Fright (1971)

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Fright  introduces us to Amanda (Susan George), a young woman hired one night to baby-sit the son of Pussy Galore.

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Welcome, Bon-, I mean, Amanda.

The couple of the home, Helen and her husband, are going out for the evening, something you’d think they’d be at least a little excited about. But Helen seems positively paranoid. She walks around checking door locks and looks like she expects someone to jump out at her at any moment and yell, BOO! The hubby is much calmer by comparison, walking around making light hearted jokes and small talk with Amanda, while Helen walks around all antsy, trying to decided whether she really wants to leave or not.

Before they leave they offer Amanda some Sherry because, as every good parent knows, it’s always a good idea to get the people you hire to watch your children for the night good and liquored up before you leave.

To top it off, the couple has a cryptic conversation in the car about whether or not they think Amanda knows….we’re not told yet. That’s why it’s cryptic.

Amanda meanwhile is walking around the house scaring the crap out of herself. One suspects that she isn’t someone you’d want to leave by themselves, let alone watch your children for you.

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Gah!…Oh, it’s just my reflection.

Every little noise the house makes seems to make her just as jerky as Helen. First it’s the creaky noises the old house makes and the dripping faucet. Then she doesn’t pay attention to where she’s going and bout scares herself to death when she runs into the clothes hanger outside. The poor girl’s got issues. You know what, stay inside and keep all the doors locked until the parents get home and you’ll be fine. Walk around with a fire poker if it’ll make you feel better, but for the love of god, don’t open any doors.

She’s about to make a break for it when she thinks she sees a face looking at her through the window, but then the doorbell rings and it’s her friend Chris….her very horny friend Chris.

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You are a walking, scruffy, hormone filled cliché.

Chris is there with only two things on his mind. Well, okay, only one thing on his mind, but while he’s there he decides to add douchy-ness to the list and tells an already freaked out Amanda about how Helen’s paranoid and obsessive ex-husband Brian went bonkers and tried to kill her, their child and himself before getting caught and sent away to the loony bin.

By now you can see where this is going. Brian does inevitably show up, having successfully broken out of the sanitarium, and wreaks havoc on everybody in and associated with the house for the rest of the film. There’s a good reason the man was locked up. The guy is not playing with a full deck.

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At all.

Fright was made in 1971 and, at least to me, is an obvious influence on several other well-known horror/thriller films. One could easily describe it as an early pseudo-slasher, without the gore. You’ve got the lone female babysitter, a creepy old house where the psycho manages to make it inside, a doctor who’s working with the cops to try to help stop the madness his patient is causing, incompetent police… I could go on, but you get the idea. In ’71 I’m sure a lot of these ideas were new and fresh, but their predecessors also later implemented them much better than Fright does.

The movie also has a couple of really nagging flaws that I find hard to get past. For one, Amanda has not one, but several good chances to escape (her and the baby), but for some inexplicable reason she keeps mucking them up: She gets away, but stops too soon, giving Brian plenty of time to catch up and grab her. While Brian’s distracted she manages to run to another part of the house, but doesn’t bother locking any doors. After a while I sort of wanted to smack her on principal. The girl’s supposed to be a psychology student. Use your damn head.

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She must have failed the ‘Common Sense’ portion of the course.

Another thing is that when the police finally do show up, they only have one gun. Now, I know that England has different gun laws than here in the States, but I’m pretty sure that the police there are allowed to have weapons in those cases where those sticks just won’t do. The film was set in what was described as a small town, so I’m not sure what I was expecting when I heard “one gun”, but whatever it was it sure wasn’t this.

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Oh dear god, it’s a peashooter. Amanda and the kid are doomed.

What made this even worse was at some point Brian had thrown a chair into a window creating a decent sized hole that he insisted on constantly walking up to and practically sticking his head through. And every time he would do this all you would hear from the police was either “I can’t get a clean shot” or “Don’t shoot. You might hit the baby.”

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The Head Hole

Seriously? Any idiot can see that the kids are no where near the hole and Brian’s practically walking by the glass with a big “Shoot Here” arrow painted on his forehead. Don’t blame your crappy shooting skills on the innocent children you’re supposed to be saving. WTH?

In the end, Fright is a so-so thriller, with some interesting ideas that may have been refreshing when it was new, but were later done much better by other films. It does have some genuinely disturbing moments and watching Brian slowly loose it is interesting to watch, but it’s not something you haven’t seen before and when you did it was probably much better. If you’re interested in the early evolution of the slasher genre, British thrillers, or terrorized babysitters, than this may appeal to you. But if it just sounds old hat, then you might just want to go re-watch Halloween instead.

Fright is available to rent on Amazon, Google, Vudu and Youtube.

It is also available on DVD and Bluray.

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Michi

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