Friday, February 03, 2017

Fright (1971)








DIRECTOR: Peter Collinson

WRITER: Tudor Gates

CAST:

Susan George
Honor Blackman
Ian Bannen
John Gregson
George Cole
Dennis Waterman

PLOT:

Amanda currently works as a babysitter who is hired to babysit the young child of a married couple who both need the night off so they can celebrate their anniversary. When Amanda arrives at the Lloyd residence, she is introduced to the child, and the couple leaves for a night out on the town. Little does Amanda realise that there is a crazy madman who is about to put Amanda and the child she is babysitting through a long night of hell.







Going into Fright, I had no idea what to expect from this film. It's a title that had come up multiple times while I was researching my seventies and eighties slasher retrospective. I had read several pieces of trivia on the film that have stated that Fright was the proto-slasher that laid some of the groundwork for movies such as When A Stranger Calls and Scream. Being that this movie was released some eight years before that film, I can see why people have made this comparison.

Looking at the poster art for Fright, you get that distinct feeling that this would be a slasher. A woman who is seen cowering in fear with a massive shard of glass held to her mouth, this has slasher written all over it. After watching the film, though. I think this is an entirely different beast. I can see why people would throw this movie in with the slasher genre, it has some aspects that have now become known and well-worn tropes within that sub-genre, but it still feels different for some reason.

Fright begins with our young babysitter coming up to a rather large estate. The old property looks like it's on one of those typical estates in the English countryside. You know, an old mansion that has lots of acres and creepy old trees. This feels like the perfect location for a young babysitter to be stalked by what we believe will be this madman. This is a place where she won't be able to simply run and find help. Fright gets off to a slightly eerie start. It's helped along by the husband mentioning that the house may be haunted which foreshadows the arrival of the madman.

The movie doesn't take all that long in getting into our babysitter receiving creepy phone calls. This happens almost immediately after our older married couple leaves for a night out at the club. You can clearly see that this movie has influenced a lot of other genre films that feel more authentically like the slasher movie. This has been picked apart and been used to inspire other films of this kind. When this film has our babysitter being stalked, getting creepy calls or seeing faces behind sheets of glass, it really worked for me.

I found that this movie had a lot of problems, though. Every single time the film cuts back to the husband and wife characters who are either chatting shit about getting a divorce or are speaking to their friends at the pub, it sort of kills all the tension in the film. It goes back and forth between these two parallel stories, and one works more effectively than the other. They do come colliding together in the third act, and this turns from a babysitter being stalked story into an almost hostage/siege film. It sort of just flies off the rails.

The film also introduces us to a boyfriend or companion to our babysitter who is only there to really be the first victim, let's face it. He's come over for one thing, and that's to have some sex. He's that sleazy boyfriend who would probably shag you while the baby slept in the same bed. You know as soon as this guy shows up, the madman will take him out first. He is there to add blood and a minimal body count to an otherwise pretty tame looking film. If the shard of glass makes you think some damage will be done, it doesn't happen.

Regarding being suspenseful, I think Fright was working early on, in both the first and second acts of the movie. A few decent setups like the phone cord being cut while our character tries to call for help that worked incredibly well. The third act descends into this madman holding a babysitter and child hostage. It's a chance to show this man as someone who is apparently crazy and psychotic, but he is far from ever being a slasher icon. He's just tormented. We also have scenes of a little child being put in danger that may disturb sensitive viewers.

Lastly, I think the acting is solid from most of the cast here. Honor Blackman as our mother character is in fine form. She delivers a performance as a distressed mother very well. I believed her in every scene. Susan George as our babysitter has a great set of lungs and is a solid actress, I can't fault her. It's just a shame her character becomes overkill in some scenes. I was getting annoyed more than I was enjoying the role. Ian Bannen is our madman, and he delivers the best role in the film. He is intense in his scenes. The ending being his most unhinged.







DEATH TOLL: 2

BLOOD AND GORE:

- Someone's face is repeatedly punched in.
- Someone has their head bashed in with a statue.
- A babysitter and child are put in danger.
- A man has his face sliced with glass.
- A child has a shard of glass held to his throat.
- A man is shot dead.

Fright started off rather well. It starts off with a solid 'stalking the babysitter' movie vibe. It starts off pretty eerily in the first and second act. It's just a shame that the tension is repeatedly halted when the movie switches between the husband and wife characters. Fright also has a few solid performances. If it deserves any points, it's for being the first 'Babysitter in Peril' film. That alone was fascinating to watch as I can see many movies that were clearly influenced by Fright. Give it a watch to see an original but don't be surprised if you find yourself bored with the slow pacing of the film and no actual slasher killer.

2 comments:

  1. Adding this to my must watch list.

    Thanks for reviewing these older slashers.

    Enjoying the reviews alot.

    ReplyDelete