Let’s Scare Jessica To Death (1971, John D. Hancock)

This was on one of those lists of the best-ever scary movies, and it was Shocktober, so I watched it despite the title. A moody, mystical drama with poor dubbing and silly keyboard music, a would-be predecessor to Altman’s Images, if there was ever any doubt that Jessica is dangerously crazy. I guess the movie might be saying that the town is actually overrun with vampires let by a 100-year-old young girl, but I didn’t buy that interpretation, preferred to think the crazy girl killed her husband while thinking he’s a monster.

Dark-haired crazy Jessica (Zohra Lampert, Ben Gazzara’s wife in Opening Night) goes to her cabin with balding husband Duncan (Barton Heyman, a doctor in The Exorcist) and their super-70’s friend Woody (Kevin O’Connor, a detective in Special Effects), and they meet Meg Ryan-looking squatter Emily (Mariclare Costello, Emilio Estevez’s mom in Nightmares), who almost immediately proposes “let’s have a seance”.

The kids go antiquing in town, where the locals all hate them for their youthful sideburns. Antique dealer mentions “flowers of evil” and lines from Pigface’s Washingmachine Mouth EP bounce into my head. Then an hour later someone whispers “I’m still alive” and I realize it’s no coincidence. Emily seduces Duncan (why?) and later Jessica kills him while imagining she sees ghosts.

I’ve seen director John Hancock introducing his baseball movie Bang The Drum Slowly, seems like a nice enough guy. J. Mayer calls it “one of the most powerful treatments of the dream of getting away from it all, and the horrors that ensue when we seek refuge in places we little understand and where, in the end, we may not really belong.”