Horror Movie Review: Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (1971)


My interest in Let’s Scare Jessica to Death was aroused by it being named as the 87th scariest film ever made (Chicago Film Critics Association). To be in the top 100 puts a lot of pressure on this film to deliver & for the most part it is a creepy & thought-provoking flick.

Opening with a woman in a nightgown sitting in a rowboat, it’s not exactly clear what has taken place.

Let's Scare Jess to Death - In the boat

Flash back to a few days before & we meet the woman in the boat, Jessica who has just been released from a 6-month stint in a mental institution. Along with her husband, Duncan & their friend Woody she is on her way to a newly bought house & farm outside a small town. Driving a hearse instantly attracts attention from the less than welcoming locals though who all have mysterious bandages covering parts of their bodies.

Let's Scare Jess to Death - The car

At the isolated house they group disturb a drifter, Emily, who had been staying there while it was unoccupied. She is invited to stay the night by the friendly trio where upon Woody falls for her. Jessica & Duncan agree for her stay indefinitely after seeing how Woody feels about her.

Jessica has started to hear voices in her head though & keeps seeing a blonde woman looking at her from a distance. She keeps telling herself that she is ok, worried that she might be relapsing but after getting her leg grabbed in the lake she freaks out only to have Duncan & Woody dismiss her fears.

Let's Scare Jess to Death - The girl

A visit to the local antique dealer reveals a story about young Abigail who drowned in the lake before she was due to be married. Local legend is that she is now a vampire. You see one of the items they are selling is an old sliver frame with a picture of Abigail & her family in it. Now pay attention here kids, because you’re given several close-ups of Abigail during this moment & it effectively gives the game away at only the half-way point of the movie.

It doesn’t spoil the movie though thankfully as there are still many unanswered questions.

Let's Scare Jess to Death - The pic

A lot of those questions aren’t quite fully answered by the end but it’s the sort of film where it doesn’t really matter. The focus of the story is on Jessica & her plight to rationalise what she sees so she doesn’t suffer a relapse. Her worry about appearing crazy to her husband means she spends a lot of the movie forcing smiles & joy that is clearly non-existent. Watching Jessica’s tormented face as she tries to rationalise what she is seeing is credit to the casting choice. Jessica is thrilling & the way in which she tries to contain her bubbling pot of emotions is addictive viewing.

Let's Scare Jess to Death - Jess

Sadly the rest of the cast are less exciting & in the case of Woody, pretty err, wooden. The townspeople are an eerie bunch giving off an air of threat without really saying much. You can’t quite see how they are connected to the goings on at the house but it’s clear something isn’t right with most of them.

Now I can’t say I found Let’s Scare Jessica to Death a terrifying film as it has been described elsewhere but what I can say is that it has one of the finest creepy vibes I’ve seen in any horror movie. There are many well done elements such as long shots of the foggy surroundings, glimpses of something hidden under the water, the voices Jessica hears in her head, a breeze blowing a grave-rubbing off the wall etc. The subtle stuff is excellent & even when things do ramp up a gear the creep factor is still present.

Let's Scare Jess to Death - Jess 2

A lot of this is helped by an incredible soundtrack that heightens the mood for most scenes. It’s not a film that’s trying to make you jump; instead it’s looking to build tension & it does it very well.


Let's Scare Jessica to Death
  • 8/10
    The Final Score - 8/10
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