REPULSION (1965) Reviews of Polanski’s psychological horror classic

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Repulsion is a 1965 British psychological horror feature film directed by Roman Polanski based on a screenplay co-written with by Gérard Brach. It was Polanski’s first English language film, and was filmed in London for Tony Tenser’s Compton Films (The Black Torment, The Projected Man).

The movie stars Catherine Deneuve, Ian Hendry, John Fraser, Patrick Wymark and Yvonne Furneaux.

Plot [includes spoilers]:

Carol Ledoux (Catherine Deneuve) is a young Belgian manicurist who lives in Kensington, London, with her sister Helen (Yvonne Furneaux). Carol seems shy and interacts with men awkwardly.


When Helen leaves on a holiday to Italy with her married boyfriend, Michael (Ian Hendry), Carol appears distracted at work, refuses to leave her apartment, leaves a raw, skinned rabbit out to rot, and sees hallucinations, first of the walls cracking, then hands reaching out to grab and attack her, and repeated nightmares or hallucinations of a man breaking into her bedroom and carnally abusing her.

When Colin (John Fraser), a would-be suitor whom she has rejected, breaks into the flat, she bludgeons him to death with a candlestick and dumps the body into the overflowing bath.

repulsion door peephole

Later, the landlord (Patrick Wymark) arrives for the late rent. Carol pays him and at first just sits on the sofa, staring into space, as he remarks on the state of the apartment and gives her water to drink. But when he tries to force himself on her, she slashes him to death with a straight razor.


“Deneueve transfixes with her dead-eyed stare. A woman constantly harassed by men who withdraws into an almost catatonic state. As her mania grows, her ability to differentiate between reality and imagination diminishes. Repulsion is a masterpiece of cinema, a powerful work of feminism and a chilling psychological horror.” Rob Aldam, Backstreet Mafia

Repulsion, like so many other Polanski movies, is about a person alone, surrounded by oppressive forces. Whatever that says about his personal demons can never excuse the fact that he became one of those forces himself.” David Bax, Battleship Pretension


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Repulsion is a surprisingly witty, smartly written film. It blends elements of suspense and mystery along with drama, horror and erotica in a very unique way. It is also a carefully photographed film, encouraging the viewer to pay close attention to even the tiniest of details. ” Doctor Svet Atanasov,

“You get the idea at 45 minutes in and then there’s 45 minutes, at steadily increasing intensity, left to go. Nevertheless, there are several good effects and creepy moments. Polanski keeps things tense and knows how to frame a shot and edit the things to keep the tone unsettling. Yay.” Cinema de Merde

Repulsion synthesizes elegant visions from Cocteau fantasy and Val Lewton horror to chart Carole’s headlong fall into the pit. By the time the film resorts to overt Guignol, we’re locked in a horror landscape with rotting corpses and murders by straight razor. Polanski avoids horror clichés while revealing his personal visual obsessions.” Glenn Erickson, DVD Savant

Repulsion is a stylistic tour-de-force, made at the time when Polanski was at the height of his powers, brilliant, innovative, provocative, and witty […] But there’s still a nagging sense that in the end Repulsion doesn’t really add up to very much. ” Ian Johnston, Not Coming to a Theater Near You

“The film has an unsettling vibe to it and while you can see where maybe it borrows a bit from Hitchcock’s Psycho, a film that blew the doors off of the box office four years prior, Polanski definitely carves out his own niche here thanks in no small part to Gil Taylor’s outstandingly atmospheric camerawork that is as startling as it is claustrophobic at times.” Ian Jane, Rock! Shock! Pop!

“The idea that straight-laced, outwardly normal people harboured deep rooted, horrific traumas was a liberal riposte to Nixonian ideals […] Nevertheless, Repulsion stands up as a landmark, hugely influential horror movie. ” Andrew Pragasam, The Spinning Image

“Polanski makes it work and the movie is all the more frightening by the scarcity of dialogue, the visions, and Carol’s cold, detached actions. Functioning as pure horror, a drama, and a character study, Repulsion is top-notch and definitely needs to be seen.” The Terror Trap

Cast and characters:

  • Catherine Deneuve … Carol
  • Ian Hendry … Michael
  • John Fraser … Colin
  • Yvonne Furneaux … Helen
  • Patrick Wymark … Landlord
  • Renee Houston … Miss Balch
  • Valerie Taylor … Madame Denise
  • James Villiers … John
  • Helen Fraser … Bridget
  • Hugh Futcher … Reggie
  • Monica Merlin … Mrs. Rendlesham
  • Imogen Graham … Manicurist
  • Mike Pratt … Workman

repulsione french poster

repulsion roman polanski

polanski directs repulsion

repulsion japanese poster

catherine deneurve repulsion

Catherine Deneuve Repulsion 1965

British blue-tinged quad poster for 1974 re-release.

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