Monday, June 14, 2010

Bunny Lake is Missing (1965)

In this stylish and tense ‘60s British mystery, young mother Ann (Carol Lynley) has just moved to London to be with her brother Steven (Keir Dullea). Her young daughter, Bunny, goes missing after Ann drops her off at her first day of school, but no one even remembers seeing the child. Steven is overprotective of Ann and immediately blames the school, but when the police become involved Detective Newhouse (Laurence Olivier) can’t seem to find any evidence to show that Bunny ever existed.

I’d heard of Bunny Lake is Missing on and off for years, but never checked it out before now. I’m not sure why I waited this long, because it’s a fantastically tense and well-done thriller that still holds up to this day!

The audience is continually held in suspense because we’re never quite sure whether Bunny is real and missing or if she is just a product of Ann’s imagination. Director Otto Preminger does a fantastic job of keeping us in rapt attention as Ann tries to retrace her steps to prove that Bunny is very much a real person. The mystery is heightened by the shadowy black-and-white that gives it a noir feel and the stunning chiaroscuro photography (I especially love the sinister and suspenseful sequence at a doll shop that changes everything!). All in all, the film is beautifully filmed and additionally gives us a nice peek at ‘60s London.

The acting by Carol Lynley as Ann is brilliant. She is continually standing up for herself, asserting that she isn’t crazy and that Bunny really does exist, but she does this with just a shred of doubt so that the audience isn’t quite sure it can trust her. Keir Dullea was also great as the concerned brother who wanted to blame everyone but Ann. He had great intensity in the role and it was hard to take my eyes off him whenever he was in a scene! The legendary Laurence Olivier did a serviceable job as the detective, but this character didn’t seem like much of a challenge for him and his performance feels phoned in. That’s okay, though, as the real star of the show is Lynley and all her frenetic and frustrated energy as Ann!

Now, I don’t want to spoil the ending for anyone, but it’s a doozy! I certainly didn’t see it coming, though as it gets nearer to the conclusion it becomes a vague possibility. The reveal is perfectly timed so when it does happen you are left momentarily shocked and then immensely satisfied. The ideal way to end a film, no?

I was surprised watching Bunny Lake because of how tense and intense of a film it is – especially since before watching I’d heard claims of its campiness. However, I found no evidence of camp, but just a straightforward thriller that kept me on my toes. Though it is regarded as a cult classic, I believe Bunny Lake is Missing deserves a much wider audience and would fit in nicely with other classic psychological horror.

If you are into classic horror mysteries with plenty of twists and turns, I highly recommend checking out Bunny Lake is Missing, an underrated psychological thriller.

Available on Amazon!

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