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‘Whispers in the Dark’ (R)

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
August 07, 1992

Of course it wouldn't be sporting to give away the mystery killer in "Whispers in the Dark," even if the movie does howl at the moon. It's tempting, though. Instead of the riveting revelation it's meant to be, the bad guy's final unmasking is monumentally goofy -- probably the best thing in the movie.

Instead, let us meet conscientious psychiatrist Annabella Sciorra as she listens to the bondage fantasies (or are they true confessions?) of patient Deborah Unger. Unger's lover tied her to some overhead pipes, she's saying. Sciorra's starting to blush. Her id's percolating. She's a lonely woman on the romantic outs with a hard-drinking boyfriend. It's time to quash that trust problem with men and start a new affair. So Sciorra takes off with eligible pilot James Sheridan and the trouble starts.

Trust takes an immediate buffeting when Sciorra spots Unger having lunch with -- you guessed it -- Sheridan. Not long after that, the unfortunate patient is found hanging from a rope. Swayed by the sensible warnings of shrink-mentor Alan Alda, Sciorra stays away from Sheridan. Meanwhile, homicide detective Anthony LaPaglia sniffs suspiciously around everyone, including Sciorra, Sheridan and a semi-psychotic Spanish patient of Sciorra's.

She doesn't keep away for long, even though suspicion still surrounds Sheridan. He always seems to be hovering close to the scene of a brutal crime -- only to convince Sciorra once again he's completely innocent. When Sheridan takes Sciorra to his mother in Iowa, the old woman looks suspiciously archetypal -- a distant aunt of Norman Bates, perhaps? I don't know about Sciorra, but when Sheridan early in the movie describes his first flying experience ("It was like grabbing God by both ears and giving him a big, wet kiss"), I'd call for the check right there.

The movie becomes unintentionally funny when Alda -- for the umpteenth time it seems -- shakes his head and tells Sciorra this guy is looney tunes. "I'm in love with him," she whines. "I have to believe him."

Way before this, however, the movie has become tedious and overworked. It exists purely as a twist-mongering, red-herring exercise, rather than a story that matters. You're sent so many different ways that it doesn't really matter anymore who did it. Which is why that final punch line, a bloody battle on the beach between Sciorra and the Beast, deserves to be revealed. But you'll have to find it out for yourself -- on video.

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