Picks and Pans Review: A Kiss Before Dying
In this remake of a 1956 psycho thriller taken from an Ira Levin novel, Young (No Way Out) plays twin sisters, neither of whom can act.
Ambitious Dillon, effectively vacillating between earnest charm and brutal violence, throws one twin off a building because she has gotten pregnant during their clandestine affair and he is afraid her tycoon father, Max von Sydow, will disown her (and ultimately him, as a would-be son-in-law). Then he assumes a new identity and starts courting the other twin.
The considerable tension potential comes from the surviving twin's suspicions about her sister's death, which was initially ruled a suicide.
Young, however, keeps shattering that edgy mood with laughably dull line readings, many of them so flat they'd hardly cause a twinge on an oscilloscope. Her inflections make the line "I love it!" (when she has just received a gorgeous locket from her dream man) sound very much like "Damn! We're out of pretzels."
When she's out of the picture, it's easier to take seriously. The scenes between Dillon and the shrewd Von Sydow—the young man preying on the older's weaknesses—pack lots of character shaping into small spaces.
James Dearden, who wrote the Fatal Attraction screenplay, directed and wrote this film. Too much dialogue is artificial. Early on, for instance, Diane Ladd, as Dillon's mother, gets tired of him hanging around the house after he graduates from college and says, "Son, you cannot rest on your laurels forever." The crucial coincidences start piling up toward the end too.
Still, the matter-of-fact violence is handled well. And Dearden enjoys exploring along the thin line that separates normal behavior from the massively bonkers.
From the nature of this plot and a long clip from Vertigo that Dearden dwells on, he seems to be another Hitchcock wannabe. Maybe he should try again, keeping in mind that the old man made a few mistakes too, although few of them involved choosing the wrong leading ladies. (R)