You don't have to be a soothsayer to predict that nearly every weekend, young people will descend on movie theaters for horror flicks. Scary movies are one of cinema's most reliable investments, catering to couples on dates looking for a little titillation as a form of foreplay, as well as the dateless people looking for an outlet.
Audiences more mature in years or sensibility may want their own share of suspense and spookiness without having to see so much gore that it tests their gag reflex. Some horror films seek to emulate the success of The Sixth Sense rather than the Saw movies and cater to the parents of those teens seeking bloodier fare. Sandra Bullock's Premonition perfectly fits the bill as one of those supernatural films for grown-ups, and its modest satisfactions derive from the fits of ingenuity in its script instead of slasher-movie shocks.
As Linda, a suburban housewife and mother of two daughters, Bullock downplays her trademark twinkly, spunky acting style with an impressive level of commitment. As we follow Linda through an ordinary day of shopping, parenting, laundry and exercise, Bullock shows none of her usual Miss Congeniality-style comedic traits. Which is understandable, given Linda's discovery that her husband, Jim (Julian McMahon), died on a business trip the day before.
The film's first third sets the stage and provides clues for the unearthly events that happen later on, but director Mennan Yapo gives the film such a warm, fuzzy look that it finds little eeriness in the commonplace. And even in grief, Bullock's tamped-down performance proves a bit dull, lacking the depth of, say, Kate Winslet's subtle portrayal of a desperate housewife in Little Children.
Any person who loses a loved one must go through a phase of denial, of reality taking a surreal turn. For Linda, the dislocations prove particularly bizarre. She loses track of time, wakes up in different clothes and different rooms than when she went to bed, and gradually realizes that she's experiencing her days out of sequence: After the day of Jim's funeral, she wakes up to find him still alive, preparing for his business trip.
Thus the script gives Linda a little of Bill Murray's foresight from Groundhog Day and a little of Guy Pearce's incomplete knowledge from Memento. First, she discovers a portentous, balled-up page from a phone book, and later we'll find out why she threw it away in the first place. When she behaves erratically, talking about Jim's death before it happens or questioning some mysterious scars on one of her daughters' faces, police suspicion falls on her, particularly from Peter Stormare as a sinister psychiatrist.
As Linda questions whether she can change Jim's fate, we sense that she'd have a much easier time of it if she simply owned a calendar. Some gaps in continuity seem to violate the film's paranormal rules, and occasionally Premonition gooses the action with some extraneous mishaps, such as an exploding electrical transformer and snaking live wire, reminiscent of the disasters from the Final Destination movies.
Premonition builds not to some occult curse but a surprisingly grown-up perspective on marriage. As Linda answers such questions as the identity of a blond mystery woman, she reveals the unhappiness of her marriage to Jim – and questions whether she wants to save his life, even if she can. The motif of domestic unhappiness helps justify the doldrums of the film's early scenes.
When Linda consults with a priest pal, it's not to provide some hocus-pocus exposition like in one of the Omen movies, but to cast a moral dimension on the goings-on. Premonition espouses a fairly mushy, nondenominational conception of religious faith that's typical for Hollywood films. Still, you can appreciate Premonition for taking a stab at more thoughtful themes compared with the torture-porn level of more typical scary movies.