Monday, August 2, 2010


If I’m going to be reviving this blog, I may as well try to make a further dent in the Hundred Rare and Obscure Horror Films You Should See Before You Die, or HROHFYSSBYD for short. We’ll be knocking out a good twenty two more of them by month’s end (barring a hospital stay or something), which should finally put me past the damn halfway mark on these. This time, we’re taking a look at a fairly unknown British thriller that’s low on blood but high on atmosphere.
You wouldn’t know it to look at them, but there was a time back in the 60s and early 70s when the Brits were actually the ones pushing the envelope on blood and gore in movies. Led by Hammer and Amicus (neither of whom produced this), they were greatly ramping up production of red paint all throughout England. Which is why it’s a little surprising that this one manages to get by mainly on mood and tension, and mostly without any level of graphic violence. The story follows Susan George as a babysitter hired to watch over a young boy while his suspiciously nervous parents have a nice night out to dinner. Sadly, as the night progresses she learns that the reason the mother is so nervous is because the boy’s biological father is a mental patient she’s just divorced, and who has decided that the proper response is to break out of the institute and head back to his old home.

After discreetly terrorizing her by banging on windows and various things, he eventually breaks in (though not before savagely assaulting her boyfriend, which produces the only real blood in the film, or before taking out the phone lines). He then proceeds to terrorize and assault her (and in a particularly brutal moment, her boyfriend again) until the parents finally realize something’s gone wrong and manage to get the police on over there for the climax.

Of course, much more than the actors or the violence, the real star of the film is its overall look. Even before a maniac shows up, the house looks about as scary as a house possibly can, looking more like it belongs in some gothic nightmare starring Peter Cushing than in a normal suburb. It also makes great use of the night: outside of a few cutaways to a restaurant and police station, the whole film takes place in shadow, and not the cheap shadow of a no-budget horror movie where you can’t see a damn thing, either. The film is well titled (much better than its more lurid and cheesy alternate title “I’m Alone and I’m Scared”), as the entire movie seems more designed to frighten rather than outright horrify (though our female lead does have the thankless role of having roughly a third of her lines being nothing more than screaming).

The only one of director Peter Collinson’s other films I’ve seen was his immediate follow-up Straight On Till Morning, another fairly obscure horror entry (this one actually made by Hammer) that deserves to be much more famous than it is. I rather wish he had made a few more horror movies before his death (just eight days after I was born, in fact), as he was a man who clearly understood how they worked. In fact, he understood them so well that this is apparently the first ever horror movie where a maniac stalks a babysitter, making this a pioneer in the field. Just think, if not for this underseen classic, we may have never gotten Rob Zombie’s Halloween. And really, I think we all would have missed out then.

Rating; ***

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