Fright 2002 Horror Movie Review
Horror movies Review
`In the genre of “virginal babysitter vs. homicidal manic” films, Fright (1971) truly stands alone.’ That’s what it says on the back of the DVD case…after seeing the film, I find the veracity of that statement to be genuinely false. The film does not stand alone, or even out, among the myriad of other films within the genre, ultimately blending inconspicuously into the pack. Based on a story written by Tudor Gates, whom had two of his other stories translated to film the same year in Lust for a Vampire and Twins of Evil, Fright was directed by Peter Collinson, who previously directed The Italian Job (1969). The film stars two obvious victims of the British dental system in Susan George (Straw Dogs) and Ian Bannen (Flight of the Phoenix). Also appearing are Honor Blackman (Goldfinger), George Cole (The Vampire Lovers), John Gregson (The Lavender Hill Mob), and Dennis Waterman (Scars of Dracula).
As the movie begins, we see a pretty young woman named Amanda (George) arriving at a large and spooky house (Scooby Doo, where are you?!), greeted suspiciously by Helen (Blackman). Amanda has been hired to baby sit while Helen and her husband Jim (Gregson) have a night out on the town (Jim’s due for an oil change, I think). After some pleasantries (and booze…would you normally offer the babysitter liquor before you leave? I mean, you can’t really keep them away from the stuff once you’re gone, but offering it up front kinda opens the door), the couple leave, and Amanda is left alone with the sleeping tot, or so she thinks. She begins hearing noises and seeing faces at various windows, thus causing much freaking out. Her amorous boyfriend Chris (Waterman) arrives, and she quickly blames him as she thinks he was the one at the window earlier trying to scare her (it wasn’t). After numerous attempts to get his freak on, Amanda finally kicks him out, but probably wishes she hadn’t as a strange figure (Bannen) finds his way into the house and turns a cushy babysitting gig into a night of terror as the stranger is in fact an escaped homicidal maniac (is there any other kind?) with depraved plans of his own.
Fright is listed as a horror, but it tends to lean more towards being a suspenseful thriller (it’s rarely suspenseful and hardly thrilling). I had read where someone thought the makers of this film (produced in England) suffered greatly from extremely strict British censorship laws imposed on cinematic sex and violence effectively watered down the proceedings from what they could have been, had the film been produced, say, in the United States. This may be partly true, but a crafty director would have found a way around such impositions, in my opinion. The movie is all right, but pretty much forgettable as I found myself becoming increasingly bored. Most of it takes place within the house, and I would have liked to seen more of it used, rather than just a few rooms. From the outside, it looked large and expansive, so I was expecting more with regards to the interior shots, than I got. I will say many of the elements are present, and put together with the craftsmanship of someone who knows his business (lighting, framing shots, etc.), but there’s something missing, a sense of passion for the genre, I think…really good directors manage to infuse a bit of themselves within their films, and it generally shows, but I didn’t get that here. I’ve never really thought of Susan George as an especially talented actress, and she didn’t change my opinion here with her constant overacting (Amanda was suffered from bouts of extreme hysteria, which can be quite painful, not to the victim, but to those forced to watch). I think the character required a subtle touch, one not possessed by George. I thought Ms. Blackman did well, but then I suppose maybe I’m a little biased, as she’s very easy on the eyes. Bannen’s (who I generally like) character seemed entirely paper-thin, hardly presenting the threat we’re lead to believe he is…and here is the problem…how can a movie like this be expected to work when the antagonist is does very little to frighten the audience? I will concede (just a little) that given the film was released in 1971, maybe it was a bit scarier then, but today’s audiences probably won’t think so (Robert Wise’s The Haunting, an English production, released in 1963 still has the power to scare, despite its’ age or restrictive elements of its’ originating country…go check it out)...there are spots of shimmering originality within the story, but those were mired down as we’re forced to slog through a great deal of seemingly useless filler. One thing that really annoyed me within this film, and is a common element in many horror type films is the quickness and ease to which the antagonist was able to get around, appearing in one place, and then, if by magical, appearing somewhere else. It’s doesn’t happen often in this film, but a few times, and given the fact that most of the movie is actually put together well, it tended to stand out. At the end of the day, this is a film I’d expect to see on the Lifetime channel, as it more akin to a `woman in distress’ film rather than a chilling, spooky horror movie. If you’re looking for something more, I’d suggest Black Christmas (1974) or When a Stranger Calls (1979), both being much more fun.
The widescreen print (1:66:1) provided by Anchor Bay looks really good and very clear (from British vault elements, no less), but I thought the audio a bit soft, even muddled, at times. Special features include an original theatrical trailer, and a detailed biography of the director Peter Collinson. Also included is a nice reproduction of a poster for the film on a card inside the DVD case, the flipside displaying the chapter stops.