This review contains SPOILERS!
"Repulsion" is a slow burning thriller, one that remains aloof, uncaring, and bizarrely pretentious. It's one of the most highly revered works from Roman Polanski; but it's also one of his worst. You can see the director's future influences in his other works like "Rosemary's Baby" with "Repulsion"; but, as a whole, the movie is unsatisfactorily unexplained.
Carol (Catherine Deneuve) is a girl who has the habit of walking around in a daze. Whether working with clients at a beauty salon or eating with a friend, she seems to space out quite often. Carol is a blonde-beauty, one who attracts the attention of a man named Colin (John Fraser). He is quite intent on getting to know her better; yet she couldn't care less. She never encourages him, never urges him to devote his attention to her, and still he feels like she wants him...foolish men.
For much of "Repulsion", we just get the "crazy bitch" kind of vibe coming from everyone. The fact that there are only two main male characters and every other one is viewed in a predatory way leads us to believe that women are just crazy....let me elaborate.
As the movie continues we begin to see why it is titled as it is. Colin tries to make a move on Carol and kisses her in the car. The result of the innocent gesture spins Carol into a panic attack. She runs off and up to her apartment, where she furiously scrubs her mouth out with tries to get rid of the taste of Colin. Later she sniffs a man's shirt out of curiosity and then runs to the toilet to throw up.
Carol lives with her sister, Helen (Yvonne Furneaux) who is having an affair with a married man, Michael (Ian Hendry). Carol despises Michael and is always moving his razor and his toothbrush in the bathroom. She is told by Helen to keep her nose out, it's not her business.
After Helen goes away on vacation, we get an unexpected breakdown on Carol's part. She holes up in the apartment and then we get the freakin' bizarre. She pulls out a butchered, uncooked rabbit from refrigerator and leaves it around the house, letting it slowly rot.
"Repulsion" turns from a piece about a woman hating men to a haunted house thriller. The apartment begins to move. Cracks appears in the walls, hands poke out of walls, hallucinations...you name it, it happens.
Adding to our misandry theme, Carol appears to imagine nighttime predators that sneak into the apartment and rape her. This happens frequently and always as the culmination (the climax) or a scene in which the house has made Carol its victim.
As the film continues and Carol begins to somewhat enjoy the solitude of the house—rarely going out, preferring to stay caged up within—we begin to feel that she is starting to enjoy the rape-sequences. In one moment, she puts on lipstick before she goes to bed and stays there until a man attacks her.
"Repulsion" could just be trying to freak its audience out; but I highly doubt that, because there is a smarter thought here. We don't get a tipping point for Carol before she dives off into insanity...unless she was always insane, but we would have noticed that earlier.
For as many nasty moments that film contains—including slicing a man up with a razor, bludgeoning someone to death, the decay of the rabbit, the repeated rapes, and the hands that stick out of the wall and grope Carol—"Repulsion" is rather slow. It drags and drags and drags, hoping to build suspense, but instead lulling you to sleep.
It's not scary, nor is it really that disturbing besides the fact that Polanski seems undecided whether we are supposed to cheer for or hate our protagonist. Carol has some good moments, like stopping the landlord from abusing her...but then, there are moments of woman-induced crazy that I don't understand.
"Repulsion" is a confused work, and confusing....and boring.
Posted by Micah Jones