review for Frightmare on AllMovie

Frightmare (1974)
by Donald Guarisco review

Although he had previous delved into the horror genre, Frightmare is the film that truly made the case for Pete Walker as an English genre auteur. His script takes a clever approach, rooting its horror elements into a fairly convincing portrait of a dysfunctional family. Thus, when the horror elements rise to the surface, they have a genuinely queasy power. Walker's direction has a nice, unfussy sense of style to it, effectively evoking the atmosphere of English life to create an interesting backdrop for the story's unnerving events. Peter Jessop's sharp lensing and a subtle, melodic score from Stanley Myers are helpful in creating this mood. However, it's the performances that really drive it all home: Deborah Fairfax underplays nicely as the sympathetic heroine while Kim Butcher eagerly digs into a showier role as her troublesome younger sister and Rupert Davies brings a palpable sense of sorrow to his role as the guilty, enabling husband. That said, Sheila Keith delivers the performance that is likely to stick in the viewer's mind as the crazed mother: she veers back and forth between childlike confusion and pure malice with skill and her growing madness in the film's latter phases is likely to give viewers a chill. In short, Frightmare is a potent little chiller that is worth a look to horror fans in search of suitably grim fare from the 1970's and a worthy testament to Pete Walker's distinctive genre skills.