Two films for Halloween that fail to deliver the scares

Let's Scare Jessica To Death

It’s Throwback Thursday once again, and this week we take a look at two films that may or may not fulfill the requirements for must-see Halloween viewing.


Welcome, kiddies! It’s time for another Halloween edition of Throwback Thursday. This week we’ll be taking a look at two “classic” films from the Warner Archive Collection: Let’s Scare Jessica To Death and The Frozen Dead. These films have all the genre tropes to make for some spooky viewing – graveyards, madness, a haunted house, reanimated corpses, a disembodied head, and Nazis! But to these parts add up to some good scares?

Starting with the “classier” of the two movies, Let’s Scare Jessica To Death is a movie I seem to remember from TV, probably the ABC Movie of the Week which brought us such gems as The Night Stalker, Moon of the Wolf, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark and Trilogy of Terror. I was surprised, however, to discover that Jessica was actually a theatrical film released in 1971.

The story is fairly simple: a recently institutionalized woman (Zorah Lampert), her husband, and a friend decide to get out of New York City and live a quiet life on a farm in the country. The quiet life is meant to help keep Jessica mentally balanced, but she finds that harder than expected when they get a less-than-warm welcome from the townspeople and it’s rumored that their new home is haunted. Jessica keeps seeing and hearing strange things, finds a dead body that disappears, and keeps seeing a young woman in white. Is she losing her mind again, or is someone trying to push her over the edge?

From the terrific title, one would assume that maybe her husband, their friend and the very well-dressed vagrant woman they find squatting in their new home may somehow be in cahoots, but for what gain? Unfortunately, the title is extremely misleading. No one is actually trying to scare Jessica to death, and the house isn’t even haunted. But there are other strange things going on in the town that is only hinted at early in the film relating to the former owner of the house. It takes so long to get to the reveal that the movie should have been called Let’s Bore Jessica To Death.

On the bright side, Zorah Lampert gives a terrific, honest, endearing performance as a woman who really doesn’t believe she’s losing her sanity but can’t make heads or tails out of what’s going on (nor can the audience). On the negative side, the film has one of the most grating musical scores ever. The Warner Archive DVD is actually a manufacture on demand version of the out of print Paramount DVD, which looks and sounds fine for a film of its vintage. The DVD includes a subtitle option and a scene selection menu. Let’s Scare Jessica To Death may be one of Stephen King’s favorite horror films, but I found it more head-scratching than spine-tingling.

Photo Credit: Paramount/Warner Brothers

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