“Frightmare” (1974)


Studio: Miracle
Starring: Rupert Davies, Sheila Keith, Deborah Fairfax, Paul Greenwood, Kim Butcher
Directed by: Pete Walker
Rated: R
Running Time: 88 min.

Synopsis: A woman is hiding that her parents are still alive from her younger sister. She’s also hiding something else as well about her parents.

Chris Woods

Frightmare is another great horror film directed by Pete Walker. Walker made many good horror films in Great Britain throughout the 70’s and Frightmare is one of his best. It is a really good film that mixes suspense, atmosphere, and violence, which are the key elements to this film. Frightmare also has a good cast and plenty of scary scenes throughout the movie.

The film starts off in 1957 where we see a man walking around an abandoned amusement park. He goes over to a trailer in the park and knocks on the door. We never hear or see who is in the trailer, but the man is let in by whoever it is. Moments later, the man is found dead with his face half eaten off. The scene then cuts to a courtroom where a man and a woman by the name of Yates stand trial for the murder of the man and are sentenced to an insane asylum. The opening scene is done very well. It is shot in black and white and it is very suspenseful because we never see the couple or the murder of the man. We can only imagine how horrible the killing was.

The film jumps fifteen years and we are at a totally different setting at a bar with a group of young bikers. The bikers end up starting a fight because the young girl they are with, Debbie (Kim Butcher), tells her boyfriend the bartender refused to give her a beer because she is under age and called her a tart. This gets the bikers kicked out and the group waits till closing to wait for the bartender and get some revenge. Debbie returns home late and is questioned by her older sister, Jackie (Deborah Fairfax), why is she out so late. Debbie is angry with Jackie questioning her and wants to live on her own, but since their parents are dead, Jackie has to take care of her.

Jackie is also hiding a secret from her sister. Their parents are not really dead and every week Jackie drives to a farm out in the country where they live. It turns out their parents are the Yates, Edmund (Rupert Davies) and Dorothy (Sheila Keith), who have been recently released from the asylum because the doctors believed they are cured. The question now is are they really cured and does Jackie believe that they are cured as well.

Frightmare is a film with a lot of great twist and turns. I won’t ruin any of the secrets of the film, so you will have to watch it and see for yourself. Those great twists in the film make the movie. Throughout it you are finding out more details on the family and what secrets they are hiding. The film almost has a Hitchcockian vibe to it with the elements of suspense and all the hidden secrets in the movie.

The cast of characters are great as well. All the female characters are the major standouts in the film. Fairfax who plays Jackie carries the film well as the stable rock of the family. Butcher who plays Debbie does a good job playing the hell-bent wild teen that is out of control. Keith who has appeared in many of Walker’s other films is devilish as the crazy mother Dorothy Yates.

The movie has some scenes of gruesome violence in the film. Of course I have seen much worse in many other horror films, but what surprises me is that this is a British film and the Brits were known for banning many horror films in the 70’s and 80’s because of the graphic violence in them. These films got put on their Video Nasties list and were banned from their country. So, I’m always surprised when I see any type of gore in a British horror film and how it got by the censors over there. This film also came out in the mid-70’s, before the Video Nasties hit its peak.

Some other interesting things about the film are there are a few other titles to the film like, Cover Up and Once Upon a Frightmare. I also noticed during a scene when Jackie is out on a date at the movies, the film that they are watching is another Pete Walker film, House of Whipcord. We never see what they are watching, but we can hear the film and I can tell by the lines I heard said that it is that film.

Frightmare is one of Pete Walker’s best films. I still have to watch a few more films from the British director, but so far from the ones I have seen of his, Frightmare is his best work. Walker crafts a good scary story that will freak you out. This film is worth checking out or buying on DVD and so are other films from the Pete Walker collection.