Let’s face facts, I’m a big baby, it would be pretty easy to scare me to death!
Written By: John D. Hancock & Lee Kalcheim
Directed By: John D. Hancock
Idyllic settings have been the fodder of horror movies since the genre first came to fruition. Most of the time the destruction of the idyllic setting is the aim of the horror film. Let’s Scare Jessica To Death doesn’t completely drop the traditional horror approach to the idyllic setting. However, what John D. Hancock’s film does is make the idyllic setting secondary to the mental state of its main protagonist. There’s every chance that Jessica is completely lucid and the people around her are trying to scare her to death. It’s just as likely that she’s a batshit nut who keeps destroying her own chance at an idyllic life because she can’t handle the reality of that life. Let’s Scare Jessica To Death isn’t about the horrors of idyllic life as much as it is about the horrors we bring to idyllic life.
There’s plenty of 1970s to be found in Let’s Scare Jessica To Death. Made in 1971, Mr. Hancock’s film is already shrouded in the trappings that would define a lot of 1970s horror. The setting is sparse, the actors aren’t exactly of the highest caliber, and the camera roams about in a way that is off putting. This isn’t a 1980s slasher film, and any possible kills aren’t as important as the atmosphere of the film. Everything in Let’s Scare Jessica To Death is slightly akimbo to the way it should be. The reactions for the actors are sometimes out of place, and in the final moments of the film the reactions from the actors are ludicrous in a way that only happens in a deranged mind. The visuals are sparse, but it’s the floating camera that helps to give Let’s Scare Jessica To Death it’s completely off kilter feel. Something is definitely wrong in the world of the film, but it could just as easily be Jessica’s mind as it could be a group of hick killers.
An aspect of Let’s Scare Jessica To Death that surprised me were the excursions into the thoughts of Jessica herself. Voice over narration isn’t a new thing, but I wouldn’t quite call what Let’s Scare Jessica To Death has to offer voice over narration. It’s more of a running tally of Jessica’s mind, as she alerts us to the paranoia that rules her and the lies she tells those she loves. I was especially impressed with the way Jessica’s thoughts told us everything about her that was true while the actions of her friends told us all we needed to know about the facade she was capable of putting on. Over the course of the film the voice over narration takes on a more dream like, or nightmarish, bent, but it still remains eerie and gripping from a cinematic standpoint.
There’s not a lot of blood and gore to be found in Let’s Scare Jessica To Death. Nor will the viewer find a film willing to compromise its atmosphere and visuals for cheap scares. Let’s Scare Jessica To Death is an atmospheric mind fuck from beginning to end. The truth of what happens is never an issue, the journey with a woman who may be losing her grip on reality is where the heart of the film resides. Let’s Scare Jessica To Death takes place in an idyllic setting, but the human mind is far from idyllic. The results of idyllic trappings meeting the horrific landscape of the human mind are as intriguing as ever in Let’s Scare Jessica To Death.