Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (1971)

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I do not like this poster. I don’t think that woman even remotely looks like the lead actress.

I’d never heard of this movie before and, per my habit, I didn’t look it up before I watched it. Based on the title alone I thought it might entail two or more people coming up with various ways to scare the crap out of some poor unsuspecting girl named Jessica. Something Diabolique-ish, perhaps? Boy was I off.

We start off with a scene of a lone girl in a rowboat. She goes on to narrate how she doesn’t know what’s real and what’s a dream anymore.

We then cut to what is apparently a flashback of a young woman in a graveyard (of course). She’s taking reliefs of the tombstones (a practice I have always thought was a bit morbid, but do whatever floats your boat.)

This is Jessica, and she’s traveling with her husband and their friend to a rural farmhouse in Connecticut. Jessica has just been released from a mental institution after she had a nervous breakdown, and the wisdom behind that release is thrown into question right off the bat when Jessica sees a silent girl beckon to her from the graveyard.

She doesn’t say anything to the men, preferring to stay silent while the three of them roll into town in style. The townspeople do not seem impressed by them.

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Pictured: The Hip, Hippie Hearse and cranky old fogies.

Once they get to the farmhouse they’ve bought, they find that a creepy, red-headed hippie has made herself at home.

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Yeah! I was totally squatting in your new house.
Funny, huh?…Got any beer?

Instead of calling the cops they decide to be nice and let her stay the night.

Just about this time, Jessica’s psychosis seems to return. She starts hearing voices that she can’t figure out the source too and to top it off she starts seeing things. Creepy things.

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Like dead people floating in the water.

As the movie continues and the events play out the viewer is left to wonder whether what they’re seeing is true or if it’s the product of a still disturbed mind.

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Perhaps if you took down those tombstone relief’s
you wouldn’t feel as though they were talking to you.

Let’s Scare Jessica to Death is a low budget horror movie that keeps you guessing. It’s in the same vein of movies like The Haunting or even Jacob’s Ladder, in that you’re never quite sure what’s going on. With the main characters sanity thrown into question early on you feel much like Jessica, not knowing whether or not the events really happened or if it’s all just a product of her head.

Being low budget the film focuses more on atmosphere rather than gruesome shock value. It shows you just enough (or better yet, nothing at all) to keep your sense of dread building. The surrounding scenery especially helps to pull this off.

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I just love creepy Victorian homes.

But for me the highlight of the movie was Jessica herself, played by Zohra Lampert. She puts in a commendable performance as the fragile Jessica and switches seamlessly to paranoid/crazy when the situation calls for it. Her performance makes up for the spots of obviously improvised dialogue and the some times poor delivery of the other characters. It was just fun to watch the woman slowly loose it.

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Overall, Let’s Scare Jessica to Death is one of those toned-down horror movies that’s not for everyone. So if you like your horror movies to be a little more “in your face” than you probably won’t get much enjoyment out of this, as it has a bit of a slow buildup. However, if you like a little more subtly and drama in your horror then you may get a kick out of it.

Let’s Scare Jessica to Death is currently available to rent on Amazon.

It is also available on DVD and Bluray.

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Michi

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