Fright (1971)

A bunch of years ago I remember having a used DVD copy of FRIGHT in my hands all ready to buy when a friend I was with pulled one of those, “Oh, I’ve seen that” sourpuss, “Meh” routines. Dummy me dropped it from my purchase pile. I suppose my pal had a point; FRIGHT is nothing extraordinary but certainly this person should have known me well enough to realize that a babysitter, an old dark house and an escaped maniac would be more than enough to warrant a viewing. So what if I’d seen this song and dance before? Familiarity may breed contempt for others but for me, it breeds contentment. Plus, I now realize that FRIGHT predates the films that drove the concept into the ground. That’s gotta count for something. If that friend knew me at all they would have said, “It’s from the early seventies-you’ll love it!” but looking back I believe the only real information I was meant to take away was that so-and-so had seen this film before me. Big whoop. Here’s an oversized stuff animal prize.

FRIGHT is of its time and may frustrate modern viewers especially those who expect characters to act as they (theoretically) would and get incensed when they don’t do the exact smartest thing in every possible situation. Our babysitter Amanda (SUSAN GEORGE) does some seriously boneheaded things in FRIGHT and she cries and screeches a lot too. If the film was made today, I’m sure she’d be depicted in a much stronger, more valiant way but I’m going to give her some leeway as she’s just a kid and a maniac is trying to kill her. Why not scream and cry? Is there a better time for such a response? Oh yeah and her boyfriend kicks the bucket right in front of her face! That might upset a person.

I know I’m an apologist but critiquing a character’s response to a violent situation, to me, is sort of like a friend telling you they’ve been mugged and you’re like, “Did you punch them in the face? Did you grab the gun away? Why not, what’s wrong with you?” Everything is easy from the sidelines and everybody thinks they’re boss until they’re not. Truth is, you really don’t know until it happens to you. When real fear comes a knocking all bets are off, the world is upside down and a truckload of kooky chemicals are poured into your brain. You might have a hard time remembering your own name let alone be expected to suddenly morph into an expert at guerilla warfare. Amanda’s not alone in the questionable decision making department either. Nearly every character here, including the police, reacts in ways that are unbelievable by today’s standards. In the end though, all the reactions present are more likely then say, Bigfoot so if I can believe in Bigfoot, I can believe in this. He’s out there!

All in all, I’d say FRIGHT is very much worth hurdling over its hokey chasms. If you blur your eyes to a few glitches it’s a beautifully shot, cleverly edited, atmospheric suspense film that must have had some kind of influence on HALLOWEEN. Whether the resemblance is coincidental or not, I’d say it plays like a precursor to that film even more so than the often-sited BLACK CHRISTMAS does. Although not gory or gruesome, the potential for something truly horrific to occur is intensely strong in certain scenes. The child in peril business is particularly off-putting and something I’m sure you’d be unlikely to see attempted today. The little tyke in this, TARA COLLINSON, is actually the director’s son, which makes the situations he’s thrown into a little bit easier to condone. There’s a bushel of hammy dialogue on hand but the performances are uniformly above par. IAN BANNON as the escaped lunatic nearly goes over the top but there’s something convincing about his wild scattered energy too.

I should have bought this movie way back when, as now the price seems to have jumped. Sheez, you’d think that getting to see HONOR (Pussy Galore) BLACKMAN who plays the mom getting her groove on at the local restaurant would be enough for some people! Yep, it could have been better but it deserves more than a shrug too. That, or I just love babysitter vs. maniac movies. In any case, there are worse things in life than hanging with SUSAN GEORGE in a dark mansion for an hour and a half, even if she is a little screechy.

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11 years ago

You know, I tried to watch Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry with my sister a while back and never got past the half hour mark cause my sister was annoyed with the way Susan George yelled (or screeched) her dialogue in that – so I didn’t get to finish it. I’m not a huge fan of screechy women – but I can take it if there’s something interesting going on – esp some 70s era interesting stuff. I think if I was watching a contemporary movie with a screechy chick I’d turn it off immediately. That’s just not worth it for me.

This looks great – thanks!!

11 years ago

Oh my lord, THANK you for bringing up the whole “scared people don’t always make the smartest decisions” thing. I’ve been telling this to people for AGES! Few things can irritate me more than when someone is sitting comfortably in their couch with their soda and their popcorn and devising a McGyver-esque plan for escape for the poor lady who’s practically stripped naked and running from mutant cannibals that are beating her with her own dad’s arms on screen. Frankly, condescending behaviour like that comes off as stupider than anything these characters find themselves doing.

On the subject of Fright, I’ve had it lying around for a while without watching it. Should give it a whirl soon.