Let's Scare Jessica to Death - Mariclare Costello as Emily/Abigale

Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (1971) – Or Not at All


Let’s Scare Jessica to Death is a psychological vampire film released in 1971. The film begins with, Jessica (Zohra Lampert), recently release from a mental institution, and her husband Duncan (Barton Heyman) decide to leave New York City for a farmhouse in the country. They bring their friend Woody (Kevin O’Conner) to help them settle in.

When they arrive, they find a woman named Emily (Mariclare Costello) already residing in the house. After allowing Emily to stay the night, Jessica and Duncan decide to let her stay permanently. Jessica, still in a fragile state, hears voices and see apparitions.

Duncan and Jessica decide to sell some antiques found in the house.  Of those is a family picture of the Bishop family that lived in the house in the late 1800’s. Abigale Bishop, just before her wedding-day tragically drowned in the cove behind Jessica’s new home. The photo of Abigale looks strikingly like Emily.  The legend says that Abigale still roams the island as a vampire.

Jessica descends into madness, not knowing what is real and what is fantasy.  Duncan eventually suggests that they go back to the city as a thinly veiled attempt to have her recommitted.

Where to Watch

Let's Scare Jessica to Death - Jessica Struggling with Reality
Jessica Struggling with Reality

Emily is Not What She Seems

As the movie reaches its climax, Jessica notices the similarity of Emily to the photograph of Abigale. Emily approaches Jessica with a knife and Jessica flees. As Jessica scrambles about she runs into the slain body of Woody. Jessica starts noticing long scars on the necks of the villagers, presumably wounds that Emily the vampire feeds from. She tries to escape via ferry, but us refused. She then commandeers a row boat.

A strange hand reaches over the side of the boat from the water. Jessica grabs a gaffe and repeatedly stabs the owner of the hand. It is Duncan. His bloody body floats away as the villagers watch from shore.

Let’s Scare Jessica to Death – The Scariest Movie of…

I watched this film for the first time just before writing this review. Before tracking it down I did a bit research to understand what I was getting into. Surprisingly, Let’s Scare Jessica to Death purports by some to be one of the scariest movies of all time. Needless to say that this was an enticing bit of information. However, I found myself seriously disappointed after watching this film.

The story doesn’t really make a ton of sense. It’s pacing slow and its structure is confused. There are unexplained mysteries like a mute girl running around the graveyard that just feel like a lazy loose ends.

Overall, the acting fails to impress. Zohra Lampert, not a stranger to horror, makes an appearance in a much better psychological horror film, The Exorcist III. Mariclare Costello’s portrayal of Emily excelled far more than most. As far as scares, they are almost non-existent. In fact, the movie fails repeatedly to create the required suspense to have a real scare.

Let's Scare Jessica to Death - Mariclare Costello as Emily/Abigale
Mariclare Costello as Emily/Abigale

A Weak Entry Into Psychological Horror

The only really interesting open question is whether Duncan was a vampire, a human or a mirage when he is gaffed. It’s not a terrible movie, it is just not very good. I consider it to be great potential squandered in execution. It tries to be a psychological horror film with a supernatural twist. However, it pales in comparison to classic psychological horror movies like The Changeling and Burnt Offerings.

After my disappointment, I dug a bit further into the claim that Let’s Scare Jessica To Death is one of the scariest movies of all time. The Chicago Film Critics Association that placed this film number 87 out of 100. Is it the 87th scariest movie of all time?  Maybe, but that’s not saying much.

Let's Scare Jessica to Death (1971) - Or Not at All -
lets scare jessica emily

Director: John D, Hancock

Date Created: 1970-01-01 00:32

Editor's Rating:

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