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.
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, 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.
She’s hearing voices calling to her and she sees a mysterious specter in the local graveyard.
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.
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.
- Scarina--the authoress and editrix of this site. I like scary movies and have dedicated my free time to cataloging horror--the good, the bad, and the ugly. Sometimes there are books too.
There's film criticism, literary criticism, and humor here. I can be highbrow but there's lots of pop culture too. And feminism.
I fervently love "Twin Peaks" and wish it were a real place so I could move there. I can't list my favorite scary movies because they change depending on my mood, the season, and how much coffee I've had.
I'm an artist looking for ways to blend creepy with cute. I try to channel my childhood nightmares, my love of horror, and my experiences with sleepy paralysis.
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