Let’s Scare Jessica to Death is the ultimate hippie, horror movie. Hippies, as we all know, are non-violent, free-loving people. So, as you can expect, this film is not about the gore. There is very little violence, in fact. It is more of a vampire-type film – which just happens to be perfect since vampires are usually portrayed as sexy and seducing. This is where the free-love comes in. The 70’s and horror movies are typically synonymous with the word slasher. Most horror films during this era were violent and played up women as helpless victims. Let’s Scare Jessica to Death is an excellent change of pace and a reason why it remains memorable to this day.
Jessica is a woman who has just recently been released from a mental institution. She is starting over with her supportive husband at a serene farmhouse. They find a drifter woman named Emily squatting in the house and invite her to live with them along with one of their old family friends. The more the merrier for this crowd! This rounds out the main cast of four. Their first night in the house involves sitting around in a circle on the floor, making music and drinking wine. They decide to have a séance when the topic of spirits is broached. From this moment forward, Jessica believes she is seeing ghosts. She keeps this terrible fright to herself so her husband doesn’t think she is going crazy again. Jessica’s fear and anxiety continues to escalate when she hears of an old folktale about a vampiric ghost girl that roams the countryside.
The entire film has a sad and languid feel to it – and the creepy music really adds to this eerie, low-budget atmosphere. The pace is slow with a subtle buildup, a reason why it will never be as notable as early 70’s films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Exorcist, Black Christmas, Don’t Look Now, Twitch of the Death Nerve, or The Last House on the Left. If you are expecting a straight-forward vampire film, you will probably be pretty disappointed. It is more about mental anguish and inner-turmoil. Jessica can’t escape the voices in her head as she tries to maintain her rationality around her free-spirited companions. Nightmares or dreams, madness or sanity – it is hard to tell which is which. Overall, it is understated and fitting with the free-love era, but the unexpected and stimulating outcome is what turns this supernatural mystery into a bonafide horror film.
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