I couldn't approach this with quite the level of enthusiasm as some of the others here after just one watch. I decided to watch it a second time and then I began to pick up on more, and thus began to appreciate it more. It may be too slowly paced and subtle for some tastes, but I think the majority of horror fans will find it a rewarding 42-minute view, if only for three very creepy sequences, the desolate locations and Dick Bush's gorgeous, haunting black-and-white photography. It opens with brief voice over narration that gives us a little history on source author James as well as an overview of his story, which is said to have been written as a warning about the dangers of "intellectual pride." Professor Parkins (Michael Hordern) is looking for some peace and solitude, so he goes to stay a spell at a quaint little hotel that's close to the ocean. During a trip to the beach he wanders into a small ancient graveyard, finds an old whistle and brings it back to his room. He cleans it and notices an inscription that promises that whoever blows it will be paid a visit... by someone. Being an academic and realist, and thus a supernatural skeptic, Parkins decides to blow the horn despite the warning and ends up getting more than he bargained for.
The first 15 or so minutes are spent with Hordern wandering around the hotel and incoherently mumbling, babbling and groaning to both himself and the staff. On my first watch I found this incredibly irritating and had no clue what the point of it was. Now I realize it was to illustrate his inability to relate to or socialize with "normal" everyday people. To become immersed in academia and intellectual pursuits is often to alienate yourself from the rest of society. After awhile you just can't relate and simple things like basic interaction or making simple casual conversation during a small dinner become awkward and difficult. Though these scenes do have some purpose, I have to admit I felt they were a bit overlong to the point of trying one's patience at times.
However, when it comes to striking and chilling imagery, this one hits a home run on many occasions, which is impressive for a film with such a short run time. As the professor starts to leave the beach after obtaining the whistle, a silhouetted figure stands solemnly behind him as the sun is setting and the waves are crashing. The lack of a music score or a reactionary sound cue makes it even more chilling. There's also a brilliantly set-up nightmare sequence which make excellent use of clipped dialogue and manages to make a piece of cloth horrifying. And then there's the finale, which I won't go into, but it's also pretty darn creepy. The beach locations are excellent, partially because they're not cluttered. Aside from a few poles in the sand and some tall wavering grass blowing in the wind, it's a beautiful yet blank pallet that makes certain images (the mysterious figure, a tombstone) stand out in a striking and ominous way.
Fans of such films as THE INNOCENTS (1961) and A WARNING TO THE CURIOUS (1972) should enjoy what this brings to the table.