Before I start on today’s subject matter, I thought I’d pose a question. Mainly this is for “research” purposes in the sense that I’m compiling the answers for a future blog post. That question is:
What’s a horror movie scene that disturbed/upset/traumatized you?
Ideally I’m looking for one specific scene from one movie, but y’all do you. I’ve posted this on the social medias with mixed results, especially from friends who are not huge horror nerds. Plus lotsa folks just can’t follow directions. I’ve gotten a number of movie titles, lists of scenes, and movies that are absolutely not horror. Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful. I am. But I thought it made sense to toss this question out to a largely horror-dedicated crowd too. Feel free to post responses in the Comments.
Right. On with the show then. Yesterday I mentioned the Wendy’s sign, and it put me in mind of cannibalism. Calm down. I don’t mean me. I mean movies involving cannibalism. And I also don’t mean stuff like Cannibal Holocaust, Cannibal Ferox, or other such wildly overrated crap. No, I’m talking about a more sinister undercurrent like you have in Sweeney Todd or Ravenous or, obviously, Soylent Green.
And that, true believers, brings me to 1974’s criminally overlooked Frightmare. We set our little English scene in Haslemere near the southwest tip of the southeast county of Surrey. Here we find Dorothy and Edmund, a sweet elderly married couple who are home after spending nearly 20 years in a mental institution.
Dorothy, y’see, killed and partly ate five or so people. The story goes that this had something to do with a traumatic childhood incident involving her beloved pet bunny.
Edmund was neither involved in committing the murders nor in the subsequent, uh, culinary exploits. He did, however, try his best to cover up for his beloved Dorothy to whom he is do dearly devoted. At this point we meet Jackie, Edmund’s daughter from a previous marriage.
She makes clandestine visits from London each night to supply Dorothy with animal brains, maintaining a carefully constructed ruse to make Dorothy think Jackie goes out an kills people so Dorothy can satisfy her taste for that ol’ long pig.
If you’re wondering how this slipped by the folks who let Dorothy out of the institution, you ain’t alone. Sadly, this charade proves inadequate to the task, and wouldn’t ya know, Dorothy gets up to her old tricks. Oh, and there’s a new wrinkle. Dorothy and Edmund also have a daughter of their own. Debbie. She was put in an orphanage when her parents were sent away. Well she gets tossed out and now resided in the loving bosom of her family.
She also has a vicious streak and hangs out with a violent biker dude named Alec. Matters get pretty complicated pretty quickly at this point, and if you haven’t gotten around to Frightmare, you really should. For the benefit of those who have yet to, uh, feast on this forgotten fare, I’m gonna stop right here with the summarizing and move on to some other observations.
For one thing, this movie is surprising. It’s tense, it holds together well, it’s got its fair amount of blood and gore, and it taps nicely into an almost Folk Horror-y kinda vibe. Second, let’s talk about Sheila Keith. Keith was a British character actress who did a pretty good amount of work on stage and lots o’ television.
Her movie list isn’t long but includes 4 horror movies from 1974-1978: House Of Whipcord, Frightmare, House Of Mortal Sin, and The Comeback, all directed by Pete Walker. For this she became regarded as an iconic figure in Brit horror, and she definitely cuts a strange, sinister figure. Put all that stuff together, and Frightmare is no tiptoe through the slasher tulips. It’s nasty, it’s mean spirited, and boy howdy it’s bleak.
BODIES- 7 onscreen, 5 off, 1 undetermined but assumed
Stream- Flix Fling
Rent- Flix Fling, Prime (well, buy for $4.99)