I feel like I've just discovered a hidden jewel. Noted as one of Stephen King's favorite horror movies, Let's Scare Jessica to Death has one of the most off putting and wonderfully creepy atmospheres I've ever experienced. There's something so strange and elusive and beautiful about this movie that's it making me scratch my head when thinking about why I've never heard of it before.
Jessica has just been released from a mental institution where she stayed for 6 months following some sort of breakdown. She, her husband and their friend have decided to move into a large farmhouse on a quaint little island. It's not long before Jessica starts spotting eerie figures, seeing bandages and weird scars on all the male townspeople, and gets ominous warnings from a strange girl in a white dress. Emily, the girl was who living in the previously vacant farmhouse is now living with them- and Jessica can't help but notice her husband's growing attraction to her. Soon things start to get the better of Jessica and she has a hard time giving into what she is seeing and trying to convince those around her that she is not crazy.
Right away I knew that I was going to like this film because of the different and understated approach it brought. The movie opens with Jessica in a boat by herself- talking to herself- her voice over forming the constant inner monologue she shares with herself. The constant input from Jessica's conscious mind is almost startling in how perfectly it works. The character of Jessica is complex and intriguing. Here we have a woman on the path to recovery- where any little strange occurrence could set her off and bring her back to insanity. What goes on in this movie is purely based on interpretation. Is she sane or isn't she?
There are so many different ways to explain what is happening and so far people seem to think it's either vampires or just Jessica being insane. It's surely a tough call and even after multiple viewings I don't think I would be able to come to a decision. I guess what really mattered to me was just the beautiful atmosphere and the character of Jessica. Her discussions with herself were so amazing to me. The question of insanity is also extremely interesting.
I can't stress how ominous and creepy this movie is. My favorite moments involve Jessica seeing something that may or may not be there. Figures that just stand there- they aren't "dead" looking, or ghostly- you just know by the atmosphere that they don't belong. There's also no sudden jolt of music signifying to you that something is amiss- which I love. Judging by this it isn't even a sure bet these people are ghosts or not there to begin with, which makes things even more complicated.
I found the images of the figures to be the most startling- in a beautifully creepy way of course. I love love loved when Emily came slowly out of the water for instance
and the girl standing in the graveyard.
I also love that little detail of the main characters driving around a hearse- and what the significance of it is. Are they already dead in a sense? To be honest I don't like buying into the whole vampire scenario- I just prefer to leave things unexplainable and ominous. I think the movie works better that way and I truly believe it was intended to be so.
Jessica's voice overs are pure poetry and so moving to me- her voice is so calm and cool inside her head- but somewhat panicky outside of it. The music brings both themes of insanity and sanity- if you listen closely you notice there are almost two different songs being played at once...it's all so remarkable to me. The whole movie actually plays on both of those premises. There is the sane side of the movie and the insane. The sane side of Jessica and the insane. What we choose to believe and what we choose to make of it depends entirely upon us. Here are Jessica's first opening lines while she is floating in the boat sitting out in the middle of a lake. These same exact lines and the scene is repeated again at the end of the film.
"I sit here and I can't believe that it happened. And yet I have to believe it. Dreams or nightmares. Madness or sanity. I don't know which is which. "
Jessica's commentary is the perfect definition of mental illness. The disbelief and yet forcefulness of what is actually going on. A mind being tugged back and forth between two realities, and the constant uncertainty of what is actually happening. That's the thing about mental illness you never know how things happen or why they happen- even if it's happening inside your head and no one else's. While you should be in control- the reality of the situation, is almost always the opposite.
I quite like this new trend of ending a post with a memorable and particularly telling quote by the way...!
So through this post I've decided I love this movie and that I'm now obsessed with it. It's not for everyone of course but I find that there's truly something special going on in it- and something I have not felt for a long time.
This is the ending of the film with the above quote. It doesn't really spoil anything- but it's just the perfect example of the kind of beauty and simplicity that I'm talking about.
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