‘Something is after Jessica. Something very cold, very wet… And very dead.’
Let’s Scare Jessica to Death is a 1971 American horror film, directed by John D. Hancock and starring Zohra Lampert as Jessica. It depicts the nightmarish experiences of a psychologically fragile woman in an old farmhouse on a Connecticut island.
In 2006, the Chicago Film Critics Association pronounced Let’s Scare Jessica to Death the 87th scariest film ever made. Critic Kim Newman included the film in his top ten submitted to the 2012 Sight and Sound Greatest Films poll.
Newly released from a mental hospital, Jessica (Zohra Lampert), accompanied by her husband (Barton Heyman) and a friend (Kevin O’Connor), retreats to a Victorian farmhouse in an isolated part of rural Connecticut. The trio finds Emily (Mariclare Costello), an enigmatic hippie, living in the house. Almost immediately, Jessica feels a resurgence of her madness. Increasing evidence suggests that Emily and all the other inhabitants of the island are ghosts and/or vampires pursuing Jessica and her companions. However, viewers are never sure whether the bizarre occurrences are real or only in Jessica’s mind…
The film was shot in Old Saybrook, Connecticut. The village of Chester was used, as was the Chester–Hadlyme Ferry crossing the Connecticut River. Tonally similar to Rosemary’s Baby and The Haunting, the film tells its story from the vantage point of a female protagonist of doubtful sanity, and emphasizes story and atmosphere rather than excessive gore and violence. Moreover, like its precedents, it ends ambiguously, inviting viewers to draw their own conclusions. Though it made little impact during its theatrical release, the film later became a cult favourite on late night TV…
“A classic character study of a woman under siege from those around her and from her own mind, this is an underrated film that will satisfy the discerning viewer.” Digital Retribution
“In tone, the whole thing comes across as sort of a horror cross between Easy Rider and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, with the ageing hippy-ish leads looking for a countryside idyll and finding a hostile community and a malevolent, supernatural force, unless it really is all in Jessica’s mind. The atmosphere of trespassing in a domain that ambiguously either wants you gone or wants to possess your soul for its own ends is one that is hard to shake here.” The Spinning Image