Frightmare (1974) – By Duane L. Martin

A woman and her husband are convicted of a series of grizzly murders that she committed. He wasn’t guilty of the murders themselves, but he was found to be complicit, so they were both found guilty of the crimes. Unfortunately, instead of receiving the death penalty they were sentenced to a psychiatric facility where they were to stay until they were deemed to be cured and no longer a threat to society. Well unfortunately they must have gotten the new guy at the psych hospital, because some idiot apparently thought they were cured for whatever reason and let them out.

Now she’s back to her old tricks, killing people right and left, stuffing them in her barn and covering them with hay for whatever reason. Her husband simply stands by and watches it all happen all over again because he loves her, but her daughter Jackie doesn’t believe she’s cured, so she sends her psychiatrist boyfriend to see if she really is cured or if she’s still insane. Add in another daughter who was born in prison and sent to an orphanage who’s just as crazy as good ol’ mom, and you’re in for one hell of a creepy ride.

Ok…cards on the table here. I was ready to hate this movie. I thought it was going to be another boring suckfest that was totally lacking in any interest value whatsoever. I’m delighted to say that I was absolutely wrong. This movie is creepy as all hell thanks in large part to a brilliant performance by Shiela Keith who played the insane mother, Dorothy Yates.

Now I’ve seen some creepy performances in my time, but man, you’d be hard pressed to top what Shiela Keith pulled off in this film. She’s such an intense presence on the screen that it just makes the whole thing fun to watch. The rest of the cast were all excellent as well, but man…Shiela just nailed it.

What writer and director Pete walker pulled off in this film should be studied by any student of film who wants to learn how to make a genuinely creepy horror film. So many films out there try to be scary, but the best horror films aren’t the ones with the occasional jump scare, though many film makers today seem to think that’s the case. No, the best horror films are the ones that make you feel tense and send shivers up your spine. They’re films that actually make you feel something, which is exactly what this one does.

For special features, this new release from Kino’s Redemption label includes an interview with Pete Walker by Elijah Drenner, audio commentary by Pete Walker and DP Peter Jessop, a profile of the late actress Shiela Keith featuring interviews with her former collaborators and the original theatrical trailer.

There were a lot of seriously lame horror films made in the seventies, but this isn’t one of them. If you want to have a creepy good time, then this is definitely a film you’re going to want to add to your collection.

If you’d like to find out more about this film, you can check out its page on the Kino Lorber website here, and if you’d like to pick up a copy for yourself, you can get the DVD or blu-ray from Amazon, or from any of the other usual outlets.