Growing up in Detroit in the 1980s, the Saturday afternoon horror movie was a tradition thanks to the Thriller Double Feature on Channel 20 where rare old movies were pretty much a staple. While many were forgettable (and probably gathered from the public domain), there were a few that managed to stay with me well into adulthood. Let’s Scare Jessica to Death is one such movie.
Jessica (played by the marvelous Zohra Lampert) is fresh out of a mental institution and ready to start a new life with her husband and their best friend in a small town. Although it quickly becomes apparent that Jessica’s demons are still very much with her as she is prone to hearing whispering voices in her head, and has an odd hobby of copying grave markers.
Upon moving into their new home, the trio discover Emily (Mariclare Costello), a hippie squatter who they befriend and who they eventually invite to stay with them for the time being. But there’s more to the mysterious red-headed stranger than meets the eye. Is she just down on her luck? Or is she something worse? And why do all those townsfolk, comprised only of men, seem to have various parts of their bodies bandaged?
Let’s Scare Jessica is not a movie that will appeal to everyone. Those looking for shock, gore and quick-paced editing won’t find it here. What the movie does have, however, is a great sense of atmosphere and growing unease. We’re never quite certain – is this all coming from Jessica’s feverish imagination, or are there more sinister doings afoot? And as the plot unfolds, it’s easy to empathize more with Jessica and what she’s going through. In fact, this is one of those movies where the main character is someone you really care about – rare in today’s movies.
As mentioned before, the film has a few memorable scenes that just seem to stick with you. For example a scene where Emily goes under water in a swimsuit and comes out in a wedding gown, while inviting Jessica to come to her, is one of the creepiest moments I’ve ever seen in a horror movie.
The ending is one that you won’t soon forget and combines an overall dreaminess with a side of creepy that only 70s movies seem to get right. It’s also nice to see adults as the main characters in a genre where teenage kids are pretty much the norm. Is it perfect? Nah. The title is goofy, some of the scenes seem somewhat silly, and the pacing is definitely slow. Also the film is a bit dated with its 70s graininess, clothing and overall hairiness. But despite its flaws, you could do much worse on a Saturday afternoon.
Rating: 7 out of 10
About the Author
Cheryl doubts that anybody could scare her to death but all are certainly welcome to try. Hit her up on Twitter at @FeralCherylZ