Let's Scare Jessica to Death (1971)
July 24, 2022 10:35 AM - Subscribe

Newly released from a mental ward, Jessica (Zohra Lampert) hopes to return to life the way it was before her nervous breakdown. But when she moves to a country house with her husband and a close friend, she finds a mysterious girl living in there who may or may not be a vampire. Jessica's terror and paranoia resurface, making her wonder: are the visions real or is she slipping back into madness? A spooky and downbeat 70's horror classic.

Written and directed by John D. Hancock.

Interestingly, this film scores a paltry 36% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, but a fairly high 3.5/5 on Letterboxd.
posted by DirtyOldTown (6 comments total)
Oops, forgot to include: available for digital rental on multiple outlets.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:36 AM on July 24, 2022

The slow realization that the nearby town is populated entirely by aging, bandaged men.
posted by Iridic at 12:11 AM on July 25, 2022 [1 favorite]

Ooo saw this one at a young age and it imprinted on me. It’s moodier and more low-key than the “shocker!” title would suggest, and all the stronger for it. The whispered “jessica… jessica…” throughout does a good job of giving you a feeling of being inside Jessica’s unraveling.

IIRC, Zohra Lampert was a well respected actress… her skill and commitment to the character also lifts this above what one might expect a low budget film to be.
posted by profreader at 3:44 AM on July 25, 2022 [1 favorite]

+1 to profreader--this is one of my absolute favorites. Moody, slowly tightening the screw, suffused with creeping dread. Zohra Lampert portrays that perfect, teetering sense of self, just on the verge of tipping over.

Whenever I recommend it to friends, I always have to follow up with the "oh and it's not a slasher film," because of the title...the title has that pulp over-the-top William Castle vibe, which is not the movie's vibe at all.
posted by theatro at 6:52 AM on July 25, 2022 [1 favorite]

One of my favorite 70s horror movies, appropriately used for the cover for the first paperback edition of Kier-La Janisse's fantastic book House of Psychotic Women. (Which is getting an expanded edition this year as well as a tie-in Blu-ray set from Severin Films!) The lakeside setting and town full of weirdos puts this one close to Messiah of Evil, which I personally think of as the gold standard for this kind of surreal 70s regional horror. But the focus of Let's Scare Jessica to Death is much more narrow and personal, whereas Messiah of Evil is more "cosmic horror."

The first time I saw Let's Scare Jessica to Death was at a horror movie marathon where director John D. Hancock made an appearance and did a Q&A afterward. This was long before the movie was finally released on DVD so it was tough to come by a copy, and Hancock was absolutely not interested in talking about it, heh. He was very confused as to why anyone would care about it. So he talked a lot about his other movies. The only thing he really said about this was that he was dating Zohra Lampert at the time, and watching it again he was reminded that she "had really nice legs." Then he went right back to talking about Bang the Drum Slowly or something.

Years later I attended another public screening and he was bac,k but this was some time after the DVD had been released. He seemed to have realized the movie was a cult classic for a lot of people. He was much warmer that time and happily talked about the production.
posted by tomorrowromance at 9:24 AM on July 26, 2022

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