The Magic Lantern: Episode 115 – Let’s Scare Jessica to Death
When I selected Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (Hancock, 1971) as my Cole-o-ween choice for this year, I didn’t intend it as a response to Ericca’s choice. Nor was I trying to establish any sort of “women on the verge” theme. It’s interesting how these things work out, though. Together with The Babadook (Kent, 2014), our choices this year take incisive looks at women who have faced loss, grief, and breakdowns. Add to that two unique takes on the reliability of our narrators, and you have a pair of films that set themselves apart from their genre counterparts by taking thoughtful, adult looks at the struggles that women face when they don’t fit neatly into the roles that society has outlined for them.
There are a lot of things I love about this movie. In addition to the maturity of the performers and the material, it’s perfectly moody. It feels like autumn. It has all those regional horror hallmarks that I am fond of. It’s obviously a labor of love, turning schlocky source material into something much greater than the sum of its original parts. This company of actors exhibit a level of experience and comfort with one another that makes the film feel lived in. It’s definitely a slow burn. Think eerie more than frightening. We’re watching the gradual unraveling of, and unnerving assault on, a fragile mind. To not be able to rely on your own mind is true horror. Take some time to empathize with Jessica and feel that horror in your bones. She deserves at least that much.
What you’ll find in this episode: tombstone etchings, squatters, hippies, ’70s detective shows, and the vampire queen of lower Connecticut.
Links and Recommendations:
Check out Let’s Scare Jessica to Death on IMDB.
Ericca’s further viewing pick of Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte.
Cole’s further viewing pick of The Legend of Boggy Creek.
An argument declaring the need for reliable narrators.
Connecticut’s most famous vampires.