If Alfred Hitchcock taught us anything in 1960, it was that the real monsters were the ones that look just like us. Sure, Universal had it’s roster of big guns like Dracula, Frankenstein, and their brethren, and Hammer had picked up that string and, in many ways, got the kite higher. But with Psycho (and arguably Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom, which actually came out a little before Hitch’s masterpiece), a mirror was held up to the proverbial “boy next door”, and showed all the distortions within. Truly, it made finding monsters and ghouls frightening kinda tough when we could see how the nice young man with such innocent charms could hide such a horrible, lethal dark side just under the surface. Of course, the film spawned many others that delved into the more realistic horrors of human madness — some good, some bad — but all of them sought to explore the horror that just might live next door.
Thommy Huston’s 2015 offering, The Id, is a film that treads this path into the black regions of the soul.
Meridith Lane is a woman living at home with her invalid father — forgoing a life of her own to care for the man that gave it to her. Far from the idyllic, loving family sound of that, her existence is one of a prisoner, her cruel and belligerent father making her life a living hell.
Manipulative and vindictive, the old man (who may or may not be completely helpless) uses fear and mocking to keep Meridith around, berating and insulting her constantly, regardless of her efforts — we have little doubt as to why her mother left. Having not left the house for God knows how long (he threatens to have social services prosecute her if she “abandons” him, even for a short time), Meridith has become a shell of a woman, tearfully trapped in a vicious, unending cycle of tired, abusive routine — until a phone call from out of the blue changes everything. Her old flame from high school has looked her up. He’s going to be in town soon, and wants very much to see her. Her mind filling with her memories of the young man who held her heart, she brightens, planning to be whisked away by her first true love, her prince to save her from this life she leads. Dad, however, will tolerate none of this nonsense — she’s not going anywhere, and no one would want her, anyway — she’s used up, old, and ugly, he says. This intrusion into her fantasy of finally having a life and love of her own just may be too much…
Any film that is going to dive into the deep end of psychological disturbance and be worth its salt is going to come out of the box slowly — and The Id is no exception. Huston plays the drama out at a very deliberate pace, but it’so very important for what is to come later.
The narrative plays out in such a way that Meridith’s plight is a palpable thing — we the audience are filled with sympathy for her. This makes the last reel of the film that much more jarring, when we see the rage finally unleashed when she plummets over the edge. Of course, all of this storytelling would not have worked without an absolutely stellar performance by Amanda Wyss — in my viewing, her portrayal ran me through a gauntlet of emotions, from gut-wrenching sympathy, to awkward discomfort, to downright fear. I don’t know what she did to get herself to that place as an actress, but I can certainly say that it worked. Patrick Peduto, as the nasty, angry father, does his part to bring life to the tale, and with his pestering, downright black-hearted performance for Wyss’s to bounce off of, the tension and emotion become nigh-unbearable at times.
If you’re looking for a blood-and-guts psycho-killer tale, you’re not going to find it here — however, if you like the kind of story that builds up from strong characterization to a climax that, if you’ve let yourself be drawn-in, will punch you in the gut like a sledgehammer, then you should really check this one out.
My two cents.