This movie is so sad. I mean,I've loved it since I was a kid, but I see something new every time I watch it (that's one of the reasons I love it so much) and this time around it struck me how sad and tragic the character of Charlotte is.
Charlotte was a southern Belle when she was young, and her father doted on her, but he didn't approve of her boyfriend, so he gave a speech to the boyfriend and drove him away. The night he breaks up with Charlotte she screams at him and threatens to kill him. Later we see him sitting alone, mourning the lo9ss of his love, when someone comes into the room and chops off his hand and then his head. Later, people at Charlotte's coming out ball see her walk in with her pretty white dress covered in blood. everyone in town assumes she was the murderer. She assumes her father was the murderer,and out of love for him, she never really rigorously defends herself against these accusations (and she never tells anyone about her suspicions of her father). Since there's not much evidence one way or the other, she is never tried or convicted, but everyone in town assumes she is guilty and spreads this rumor, so she grows into an old woman in the plantation home with her father. She never marries again or moves out on her own, and she grows more and more crazy as the years go on. Fast forward to the present. The city is tearing down the old house to build a highway, and they want Charlotte to move out, but she refuses. She writes her beloved cousin Miriam for help,and Miriam obliges. Charlotte gets more and more crazy and her memories of her dead lover get more and more realistic until she thinks he's really come back form the dead to haunt her. What's really going on here? It's up to the audience to put the pieces together as the story unfolds.
Here's the deal. When I was a kid,I was obsessed with the re-issues of old Tales from the Crypt comics, nasty little horror comics that featured despicable people doing horrible things to each other and then getting what they deserve at the end. I think I initially loved this movie because it is so much like one of those Tales from the Crypt stories. I also love how everything that happens in a mystery. No one character knows the whole truth of what happened that night when Charlotte's lover got murdered (or so we think). Basically, the story has been built up over the years through gossip, and poor Charlotte has grown old in this house surrounded by people who hate her and vilify her for something she didn't do. She has fed their hate in a lot of ways by acting as crazy as they think she is (as the sheriff says in the beginning of the movie, Charlotte isn't really crazy, mostly just eccentric, but she acts crazy because that's what people expect of her). But a problem comes up and Charlotte doesn't know how to fix it. Her home is going to be torn down, and it's the only home she's ever known, and she doesn't know what to do. She calls her cousin to help her, and everyone says that her cousin is vengeful and evil, but at first her cousin acts nice. It's only as the movie goes on that we see this nice facade crack and we learn how truly vengeful cousin Miriam really is.
There's more to the story, but you should really see it for yourself. This is a movie that really deserves more recognition than it gets, I think. Creepy and evil and mean-spirited and fun. It's just what the doctor ordered for a Halloween horror romp.