Let’s Scare Jessica to Death

Oh, this movie. I think my review of this week’s movie, Let’s Scare Jessica to Death is going to make a lot of horror fans give me the side-eye because this is considered a cult classic. I wanted to like it so much more than I did. Looking back after a few days from watching it, I can see there were elements that I liked but not enough of them added up for me to like this movie whole-heartedly.
It started off so promisingly, too. Check out the opening title.
titlecard
I love the font and the red, I just want to eliminate the unnecessary quotation marks.
Zohra Lampert stars as Jessica, a woman who just spent six months in a mental institution.
jessica
Jessica, her husband, Duncan (Barton Heyman), and their friend, Woody (Kevin O’Connor) are moving to a farmhouse on an isolated island. The house is spooky and Jessica is on shaky ground, sanity-wise, although she’s less awkward about it than Cathy’s mom in Cathy’s Curse.
creepyhouse
She’s hearing voices calling to her and she sees a mysterious specter in the local graveyard.
specter
There’s a woman, Emily (Mariclare Costello), squatting in the house, which adds to the sense of weirdness. She becomes friends with Jessica, Duncan, and Woody, and they invite her to live with them.
The situation remains uneasy. Jessica thinks she sees a corpse floating in the lake. The locals, elderly men that all seem to be injured, are hostile to the outsiders. Emily is clearly interested in Duncan. And a local antiques dealer tells them the story of the Bishops, the people who owned their house.
bishops
Abigail Bishop drowned in the 1880s and allegedly stalks the island as a vampire. She also happens to bear an uncanny resemblance to Emily.
Jessica’s coming undone and we’re left to wonder, are the things she’s seeing and hearing real? She finds the corpse of the antiques dealer but Duncan doesn’t see him. She’s hearing voices telling her to join them. And someone kills her pet mole.
Here are the good parts. I’d say that 75% of the music is good and spooky and 25% sounds like someone is playing their pet cicada. The house is also atmospheric and creepy. I like the idea of exploring sanity through horror, but I’m not sure if this movie does this effectively. The performances are solid but I have a complaint about the makeup. I’m not saying that actors and actresses have to always be physically perfect. There were some definite issues with shine, no one could have called “Powder!”? Everyone looked very oily and it got to the point of being distracting.
Now, the bad. There’s a lot going on in this movie, plotwise, and I wish the filmmakers had narrowed down their focus. Is this a vampire story or a ghost story? I think this could have been a really effective ghost story, especially if people think Emily is living and discover she’s dead. The pacing is also pretty awful, it feels like the actors drank a quart of Robitussin before filming and then did a whole bunch of quaaludes.
The movie is interesting, but I only recommend this if you’re a seventies movie completist. The Haunting remains my favorite “Is she or isn’t she sane?” ghost movie.

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About scarina

I like scary movies a little too much. I thought I'd share my obsession with you.
This entry was posted in 1970's, ghosts, psychological, vampires and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Let’s Scare Jessica to Death

  1. My parents took me to see this in the theater when I was 10 or 11 years old. I spent the next couple of weeks either running terrified from my room into theirs and sleeping in their bed, or just starting out sleeping at the foot of their bed to avoid the nightmare run.

    I saw it again about 10 years ago and was all “ho hum.” Context is important. Anyway. I read all your reviews and love them. I just have an old connection to this movie. I liked to remind mom and dad how evil they were for scaring me nearly to death!

    • scarina says:

      Ha! That’s awful but funny. It’s true about context. My dad took me to see Tim Burton’s “Batman” when it came out. I was six and most of it scared me. I don’t think I’ve actually watched it since then. I think he was just tired of seeing animated movies. You definitely have to use that against your parents.
      Thank you! And thanks for reading.

  2. crazycanuck says:

    Ok, you convinced me not to go back and reconsider this “classic”; didn’t much care for it the first time. Others had told me they really liked this and found it quite creepy, was considering a second view, but naw. Maybe instead I’ll watch another episode of From Dusk til Dawn, it’s growing on me.

    • scarina says:

      It’s a whole lot of “Meh.” I don’t get why it’s included in so many “Must See” books and lists.
      I haven’t seen that yet, maybe I’ll check it out the next time I visit my mom.

  3. Pingback: Messiah of Evil | Scarina's Scary Vault of Scariness

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