Still of the Night, director Robert Benton’s follow-up to his multiple Oscar-winning Kramer vs Kramer ,stars two of my favorite yesteryear acting heavyweights Roy Scheider and Meryl Streep in a quiet,slow-burn and understated Hitchcockian thriller that may seem outdated by today’s standards. Scheider plays Dr. Sam Rice, a psychiatrist doing his investigation into the murder of one of his patients, George Bynum, and Streep plays Brooke Reynolds, Bynum’s mistress. Rice falls in love with Brooke and tries to shield her from the cops, who are under the impression that Rice knows something about the murder and suspect him of withholding information. Rice tries to find if Brooke has something to do with this and he refers the notes he took down during his sessions with Bynum and tries to unravel the clues.
For a murder mystery, there is almost no gore present in the film. And unlike other films in the genre, no eerie background score is used to heighten the tension. Instead, Benton makes use of ambient noises and a few “Who’s there?” moments to send a chill up your spine. There are enough moments of genuine suspense and a bit of interesting psychoanalysis – one that involves a fairly creepy dream sequence – to engage our attention. And it goes without saying that Streep once again shows what a brilliant actress she is by disappearing into her role completely. Here, she plays a potential femme fatale but plays it in her own way. Her character is coy, highly strung and someone who is haunted by a terrible past and Streep does this so convincingly. The background score is memorably poignant and should’ve been used more, in my opinion.