This schism is highlighted by an encounter with a pair of elderly spinsters – one of them, a psychic, claims to have seen the dead girl's ghost. Laura's open-minded about it, John isn't. Even though he restores churches for a living, he's an atheist, embarrassed by the acts of piety which come naturally to Laura when she's on holy ground. He takes her sudden interest in spiritualism as a sign of an impending breakdown. But despite – or perhaps because – of his resistance, John is soon seeing portents of his own, of a far less reassuring kind.
As scripted by Allan Scott and Chris Bryant, the story is as fragile as the characters, domestic in scope, shorn of the usual trappings of movie horror – no defrocked priests, no FX, no spurts of blood or vomit. But Roeg wraps it around with a dazzling series of recurring visual motifs which act like a tightening net upon characters and audience alike - breaking glass, rippling water, half-glimpsed blotches of red in an otherwise autumnal palette. Roeg's use of non-linear editing to fragment the passage of time is here particularly appropriate, because for the Baxters the present all too easily dissolves into regrets over the past and foreboding for the future.
Yet a warm pulse of life flows through the scenes. This is in part thanks to performances from the two leads that are engaging and unbuttoned (literally so in a famous sex scene which Wordsworth might have enjoyed as an example of emotion recollected in tranquillity.) But equally as important is the hand-held cinematography by Anthony Richmond, which gives the movie the feel of something caught on the fly rather than solemnly premeditated.
The result is a film that lifts itself free of horror's conventions while at the same time delivering effortless chills and a matchlessly nightmarish finale. It's perhaps the most influential movie Roeg has made – you can see echoes of it in David Lynch's later work and Lars von Trier's 'Antichrist.' It's great news that one of cinema's most profound glimpses behind the veil is now out on Blu-ray.