps a Druid corpse in the basement, and Granny Ferriter (Lois Smith), who yearns to recharge her rusty witch's skills. Uncle Bill's pet ghost, a 200 year-old suicide, has been waiting to suck up the soul of her descendant, Norah. By the time the shape-shifting poltergeist has sliced the throats of Uncle Bill and a villager, she's transformed herself into Norah's doppelganger. The reincarnated spirit kidnaps Jim Jr. and threatens to drag him down to the bogs, forcing Norah to consider relinquishing her own life to save that of her child. Writer-director Michael Almereyda does a smashing visual job bringing the not-so-blithe spirit to life, but his screenwriting is less assured than his direction. Norah and her banshee-double sometimes carry on like refugees from a Halloween episode of TV's The Patty Duke Show, and too much time at the beginning of the film is wasted detailing Norah's booze-fueled dissipation. Almereyda also fails to clarify its potentially provocative juxtaposition of party-girl Norah's self-destructive alcoholism with the succubus's festering desire to drain human life. Instead, Almereyda's mise-en-scene suggests something Jane Campion might have created on assignment to Roger Corman.