Here’s a great little overlooked piece of psychological terror that really brings it.
Let’s Scare Jessica to Death is a movie with a great title. You want to see it based on the name alone, it’s gotta be good right? Well it is, but the name can be quite deceiving.
After being discharged from a mental institution, Jessica and her husband Duncan and their buddy Woody decide to leave New York in favor of the New England countryside. The purchase a nice big old house in a small village where the residents are beyond strange and very unwelcoming. Upon reaching the house, Jessica sees a girl in white at the top of the stairs and just chalks it up to remnants of her recovering psychological state. What the gang do end up finding is a young woman who has been squatting in the house for quite some time. They take some pity on her and allow her to stay, agreeing that they’ll take her back into town the next day. The girl, played by Gretchen Corbett is named Emily and immediately Woody has eyes for her.
That next day as Duncan and Jessica are preparing to head back into town, they realize that Emily really has no place to go and invite her to stay indefinitely. Leaving Emily and Woody behind, Jessica and Duncan head into the village to sell some antiques that they found around the property to a local dealer. When they try and sell an unsettling family photo found in the attic, the Sam the antique man reluctantly takes it, stating that he’ll have a hard time selling something like the photo in his shop.
When the couple tell him where they’re staying, Sam begins to tell them of the legacy of the house and the incident that happened there (of course, it’s an old creepy fucking house.). The tale of how 20-year-old Abigail Bishop drowned in 1880 just before her wedding day. Legend says that she’s still alive, roving the island as a vampire. Jessica finds the story fascinating Duncan, realizing that this shit will set off his already volatile mental case of a wife cuts Sam short before the story can end and they depart abruptly.
Jessica is a lot weird, and the entire time that we are with her on screen she is plagued by voices in her head, berating her and constantly striking paranoia around all that she does. What makes her even weirder is her fascination with taking rubbings of gravestones, which she adorns her and Duncan’s bedroom with. On the way back from town the two stop at the local cemetery, Jessica finds Abigail Bishop’s grave stone and Duncan leaves her to get her rub on.
While alone, Jessica sees a girl dressed in white who beckons her to follow. Jessica gives chase and ends up at a gully where she sees the bloodied body of Sam the antique dealer at the bottom. Of course she loses her shit (who wouldn’t) and Duncan comes after her. Upon his arrival, the body is gone and Jessica frantically tells him of the girl she had followed, as she looks up, she sees the girl again and the two pursue her. They end up catching her at their farm, but she will not talk as she motions that she is mute. When Emily walks up the girl freaks out and bolts.
Later that night at the dinner table, it’s apparent that Emily has eyes for Duncan. After dinner as Jessica and her husband lay in bed, Duncan says that he wants Jessica to return to New York to continue her psychiatric treatment, of course she gets pissed and orders Duncan out of the bedroom. While trying to sleep downstairs, Emily shows up and proceeds to seduce him, which is successful.
The next morning, Duncan decides to drive into town to find a phone and call back to New York to make arrangements for Jessica’s return. When he arrives in town, all the occupants become very hostile toward him and we notice that they all have visible bandages on various parts of their bodies.
While Duncan is away, Jessica wanders back up to the attic where she finds that the silver framed picture of the Bishop family that they sold to the antique dealer has returned to its original spot. While staring into the disturbing photo, she realizes how closely Emily resembles Abigail Bishop. Jessica is then surprised by Emily’s appearance in the attic. Noticing Jessica’s feverish face, Emily denies that she is Abigail and chalks it all up to Jessica freaking the fuck out. Emily suggests that the two cool off and go for a swim down at the lake.
…and that’s as far as I’ll go.
This is where the movie gets really good. Up until this point the film has been a slow burn with lots of suggestive clues leading the viewer in circles wondering if what we are seeing and being told is the truth, or is Jessica just such a nut job that she’s bringing this all on herself.
The film is very moody with some solid jump-scares as well as some truly creepy scenes that stick with you long after the credits roll. Zohra Lampert as Jessica plays a completely convincing character chalk full of psychological issues. Her lines are delivered sparsely and off time giving her more characteristics of a woman tormented by mental illness. Mariclare Costello plays Emily and her pale blue eyes shine with a haunting light that are unflinching through the entire picture.
Let’s Scare Jessica to Death is a great little psychological thriller that stands up and brings the uncomfortable story of a woman’s mental illness to light. Is Jessica crazy or is the world she finds herself in crazier than she can imagine?