31 July 2014

Let's Scare Jessica to Death (1971)
89 min.
Directed by John Hancock.
With Zohra Lampert, Barton Heyman, Mariclare Costello, Kevin O'Connor, Gretchen Corbett, Alan Manson.
This superb early '70s horror is a nightmarish lullaby that gets in your head...and never leaves.

Fresh from a sanitarium, the soft spoken Jessica (Lampert) accompanies her boyfriend Duncan (Heyman) and their friend Woody (O'Connor) to a Connecticut farmhouse where everyone's hopes are high that the fragile Jessica will experience a strong mental recovery.

But when the group discovers an unexpected guest in the house, a young woman named Emily (Costello), strange things begin to happen...

Or do they? Could Jessica already be losing her grip on reality (again)?

More to the point, is someone deliberately trying to make Jessica go insane?

The doe-eyed Lambert delivers an exquisitely nuanced performance as the fragile Jessica here. Her underscored acting perfectly charts the listless meanderings of her character's weakened mind.

Director Hancock achieves a dewy sense of doom & dread throughout; indeed, the near-palpable atmosphere of paranoia takes hold from the film's beginning and grows like a deadly cancer to the end.

Not only is Jessica a modern classic full of lyricism, but more importantly it's a paradigm of how to make a horror film using only subtlety and suggestion.

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