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Let's Scare Jessica To Death

Review by: 
Head Cheeze
Release Date: 
1971
Studio: 
Paramount
Genre: 
Supernatural
Format: 
DVD
Region: 
1 NTSC
Aspect Ratio: 
1.66:1
Directed by: 
John D. Hancock
Cast: 
Zohra Lampert
Barton Heyman
Kevin O'Connor
Gretchen Corbett
Alan Manson
Movie: 
4
Extras: 
0
Bottom Line: 
4

 There are some movies that just work best when you watch them alone, late at night, in a dark and quiet house, on a dark and stormy night. Pee Wee's Big Adventure certainly isn't one of them, but I couldn't sleep, and I figured "What the hell?". When that flick ended, it was getting on toward 3:00 am, and I looked at a stack of movies I had to watch. Let's Scare Jessica to Death was on top of the pile and, since I'd never seen this one, I figured that, best case scenario, I'd like it, and, worst case scenario, it'd put me to sleep. Either way, I win, right? Wrong. Let's Scare Jessica to Death creeped me right the hell out, and only served to make sleep that less likely.
 
After an extended hospitalization for a nervous breakdown, Jessica (Lampert) and her husband, Duncan (Heyman) leave the hustle and bustle of New York for a quaint New England farm. Accompanied by their pal, Woody (O'Connor), the trio are greeted at their new home by a mysterious girl (Costello) who has been squatting there. Jessica takes a liking to the girl and invites her to stay, but, soon, she begins to suspect that the stranger has her designs set on Duncan. Things get worse as Jessica discovers the local lore surrounding the home she and her husband purchased, involving the mysterious drowning, vampirism, and disappearances. As Jessica begins to see and hear things, she fears she may be losing her mind, or, worse yet, that the local tales about the house are true.
 
Filled with the gritty, creepy atmosphere that seems to permeate most low-budget 70's flicks, Let's Scare Jessica to Death is an absolute freak-out. From the opening scene, I knew I was in for an unnerving experience, as Zohra Lampert's Jessica sees what appears to be an apparition, and we hear Jessica's inner-voice calming her down, telling her "Don't tell them what you've seen, because they won't believe you", and "Just act like nothing happened". The haunting, fragile beauty of Lampert, whose performance here is as heartbreaking as it is terrifying, scared me the moment I saw her on the screen. She just seems like such a broken soul that it's almost difficult to watch, and the moment she extends the welcome to Costello's uber-creepy Emily, we know Jessica's in for a world of trouble.
 
Paramount releases Let's Scare Jessica to Death with a solid, widescreen transfer, but nothing else, and that was a bit of a letdown. Having never seen the film before, I was anxious to discover more about the cast and crew, but, one look at the IMDB pretty much assures us that, with the exception of bit roles/directing gigs on television, the principals here didn't do too much before or after this flick (and Heyman and O'Connor are both dead). Jessica is also a super low-budget flick, so one would assume that any film shot on this one is either in the movie or rotting in a landfill somewhere.
 
Despite the lack of extras, I highly recommend this one to fans of psychological thrillers in the vein of "Don't Look Now" or "Rosemary's Baby", as Jessica features that same sort of paranoid vibe. Fueled by frantic performances, nerve-shattering music, and that je ne sais quoi  that somehow makes all low-budget '70's flicks look and feel so downright creepy, Let's Scare Jessica to Death is a terrifying little treat.

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