An early 70’s subtle yet atmospheric psychological horror with added paranoia brought out by the film’s excellent synthesizer-based soundtrack.
It’s time to revive this on-and-off section of the website again. At this point it seems like I have a massive backlog of oddball films that I’d like to post in this section. It’s mainly finding the time in my crazy schedule to do so!
Anyway, without any further delay this entry is about a cult horror film from the early 70s called Let’s Scare Jessica To Death. It’s somewhat well known amongst cinephiles but it’s only recently that I’ve seen it. Much like another favourite film of mine, The Shout, it is a horror of the classic, supernatural vein that uses very little special effects and is more about the atmosphere and empty spaces that allow your mind to ponder the unknown, rather than constantly going at you with shock, gore and awe to provide the entertainment. Also, in both films the soundtrack and sound design is equally as important to the film as the visual footage.
The premise of the film is pretty simple, a woman is released from a mental asylum and upon her release is taken by two of her male friends to a country house in New England for some rest and relaxation. When they arrive at the country house a mysterious guest has been squatting at the house. They invite the their red-haired female guest to stay and from there things start to unravel for our recently-released protagonist: hauntings and visions. Are they real or all part of her mind?
The film is somewhat slow based and doesn’t have an epic storyline. But what makes this film leaving you uneasy is the minimalism, the empty space, the voices talking to her in her head and especially the absolutely frightening soundtrack.
Switching between two main musical styles, the soundtrack in it’s more mellower moments are compositions of abstract folk motifs: a strum of an acoustic guitar or some randomly draped piano figures over reverbed “industrial” percussion.
The second style is a very atonal, brutal analogue synthesizer score which sounds like a beast of a modular system going into overdrive. The sounds are very fat and frantic and sound at times so strange that these electronic pieces sound incredibly “old school” but at the same time extremely modern at the same time.
It’s worth checking out and at this point in time can be viewed in its entirely on YouTube. So save a late rainy night to watch this one, the dissonant synth sounds will be throbbing in your head for hours afterward.
Here’s a link to the trailer, where some of the soundtrack is featured, as well as the full film online.