Marguerite (Sondra Locke) is a teenager who has been brought up in isolation with her mother Katherine (Mary Ure) and grandmother Julia (Signe Hasso), ever since her father Michael (Robert Shaw) left ten years ago. What he doesn't know is that in the interim, his daughter has grown somewhat eccentric in her ways, and devotes herself to science she can experiment on from the large garden in the grounds of the mansion house where the three of them stay, all to improve her mental capabilities. But how can she improve what may not be in the best of health, as she is convinced her doll collection can talk to her, and one in particular may about to get violent?
A Reflection of Fear was something of an orphaned movie, as it was directed by cinematographer William A. Fraker, who was hoping to make a proper career of helming movies which never panned out (his last was megaflop The Legend of the Lone Ranger in 1981, whereupon he turned to TV episodes). Although this item was completed to his satisfaction, the studio was not happy and deciding they could make more money out of it if it were rated PG rather than R (this was a nineteen-seventies PG, which could be fairly strong by today's standards), they proceeded to cut almost all of the bloodshed out of it, leaving a husk of a film which was originally harsher.
You can tell when things are about to get brutal, because there will be an abrupt jump to the next scene, interrupting the production's dreamlike air and undermining the effectiveness of the overall atmosphere, though there was still sexual material, it's just that you never saw any nudity when it was happening. What made it stranger was the whole tone was telling us how creepy sex is, just as Marguerite has been instructed her whole life, which has twisted her into some peculiar motives, most blatantly that when Michael does return home with her new stepmother Anne (Sally Kellerman) in tow, Marguerite makes no secret of the fact she is heavily attracted to him.
Not in a "daddy’s girl" kind of way, she really wants to canoodle with her dad, maybe even take it further, which is even more bizarre when you take in what the shock twist was: that appears right at the end, or rather is imparted to us in voiceover. Some say it is guessable, and you may wonder why Locke, who looks like the late-twentysomething she was, is presented in, shall we say, a manner that hints toward that twist (not wishing to give anything away), though this may be weighed up against the fact that she was never the most appealing of actresses, indeed there was often something cold about her, even when she was not called on to play creepy as she was here, and her almost albino-like complexion made her look like a ghost. All very appropriate for a horror movie, as this was, but not so great for her more mainstream roles.
She will of course be best recalled for her roles alongside former romantic partner Clint Eastwood, and perhaps even more so for her poor treatment after they split up in a life dogged with ill fortune, but one supposes there is such a thing as a Sondra Locke fan, and if they enjoy getting creeped out be her presence in a chiller, then they should really see A Reflection of Fear, for whatever your impression of her performance she was assuredly the centre of attention. Quite what actual husband and wife Shaw and Ure were doing in this (this was Ure's last film) is more of a mystery than the plotline's actual, central conundrum, since they don't get very much to do, and you can't imagine they weren't getting better offers. But then, we'll never know what this was like before it was hacked by the studio: for all we know it could have been something really special, instead of a woozy, compromised horror as it is now; at least Laszlo Kovacs' cinematography is often complimented. Music by Fred Myrow.