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Let’s Scare Jessica to Death

Let’s Scare Jessica to Death – 1971
Leave your insanity at the door.
John D. Hancock (as John Hancock)

John D. Hancock (as Ralph Rose)
Lee Kalcheim (as Norman Jonas)

Bill Badalato co-producer (as William Badalato)
Charles B. Moss Jr. producer

Zohra Lampert – Jessica
Barton Heyman – Duncan
Kevin O’Connor – Woody
Gretchen Corbett – The Girl
Alan Manson – Sam Dorker
Mariclare Costello – Emily

Review by Sven Soetemans

Let’s make Jessica immortal!!,
“Let’s Scare Jessica to Death” is a uniquely grim and atmospheric low-budget horror production that’ll still give you goosebumps, even though it’s a good 30 years old. The movie was obviously inspired by George A. Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead” (actually, which horror made after 1968 wasn’t??) but it’s definitely powerful and original enough to stand on its own, as a must-see obscure horror film.

The charismatic cutie Zohra Lampert plays Jessica; a mentally unstable girl who has just been released from a health institution after a period of six months. Accompagnied by her husband and a friend, she leaves New York to settle down in a quiet, rural region where she can start over. During the journey already, Jessica feels that something isn’t right and she suffers from visions and voices that seem to warn her for something. She keeps it to herself, since she’s afraid of going crazy again, but her eerie presentiments slowly come true.

Arrived at the farmhouse, the trio encounters a seemingly cherubic girl who looks an awful lot like the woman who drowned in the lake on her wedding day….only that was nearly 100 years ago.

Not much gore to find here, only genuine scares and slow-paced creepiness! “Let’s Scare Jessica to Death” is an intriguing film, although you have to focus very carefully in order to keep up with the – at times – confusing screenplay. Especially the “voices” that Jessica keeps hearing inside her head supply the film with a terrific spooky effect. Also, the little morbid details are great! The trio’s conveyance, for example, is an ancient hearse and Jessica likes to draw artsy pictures out of tombstones.

The acting is very good and John D. Hancock does a great job directing this overlooked classic. I’m pretty sure that the entire tense end-sequence at the lake influenced the success-story of “Friday the 13th”. I wouldn’t say the film looks dated by now, although it certainly wouldn’t appeal to the modern young genre fans. It’s subtle and suggestive instead of explicit and nasty, and those are qualities nowadays horror rookies don’t appreciate anymore. “Let’s Scare Jessica to Death” is hard to come across, but surely worth looking for.

Highly recommended

Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (1971)

Review by Wayne Malin

Subtle horror–but it doesn’t really work,
Jessica (Zohra Lampert) has just been released from a mental institution. She, her husband and a best friend buy a house in a secluded Connecticut town so she can recuperate. They also meet Emily and (inexplicbaly) invite her to stay with them. Things are OK at first but slowly unravel–Jessica starts hearing voices; she sees dead bodies and a mysterious girl in white and something in the lake tries to pull her under when she goes swimming. Is something going on…or is she loosing her mind again?

Despite the title this is a quiet moody little horror film. It has a lot of good moments but never pulls together. There are too many unexplained things–especially who IS the mute girl in white? Also the ending doesn’t make a lot of sense. Some clumsy dialogue doesn’t help and Lampert’s performance goes all over the place. She has said she didn’t like doing this movie–and it shows.

The film does have some things going for it. There lots of eerie noises (a constantly blowing wind especially) and spooky music on the soundtrack that works. There are some moments of quiet horror that work–especially when Emily walks out of the lake. Also the DVD release looks incredible–the colors are rich and sound loud.

Still this is a quiet little horror film that just doesn’t work. With a better lead actress and a clearer storyline this might have really been great. Worth a look if you’re a horror fan. I give it a 6.

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