Let's Scare Jessica To Death (1971)

John Hancock

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

Genre - Horror/Psychological Thriller/Supernatural

Running Time - 89 Minutes

Score - 2.5 Howls Outta 4

PLOT - LET'S SCARE JESSICA TO DEATH is about a woman named Jessica (Zohra Lampert) who has been recently released from a sanitarium. Escaping the big city and the paranoia and claustrophobia that comes with it, Jessica, her husband Duncan (Barton Heyman), and their friend Woody (Kevin O'Connor) decide to pack up and move to a quiet neighbor in a small town. Even though the town seems beautiful and perfect, Jessica begins hearing voices calling her name and the figure of a young girl haunting her. She tries to keep quiet about it so Duncan and Woody wouldn't think she's crazy again, but the trauma becomes too much and both men begin to worry about her mental state.

Things get more complicated when they encounter a woman named Emily (Mariclare Costello) staying inside their new home. Jessica, Duncan, and Woody are very hospitable and let Emily stay with them as long as she wants. Jessica is taken by Emily at first, but soon becomes more unstable when Emily sets her sights on Woody and then on Duncan, who both are very tempted by the seductive Emily. Jessica becomes more insecure and unstable at Emily's actions. But things get weirder when Jessica comes across an old photo of the family who used to live in that very house, with one of the family members looking exactly like Emily. Is she a ghost? A vampire? A zombie? Will you have to patience to sit through this really slow flick to find out?


STORY - LET'S SCARE JESSICA TO DEATH is one of those old horror films that I had wanted to see for a while. A lot of people told me it was one of those last great horror flicks before DELIVERANCE and THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT pretty much changed the rules. So finally sitting down and watching, I couldn't help but ask myself: "I waited years to see this?" It's not that LET'S SCARE JESSICA TO DEATH is a bad film. On contrary, it's an interesting and slightly creepy film. It's just that it's so slow moving that it almost makes you lose your patience while you watch it. I don't mind subtle films that like to build up the plot of the movie, but when it never reaches its point, I start to lose interest. Maybe it's my short attention span or that I'm just used to watching films that get to the point quickly, but LET'S SCARE TO JESSICA TO DEATH didn't really resonate with me all that much.

I will say that the script is well written and the ideas that are being presented are engaging. The idea of Jessica being mentally unstable and then watching her hear and see things that may or may not be there makes one a participant in this mystery of "Is she crazy or are these things really there?" Honestly, I was never really sure what was up with Jessica. A part of me believes the supernatural aspect really did happen, but sometimes we see what we want to see. So who's to say that what Jessica really did experience was actually on the level? Not many films manage to do that these days and that's probably why so many people like this film.

I just wish the payoff was more evident because it seemed to give you the answers without really satisfying your curiosity. And things like that bug me. Here is one of those cases where the idea of the film is much more interesting than the execution. Oh well.

DIRECTION - John Hancock did a nice job directing this film, I thought. Though it was slow paced [maybe for its own good], Hancock visually gave the film a sense of instability and fracture, reflecting Jessica's mental state. There were a lot of POV shots, extreme close-ups, different types of editing, and even the nice of use of sound and voiceover. Definitely a competent film directed by someone who knew what he was doing. I had no issues with the visuals at all. They were really nicely done.

VIOLENCE/SEX/LANGUAGE [aka THE GOOD STUFF] - LET'S SCARE JESSICA TO DEATH is a pretty tame film. There is some violence, but it's pretty rare. As a matter of fact, Hancock pretty much shoots away from it, although the aftermath is seen. The language is pretty clean. Some sexual situations but no one shows any flesh.

ACTING - The acting was okay in this flick. Zohra Lampert was pretty...I guess you can say "interesting" to watch as Jessica. I thought she did a good job but at some moments, her acting didn't really seem to reflect what was happening. It was just really weird to watch. I'm not sure if it was intentional due to the instability of the character but there were times where her mood would change without anything leading towards it [which could have been due to editing]. But she convinced me that she wasn't all there. That constant smiling she did unnerved me. No one smiles that much. Not even The Joker. Nice schizo performance, I guess. Barton Heyman as Duncan was good. He really didn't do much but play a moody asshole at times, but I was convinced. Kevin O'Connor didn't do much for me as Woody. His 70s porn star facial hair left more of an impression. Why was he in the film again? Mariclare Costello as Emily was probably the best actress in the film. I never knew what he real deal was but I knew it wasn't good. The quiet bad girl act worked for her, I thought. And I probably would have been tempted by her wiles too.

MUSIC - There was a guitar song playing every once in a while. It set the tone and mood of the film I guess. Some creepier score played as well. Plus some songs that Jessica heard was a bit distorted as well. Wasn't great but not too bad either.

I think if I had watched LET'S SCARE JESSICA TO DEATH when I was younger, I'd probably be more effected by it. But since I didn't, the film is just an above-average supernatural thriller in my opinion. I appreciated the subtlety and emphasis on atmosphere and mood, but the story really didn't get going until the end and didn't even reach much of a satisfying conclusion. I heard this one may get an update [a.k.a. remake] soon and I wouldn't mind one to be honest. Could have been better but I've seen a lot worse.


  1. Zohra lampert was such a hot chick, i wonder if she ever appeared naked in a movie, (or even in a bikini)?.


  3. the sneering (homo-phobic) snobJune 20, 2009 at 8:07 PM

    Fred, i just watched this movie in its entirety on youtube, it must be 35 years since i`d seen it so i`d completely forgotton that zohra did indeed appear in a bathing costume twice during the film (although both times it was a one piece rather than a bikini unfortunately) she was such a gorgeous sexy bird even though she was well into her 30`s when this film was made, imagine what an incredible little darlin` she must have been when she was 18. The film itself came across as a reasonably interesting semi-cult item from a by-gone era of film making rather like similar semi-cult items "how awful about allen" (1970) and "crowhaven farm" (1970).


Related Posts with Thumbnails