Lets Scare Jessica To Death (1971) – Classic Review
- Published on Friday, 04 October 2013 20:23
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Lets Scare Jessica To Death – Filmed in 1970 and written and directed by John Hancock, using the name Ralph Rose for the former, this is a movie I only came across recently, and a fine movie it is too. The opening shot of the title character, played in exemplary fashion by Zohra Lampert, who we first encounter sitting in a boat against the backdrop of a setting sun, is in itself a gorgeous piece of photography.
Against this backdrop of calmness Jessica begins to tell her tale, and it is one that questions the very nature of reality. Her story starts innocently enough, Jessica with her musician husband Duncan (Barton Heyman) and hippy friend Woody (Kevin O’ Connor) have bought an old house in the backwoods of America. The nearest town seems to be populated exclusively by elderly men, who don’t take too kindly to strangers moving into the area, nothing new here as this idea is the staple for quite a lot of movies made at this time. However what marks this movie out is its approach. What is made implicitly clear early on is that at some point, in her recent history, Jessica had suffered some kind of psychological breakdown and had spent some time in an institution.
When the trio do eventually find the house they find it occupied by fellow hippy / squatter Emily (Mariclare Costello), who is invited to stay when it is established that she has nowhere else to go. After a meal, a mini love in and a night’s sleep both Jessica and Duncan go into town to try and sell some items and, after initially getting a hostile reception from the aforementioned elderly residents, they stumble across an antique dealer who seems to take pity on them. He then proceeds to tell them about the history of the house that they have acquired. It is from this point on that events start to turn weird for Jessica.
Whilst walking through the woods, that surround the house, Jessica thinks that she has seen a young girl, initially frightened and believing that her illness may have resurfaced, she follows the child who leads her to the body of the antique dealer. After finding her husband, who also believes that Jessica’s problems may have resurfaced, they rush to the spot where the body is only to find it empty.
As the plot develops we discover that the bride of a former inhabitant is a vampire, who comes out of the lake in which she committed suicide on the night of her wedding and that the local residents are in thrall to her. This is a movie that plays heavily on symbolism, though beautiful to watch it plays on the fractured ideals of the love generation. Jessica herself represents that generation, who after the summer of love, were left confused as their beliefs bore no fruit. It is through her, especially towards the end that the viewer questions the nature of reality, and we come away from the film questioning whether the events actually happened or were they inventions of Jessica’s broken mind. This is not a great film by any means, but it is an interesting one, and one I shall definitely be watching again. I recommend that you do too.