Let's Scare Jessica To Death (1971)

DVD Cover (Paramount)
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Ranked #2,898
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Zohra Lampert
Zohra Lampert
Barton Heyman
Barton Heyman
Kevin O'Connor
Kevin O'Connor
Gretchen Corbett
Gretchen Corbett
Alan Manson
Alan Manson
Review by bluemeanie
Added: May 30, 2007
The tagline for this film was classic: "Something is after Jessica. Something very cold, very wet and very dead". You don't get much better than that. Directed by John D. Hancock, "Let's Scare Jessica to Death" has fallen into virtual obscurity. Does anyone remember it anymore? After directing the Oscar nominated "Sticky My Fingers...Fleet My Feet", Hancock was commissioned to write and direct a feature film for Paramount, and that film became "Let's Scare Jessica to Death", a catchy title if there ever was one. It's the perfect case of a studio falling in love with a director based on an award winning short film, thus hiring him for a feature, eventually falling out of love with him and losing faith in his abilities, and finally dumping the film out quickly with the hopes that it disappears and doesn't cause too great an embarrassment.

Recently released from a mental hospital, Jessica (Zohra Lampert) moves into an old New England farmhouse with her husband (Barton Heyman) and friend (Kevin O'Connor). Before they even arrive, Jessica starts to have strange visions and encounters about the house. When the do arrive, they discover a young girl (Mariclaire Costello) in their home, who doesn't want to leave and doesn't want them to be there. It turns out that the girl once lived in the house, but drowned on her wedding day and is now - you guessed it - a vampire. All of the older men in town serve as her evil army of geriatrics. The big question is whether or not any of this is really happening, or Jessica just having another nervous breakdown? Vampires? Nervous breakdown? You decide.

There is an intense psychological element to this film that is predominant throughout. We know from the offset that Jessica is mentally unstable. Just because she's been released does not mean she has been entirely cured. So, when these strange and horrific things start happening, we don't really know whether they're real of fabricated within the constraints of her own mind. That adds a whole new level of uncertainty to the film. To say this film inspired "The Amityville Horror" more than the true life story would be an understatement. "The Amityville Horror" borrowed more than a little from this film. The difference is that the latter received a proper studio treatment and received a release more befitting a motion picture designed to make lots and lots of money.

One of the most surprising aspects of this film is that, released in 1971, it features some horrific elements that many people during that time might have found too intense. You must take into consideration that this film was pre-"The Exorcist", so audiences had not yet made that leap in the genre that could take them to such horrific lengths. "Let's Scare Jessica to Death" was not as intense on the same level as "The Exorcist", but it did test audiences in ways that had previously been uncharted. That might be the partial explanation for why the film underperformed. However, thanks to the video surge of the 1980's, this film because a rental hit. There is also current talk of a remake being around the corner. "Let's Scare Jessica to Death" is a great little horror gem from the 1970's that still possesses the ability to scare effortlessly. You'd be surprised at how well this film still manages to raise hairs. It's not "The Exorcist", but it doesn't want to be. 8/10.
waxtadpole3657 #1: waxtadpole3657 - added 11/01/2007, 03:38 PM
Heh. The house that this movie was filmed in is right in my little New England town. I pass by it every morning on the way to school. It's a fucking cool house, too. Never seen the movie, though. :p
Chad #2: Chad - added 02/17/2008, 08:00 AM
I wasn't a huge fan of this one. It was a decent movie, don't get me wrong, but 8/10? Not from me, no sir. My main gripe was the pacing: the beginning was a perfect setup and - save for the closing moments of the film - the ending was great, but the whole chunk of time in between was downright rough. I think a 5/10 is more appropriate.
MerrysMiko #3: MerrysMiko - added 07/30/2008, 11:25 PM
I watched this movie on OnDemand one day with a friend of mine who collects bad horror movies. Let's just say this was a worthy addition to the list. The acting was lousy, the storyline was confusing as hell, the pace was all wrong, and aside from the dead girl walking out of the lake and trying to bite Jessica's neck (in broad daylight), this movie seemed to be confused as to whether it wanted to be a sexy vampire romp, a zombie horrorfest, or good old-fashioned ghost story. Perhaps the director was the one in need of some "time away". 3/10
Crispy #4: Crispy - added 12/27/2011, 08:14 PM
What a waste of a netflix slot this was. It never built on the creepiness factor the way it should have, plus it was very slow and Zohra Lampert has one of the most annoying voices I've ever heard. 3/10
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