Thursday, October 26, 2006

Let's Scare Jessica to Death (1971)

Slow-burning movies are usually my style; I love a good, tension-filled build up. Let's Scare Jessica to Death, from 1971, is a very slow movie, but just doesn't contain the suspense needed to sustain it.

Jessica has just been released from a mental institution. To help her recuperate, her husband has sold all they have in order to buy an old farm house out in the middle of nowhere. Their friend Woody is with them to help them build their new lives. After an icy welcome from the old townsfolk in the nearest itty-bitty town, the trio proceeds to the large and elegant farm house.

Immediately upon arriving, Jessica begins to hear voices and thinks she sees someone sitting on the balcony. She tells herself to act normal or else her husband will still think she's crazy. Inside the house, a squatter named Emily is discovered. She has no place to go, so Jessica insists that she stay with them. Emily has an eerie resemblance to a photograph of the infamous Abigail Bishop. In 1880, Abigail supposedly drowned in the farm's lake, though her body was never found. The story goes that she still haunts the area as a vampire.

Jessica is continually tormented by voices in her head and the images she sees. She doesn't know what is reality and what is in her head. To make matters worse, her husband and Emily are making googly eyes at each other the entire time.

We see what Jessica sees - a body floating under the water while Jess is out for a dip, a girl dressed in a white dress that appears in the cemetery, Emily's close resemblance to Abigail, the vampire-like cuts on the elderly townsfolk's necks...and of course the constant whispering voices. Are these things real or all they all in Jessica's head?

Sounds pretty, killer, right? Well, something got lost in the telling of this tale and I was bored to death. The characters themselves annoyed me, mainly Jessica. She already seemed pretty kooky to start with, which didn't lend much credibility that the events around her could possibly be real. I felt sorry for her and didn't relate to her at all. Her husband came off as an asshole sleazeball, especially when he gave into Emily's wiles. The character of Emily came off as a stoned hippie chick that resonated no malevolence whatsoever. As for Woody, I think he was just there to showcase his amazing 70's porno 'stache.

I wish they would have gave us a little more about the girl in white, who turns up dead at the end of the film. I also wish they would have done away with the horrible, distracting soundtrack! This movie left a lot open-ended, and while I am all for this in many films, this one left me wanting more questions answered.

It all comes down to what I want in a horror film - I want to be creeped out, grossed out, shocked, and above all, scared to death! Let's Scare Jessica to Death just didn't do it for me...

On Amazon!

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