(Sandor Stern, 1989)
Towards the end a good boyfriend tilts the rhetoric toward the usual mental-illness frame, threatening the film's very impressive balance of thematic concerns: patriarchy, misogyny, repression, false idol as ventriloquist's dummy. Stern gets serious mileage out of his central conceit of visible man as imaginary friend, and I was afraid that he'd cop out instead of summing up. These worries proved unfounded, though. Up against dad's relatively sympathetic vacuity, the one-dimensional status consciousness of the mother figure is problematic too; but both characters are dispatched early enough to shift focus to Cyndy Preston's strong, resourceful, sympathetic sister, who winds up being more than a match for David Hewlett's dangerously stunted teen head case. A bit stiff and a bit annoying, Hewlett still impresses in his center-stage role, digging ever deeper into the hole of avoidance which his wrong-headed rearing has deposited him in. The narrative rarely lets its considerable creepy thrills distract from the working through of its ideas, although the reverse may be true; this is almost too cerebral, too schematic, for real classic horror status. Still, this remains a near-poster child for the intellectual attainments of modern genre cinema at its best.