She Waits (1972)

Despite Mark Wilson’s characteristically ugly early 1970s haircut I felt bad for him. He’s taking his new bride to meet his mother for the first time, an event fraught with peril even under the best of circumstances. Any dude who’s ever been married will tell you that more likely then not all that’s coming from that visit is that the two most important women in your life will be pissed at you simultaneously for something you had absolutely nothing to do with.

But what if your mother is crazier than a shithouse rat? When Mark’s mom starts talking to his new wife Laura about how she and Mark need to get out of the house as soon as possible and it results in the family doctor (who by the end of the movie has practically moved into the house due to everyone’s constant nervous breakdowns) dosing Laura with pills and injections to try and keep her crazy cooties in check, you are definitely cringing a bit on his behalf.

Wait a minute! Wasn’t it just Mark’s mom who was unbalanced? How did the super nice Laura (Patty Duke) suddenly catch a case of the kooks? Because she ate a combo platter of mother-in-law babbling about Mark’s late first wife Elaine still inhabiting the house and Elaine herself talking and playing a spooky music box! Bonus points for mother-in-law telling Laura that Mark murdered Elaine right there in the freaking house!

Laura tries to question Mark about Elaine, but he is suspiciously evasive. Mark also has a friend named David, who is clearly introduced solely because the story will require him to become mixed up in all this. David is a smarmy sort who makes passes at Laura right in front of Mark. (Mark really has the worst family and friends ever.)

Elaine’s spirit finally gets serious about things and possesses Laura, raising such punctilious questions as why did it take Elaine so long to do it, how is she able to do it, and once she’s possessed Laura, how does she not even know what really happened when she died? Are we supposed to believe that a ghost can be so traumatized that even it blocks out the truth of what transpired? I mean, if I can’t trust a vengeful ghost’s memories, who can I trust?

She Waits really only requires Patty Duke (Curse of the Black Widow) to show up and perform, ably shifting from the friendly Laura to the surly and assertive Elaine. (This is mostly accomplished by Patty glowering instead of smiling and speaking in a deeper, angrier voice. And holding a gun on Mark and David.)

No one else bothers to make much of an effort. Mark and David barely register beyond David’s distasteful attempts at horny guy patter. The family doctor is an embarrassment to the profession as he resorts to attempting to sedate everyone, downplay their issues and blames his patients for other people’s mental problems. The house even comes equipped with a regulation old hag housekeeper whose chief job seems to just be menacing looking.

None of this is perhaps that surprising since there isn’t much of an effort  made with the story either. As this is another TV movie under 75 minutes, the film can’t do much more other then introduce everyone, establish the situation and almost immediately move to the climax. There isn’t enough time to build any tension or have the mystery play out and engage the audience on any meaningful level, everything being revealed in a detail-spewing monologue during a final confrontation that sees things so rushed, a character almost literally runs as fast as he can to his death, as if he’s desperately trying to accomplish it before the movie ends.

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