*** ½ Out of 5
Tagline- The Scream You Hear Is Your Own
Release Date- November, 1971
Running Time- 87-Minutes
Screenplay- Tudor Gates
Director- Peter Collinson
Starring- Susan George, Honor Blackman, Ian Bannen, John Gregson, George Cole
Fright was originally released in 1971 and John Carpenter’s Halloween is often compared to Fright as they both deal with an escaped mental patient stalking a babysitter and even has the mental patients doctor getting involved. However despite what many reviews may lead you to believe despite a couple of things in common both these films are also very different, but the movie I thought of during Fright was When a Stranger Calls and I think that would be a better comparison. Perhaps John Carpenter got some inspiration for Halloween from this movie, but again despite a couple of things in common these movies are both very different in the way they go about things.
While not a slasher film, Fright does have many of the elements we would later see in slasher flicks and I’m sure inspired many slasher flicks through the years and had this movie came out a few years later it probably would have played up to the slasher conventions a lot more. Amanda (George) shows up to babysit while the parents go out for the night, but soon somebody shows up at the house and begins to stalk Amanda and can this person be connected to the family Amanda is babysitting for?
The screenplay by Tudor Gates is well written and well-plotted and just might be the first babysitter in peril movie; while the backstory did sort of lack it however still works and the characters while not fully developed are strong enough to carry the movie. The identity of the killer is revealed a little too early on well I guess revealed is the right word since it’s not a whodunit or anything, but the killer is brought in way too early rather than the final act like say Friday the 13th, but seeing this movie isn’t about a killer murdering people right and left I suppose it would grow tiresome of having someone lurking in the shadows for the majority of the running time. Fright is the type of movie that doesn’t need a great screenplay, but a decent one and Gates delivers a good script nothing less and nothing more, but when all is said and done it does serve its purpose.
Director Peter Collinson does a very good job right from the opening by setting an eerie tone and many of these scenes are before the villain even shows up. By simple shots, Collinson is able to create some excellent suspense and tension and really sets an eerie tone. Visually this isn’t Dario Argento, but its simplicity at its finest. The first half of the movie is by far the strongest in terms of pacing and suspense and when the killer does show up (not before some false scares with someone else lurking around) it only makes the suspense and tension even stronger. However the 2nd half is when things start to get a little messy once the killer is brought into the movie and while the suspense and tension do sort of lack Peter Collinson still delivers a solid movie that just runs out of a little steam no fault to Peter Collinson or the writer Tudor Graves. Don’t go into Fright expecting a slasher flick, but a movie that features elements that would later be seen in slashers and while Fright isn’t action packed overall I thought Peter Collinson did an excellent job as the first half again is highly suspenseful and eerie and even if the 2nd half slightly lacks in these areas it’s still pretty good and gets the job done.
What helps keep Fright working well throughout is it does feature a strong cast and the actors are all very good, but it’s Susan George as the terrorized babysitter that really elevates this movie. While I haven’t seen a lot of her work I have seen enough to become a fan and she does a great job at carrying the movie and it doesn’t hurt that she was stunningly beautiful in this movie. Again the entire cast is all very good in their roles, but Susan George is the clear standout and was excellent.
Overall Fright was a solid if not a semi-disappointing movie that gets off to a really eerie start and while the 2nd half may not work as well Fright is still an excellent movie that deserves more attention than it gets.