Thursday, November 3, 2016

A Hippie Gothic Ghost Story, or Thoughts on Let’s Scare Jessica to Death

Quiet, thoughtful, and eerie, Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (1971) exists somewhere in the space between a ghost story and a psychological thriller.  Zhora Lambert from Splendor in the Grass (1961), The Exorcist III (1990) and classic TV shows including Route 66, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Kojak, Hawaii Five-0 and Knight Rider stars as Jessica, a 20-something flower child who has a history of an unspecified mental illness.  Jessica, along with her husband Duncan and friend Woody, moves to an isolated New England farmhouse to help her recover.  Once at the farmhouse they meet Emily, who has been squatting there but they invite her to stay anyways because hey, we’re all free spirits and it’s only 3 years after the Summer of Love. 
Jessica keeps seeing ghostly figures in the graveyard, watching her from the woods or grabbing at her foot while she’s swimming in the lake. And then there are the rumors of a vampire living on the property from the hostile townsfolk (dirty draft dodging hippies, remember).  The movie title makes you doubt her experiences though we see things from her perspective, because we know there’s a larger conspiracy, or is there?  Jessica narrates; we are witness to her whispered fears and we follow her slow spiraling descent, to the point that the audience begins to share in her madness.
From writer and director John D. Hancock, Let’s Scare Jessica to Death is a portrait of psychosis and paranoia with supernatural overtones, reminiscent in tone of Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things (1972).  The film has a low budget, 60’s art school/indie vibe, a 70’s gothic with allusions to Polanski, Hitchcock and Du Maurier.  Interesting enough if you enjoy the time period, but all I could think of was how little they paid for that farmhouse, and how much it was worth now.

my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).