Review Date: August 15, 2002
Released by: Anchor Bay
Release date: 5/12/2002
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes
A virginal, yet beautiful, bookworm sits up late watching old horror films on television. She is babysitting a mild mannered boy and everything appears to be fine. But unbeknownst to her, an institutionalized homicidal killer is lurking outside, waiting to get into the house that he first caused havoc some years ago. No, this isn't Halloween
, this is Peter Collinson's Fright
, a film which, although remarkably similar in plot, predated John Carpenter's horror classic by nearly 7 years. This is arguably one of the first "babysitter in peril" movies, and Anchor Bay has resurrected this long forgotten film on DVD for the first time. Is Fright
any good, or is it marred by the clichés it helped conceive? Read on to find out.
Amanda (Susan George
) enters the Lloyd house, a lofty and isolated mansion, to baby sit for the night. She meets the two apparent owners and residents, Helen ("Pussy Galore" herself, Honor Blackman
) and Jim (George Cole
), who are heading out for their "anniversary". They leave, with the child already in bed, and Amanda passes the time by cooking and watching horror films. Alone and by herself, she begins to hear frightening noises outside, many of which end up being false alarms. Fed up with the noises she keeps hearing, she looks out the window only to the see silhouette of an imposing man. Luckily though, her boyfriend unexpectedly shows up at the house to keep her company. He pressures her, like most adolescent males do in the 1970's, for sex, but she reaffirms her virginity and tells him to leave.
Meanwhile, Helen and Jim are out celebrating what the audience soon finds out is not their wedding anniversary, but the anniversary of Helen's divorce to her previous husband. Brian (Ian Bannen
), her former husband, had apparently gone psychotic, trying to kill Helen and her son, and was now institutionalized in a nearby mental hospital. Back at the Lloyd residence, Amanda soon discovers that there was more than just her boyfriend lurking around that night, and that Brian is back to claim the wife and child he loves...even if it kills him.
is an unexpectedly classy slasher film, and although the first 60 minutes are riddled with clichés (one's that it helped inspire, no doubt), it is able to still remain effective because of its first rate production values. Ian Wilson's expressive and stylized photography is beautifully realized, with lengthy dolly shots and varying depths of perception. Both Amanda and Helen are frequently compared throughout the film, and by repeatedly filming them from behind vertical bars (be it from a cradle or from stair railings) director Peter Collinson (Straight on Till Morning
) hints at their fate of being prisoner to Brian's wrath. An inspired touch, indeed, there are several provoking shots like this throughout the film.
Complimenting the wonderful photography is some, at times, kinetic editing, which helps create and maintain suspense throughout the picture. Sound is also edited in a similar fashion, with glass shattering being cut seamlessly with screams, as well as shrills on the old TV set being mixed in with the loud atmosphere of a restaurant. Equally impressive is Ian Bannen's performance as the villain in the piece. Upon his arrival at the latter point in the film, the movie becomes original and refreshing in its subject matter. Unlike Michael or Jason, Brain is not looking for death, but redemption, and he wishes to rekindle his relationship with his wife. He is paranoid and delusional, and Bannen's off-the-wall performance is perfectly involving and layered.
The supporting cast is not quite as strong as Bannen, but still serviceable. Amanda's character is poorly written however, as she is left crying for almost the entire final half of the film. Although nicely played by Susan George, her character lacks the strength and vitality of such other sitters like Jamie Lee Curtis and Carol Kane (When A Stranger Calls
). Geroge's character is also unbelievably naïve at times, and given her noted college education, one would think she would act more intelligently.
Despite Amanda's inadequately conceived role, this still remains an effective little British film that still packs a punch after over 30 years. With a short running time of only 87 minutes and a quick pace, the suspense never wanes, and the movie is at times creepy and atmospheric. While bound to be compared to Halloween
and When A Stranger Calls
, this film offers a refreshingly characterized and complex villain and manages to stand on its own.
Presented in 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen, this is a traditionally excellent transfer by Anchor Bay. There is hardly a single blemish to be found on the transfer, and considering the film's 31 year old age, that is a remarkable feat. Although the film is shot with a muted color scheme, there are times, most particularly in the restaurant scenes, where the reds look beautifully vibrant. The flesh tones and saturation are true, and the sharpness of the picture is uncharacteristically fine. Another overall great job by Anchor Bay.
The film is presented in only a Dolby Digital mono track, and it is quite underwhelming. It sounds fairly flat and muted, and lacks clarity when the loud shrills of the latter half occupy the soundtrack. The dialogue is clear and easy to hear, without distortions or background noise. On its own the track is a disappointment, but given the age and obscurity of the movie, such a transfer is to be expected.
Only a revealing theatrical trailer is included, and it is recommended that it be seen only after the film's viewing, because it does contain a large number of spoilers. There is also an interesting Peter Collinson biography included in the disc, and is worth a look. The menu screens are static and bland, which is uncharacteristic of Anchor Bay as of late.
Peter Collinson's Fright
is a stylish and well-made film that is arguably one of the first slasher films created. While there are hardly any deaths, the presentation is visibly similar to Halloween
, and the film's stalker resembles the one featured in When A Stranger Calls
. The video quality is top-notch, but the DVD's audio and supplements are lacking. For $19.98 though, this remains a good deal, and should please most horror fans. Recommended.
Movie - B+
Image Quality - A-
Sound - C
Supplements - C
- Running Time - 1 hour 27 minutes
- Rated R
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English Mono
- Peter Collinson biography
- Theatrical trailer