Frightmare 1974 ***

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More Tony Tenser movies on Flick Vault, the HD You Tube channel for off-the-wall movies; this one is from Pete Walker, the British film-maker who single-handedly created his own distinct horror imprint in the 1970’s. Frightmare has probably never looked as good as this; a tricky little tale of cannibals at work in the SW10 area of London, Frightmare is worth a look for genre aficionados by dint of a patient script and a remarkably over-qualified cast.

A mom-and–pop cannibal couple go to jail in 1957 for unspeakable acts; in 1974, Edmund (Rupert Davies) and Dorothy (Sheila Keith) may well be up to their old tricks now that they’ve done their time. Edmund’s daughter Jackie (Deborah Fairfax) suspects that her dad isn’t keeping to a strict vegan diet and smuggles animal brains to them, pretending to be feeding their cannibal impulse. Jackie’s step-sister Debbie (Kim Butcher) is a rebellious teen pushing to get out from under her wing, while psychologist Graham (Paul Greenwood) in romantically interested in Jackie, but realises that there’s something strange in her family life.

For British movie fans, there’s more than a few attractive names here; Rupert Davies was known for his Inspector Maigret, while Paul Greenwood was a household name in the early eighties for his portrayal of whimsical copper Rosie. Keith was also a regular in Walker’s films, and the level of acting seen here is impressive, particularly given the potential for low-brow sleaze in the subject matter. There’s a couple of excellent scenes, notably a tense tarot card reading during which Graham’s attempt to deceive the suspicious Dorothy begins to fragment under pressure. Oscar nominee Leo Genn also has a role, although the square stylings of Graham’s old man specs and retro sports–jacket combination are the real stars here.

Walker’s films have been somewhat neglected by tv programmers, but have gained a cult following, and Frightmare is a prime facie example of why is work is worth exhuming. Sure, some of the detail is rather nasty, but this kind of realistic horror was non-recurring phenomenon, and horror completists will want to seek out and savour this pungent sample of British kitchen-sink gruesomeness.