06/09/2023 07:28

Film: Frightmare

Year: 1974

Director: Pete Walker

Writers: David McGillivray

Starring: Rupert Davies, Sheila Keith and Deborah Fairfax



This is a movie that I’m not entirely sure when I first heard about. I did know of the title which I thought was cool. It wasn’t until podcasts that it popped up for me. What is interesting there is that there’s another movie from the 1980s with the same title. Currently, I’m not sure if they share a similar story or just the title.

Synopsis: after escaping a death sentence for her hideous crimes, a seemingly rehabilitated woman settles in an isolated farmhouse with her husband, only to ache, once more, for blood and a crash-course in surgery. Is she indeed back to her old self?

We start this back in 1957. This takes place in London. There is an amusement park that I’m not entirely sure if its abandoned or just closed. They seek someone out in a trailer who gives tarot card readings. He is killed. This isn’t the first crime like this. A couple is put on trial and sentenced to a mental hospital for their crimes.

The black and white sequence ends and we’re in the present of the movie. We have an older couple of Edmund (Rupert Davies) and Dorothy Yates (Sheila Keith). She gives tarot card readings, alluding to the fact that she was the woman from the beginning. They live in an isolated area and this is partially by design by Edmund.

We then see Debbie (Kim Butcher). She’s hanging out with a group of greasers who are rough. Her boyfriend is Alec Marini (Edward Kalinski). Debbie is underaged and tries to buy a drink, but the bartender denies her. This causes Alec to get loud with him. This group is kicked out of the bar.

Another character we meet is Jackie (Deborah Fairfax). She is at a friend’s house where they’re having a dinner party. An important person to bring up is Graham Heller (Paul Greenwood). He’s a psychiatrist or a psychologist, something along those lines. He kills the vibes with something he says. Something else here is that he’s interested in Jackie and it seems like she feels the same.

Jackie and Debbie are sisters. Jackie is home when Debbie arrives and she scolds her for how late it is. Debbie is recently out of a juvenile detention center. Jackie is trying to keep her from getting into trouble, but she knows the people she hangs out with. Debbie throws in her sister’s face that she leaves after 2 AM almost every night. We see the reason being that she goes to visit Ed and Dorothy. They are her parents. There is a twist here though that I won’t reveal. The crimes of cannibalism are happening again. Is this elderly couple behind it again or is there something else going on?

That’s where I’ll leave my recap and introduction to the characters. Where I want to start is that this is an odd little film. Reflecting on it, I do want to know where the basis of this story came from. We have interesting elements here. The thought process this gives off is that Dorothy is the cannibal. Ed loves her so much that he goes off to the mental hospital to be with her. Now that they’re out, he does what he can keep her on the straight and narrow, but he also will protect her. There has good heart there. The problem though is that they abandoned their children.

There is a reveal there that I’m not going to give. I think it is wild looking back that they went away, leaving Jackie and Debbie without parents. As a new parent, I couldn’t imagine abandoning my children. I get that Ed loves his wife that much. In their defense, Debbie wasn’t born until after they were away. She was placed in an orphanage where Jackie was sent to live with family. I just wanted to point out how horrible a mindset this was to me.

The last thing that I wanted to delve into is tarot cards and cannibalism. Knowing a bit about the history of cinema in the United Kingdom and censorship, this almost makes me feel like these two elements are correlated, or at least people would make that connection. The first person killed is there for a reading. This is also how Dorothy lures her victims. I’m reading this as the pagan beliefs are partially why Dorothy is the cannibal that she is. I do like something that happens later in the movie that makes sense in an odd way. There are implications there that I couldn’t argue.

Where I’ll then go is the acting. Davies is solid as the husband. As I’ve said, he has a good heart for how he feels about Dorothy and what he is willing to do for her. Keith is interesting as our ‘villain’. She goes brutal with kills and that was interesting. Again, without necessarily looking into things, I’m wondering if this movie struggled to get distribution with the use of power tools. Fairfax is good as our lead with Greenwood solid as the counterpart to her character. What is interesting here is that he works in the medical field and dealing with the mind. That helps to explain things to the audience. Butcher is also good, especially where her character ends up. I’d also say that the rest of the cast rounded this out for what was needed.

All that is left to go into would be filmmaking. The cinematography is good. It is shot well. The effects are solid as well. I wasn’t expecting to get as much blood as we get. We don’t necessarily see the kills, but more of the aftereffects. That makes this seem almost like an early slasher film to be honest. Other than that, I’d say the soundtrack was fine for what was needed.

In conclusion, I think that this movie is doing good things. It is odd to have a proto slasher like this around the same time as The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, just being from the UK. The story is exploring interesting ideas, but I don’t know if it does well enough in fleshing everything out. The acting is solid. This is a well-made movie as well. I enjoyed my time here, but it also struggled to keep my interest. I still enjoyed my time here. I’d recommend this oddity if you’re into cinema from this era for at least a watch.


My Rating: 7 out of 10