Great auntie to waking nightmare movies about distaff insanity as diverse as Images, 3 Women, A Woman Under the Influence, and Mulholland Drive, Let’s Scare Jessica to Death spends 90 minutes tapping lightly but incessantly on its heroine’s fragile sanity, as though it were some sort of Fabergé S&M model egg. Jessica (Zohra Lampert, in an appropriately gangly performance that deserves a coherent film) is fresh out of the snake pit. Her husband and their mutual friend (and threesome third wheel?) relocate to a rural town whose residents are apt to call anyone under 50 years of age hippies. When the old mansion they move into turns out to have an auburn-haired lady vagrant living surreptitiously in the attic, the three welcome her with open arms (and open beds?). While the two men in Jessica’s life seem to lose their virility, Jessica finds bloodied corpse after corpse. Thus, she discovers that the line separating her temporarily sane period from her drumming her fingers across her lips is as thin as the string on a tampon. A lesbian panic melodrama in New England gothic drag, the only things separating Let’s Scare Jessica to Death from its cinematic descendants are its narrative incoherence, its lack of a directorial presence (especially surprising considering the colloquial implications of the director’s name), its drab, douche commercial mise-en-scène, its colorless, borderline-homophobic take on sexual fluidity, its inability to execute a shocking or haunting nightmare sequence, the fact that it practically defaults to lesbian byplay in lieu of creating any compelling examples of heterosexual manhood, the fact that it’s plot only seems as though it’s told non-linearly out of incoherence and not carefully twisted narrative construction, the fact that Jessica’s overly literal voiceovers keep a fussy log, charting her descent into madness with all the panache of a chemistry study abstract, and ultimately its flaccid climactic fizzle-out. Nice title, though.
- Paramount Pictures
- 88 min
- John Hancock
- Norman Jonas, Ralph Rose
- Zohra Lampert, Barton Heyman, Kevin O'Connor, Gretchen Corbett, Alan Manson, Mariclare Costello
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