Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (1971)

lets scare jessica to death poster 1971 movie
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Eerie, well acted thriller

Slow build and a bit of an abrupt ending

Movie Info

Movie Name: Let’s Scare Jessica to Death

Studio: Paramount Pictures

Genre(s): Horror

Release Date(s): August 6, 1971

MPAA Rating: PG

lets scare jessica to death zorha lampert swimming

Something’s wrong with Jessica…or is there?

Jessica (Zohra Lampert) has just been released from the hospital after suffering a breakdown.  Travelling to the country with her husband Duncan (Barton Heyman) and their friend Woody (Kevin O’Connor), Jessica finds herself in the New York countryside trying to rebuild her life.  Jessica, Duncan, and Woody discover a strange woman named Emily (Mariclare Costello) squatting in their recently purchased home, and Jessica begins to feel her reality slipping away.  Haunted by a strange woman (Gretchen Corbett), Jessica questions if she is going crazy again…and that someone could be pushing her to a mental breakdown.

Directed by John Hancock (who wrote the script with Lee Kalcheim), Let’s Scare Jessica to Death is a horror suspense thriller.  The movie was released to mixed reviews initially but gained a cult following and has been reappraised over the years.

Let’s Scare Jessica to Death has one of the best horror movie titles.  It says what the movie is about in the title, and it gives the film a kitschy feel…which doesn’t really fit the tone of the film.   The movie actually is an atmospheric psychological thriller that is very effective.

lets scare jessica to death mariclare costello vampire lake

Jessica…come play with me…forever…and ever…and ever…

There is a lot going on in story.  You have a character dealing with her mental issues, a marriage potentially falling apart, the hippies vs. locals story, and wrapping it all up in a vampire tale.  The story takes a lot of influence from The Turn of the Screw which has a character going mad, but it appears (for all intents and purposes) that Jessica is right that there are vampires.  I like the movie, but it might have been even more interesting if it was madness.

I really like Zohra Lampert as Jessica.  She’s a very normal looking actress who is easy to connect to as a result.  Likewise, Mariclare Costello has a strange unearthliness to her that makes her rather frightening in her plotting and “hunting” of the other characters.  Barton Heyman’s betrayal of Jessica does help elevate Kevin O’Connor’s Woody to another level since he becomes an innocent victim in the whole situation.  Gretchen Corbett’s character needed more development and could have been used better.

lets scare jessica to death vampires ending jenny lewis

It is good to see Jenny Lewis former her band in the early days…

The visuals of Let’s Scare Jessica to Death give it a dreamy effect.  The movie has that seventies “soft” look that is over-exposed and sometimes grainy.  You almost get the idea that you are seeing the events through Jessica’s eyes and that she is losing touch with reality.  It is added with a voice over by Zohra Lampert who is questioning what she is seeing herself.

Let’s Scare Jessica to Death is a frightening and creepy movie that feels more like classic gothic horror.  It doesn’t necessarily rely on jumps and scares, but instead the movie builds fears.  It is a story of madness that is really tied to the period which it was made, but it also has a timeless nature to the story.  Doom hangs large over Let’s Scare Jessica to Death…seek it out!

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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