Frightmare (1974)

Viewed January 3rd

In this low budget cult film directed by Pete Walker, a cannibalistic murderess sent to a mental institution is released back into 1970s British society and almost immediately reverts back to her "feasts."

An enjoyably twisted exploitation story anchored by the British horror icon Sheila Keith. When Keith is on-screen, the images seem more intentional and shimmering; she inhabits the world in front of the lens as a perverse take on a movie star. By "movie star," I follow Stanley Cavell (or my memory of reading Stanley Cavell) in referring to an otherwise normal person whose inner being becomes externalized and, in turn, mythic when they stand in front of a camera. Keith's myth is the uptight, middle-class, middle-aged British lady who's gone a bit unhinged. The director situates his star in a complementary middle-class British milieu and the workmanlike but no-frills visual style allows the background clothing, architecture, street signs, and interior decor to fill out the world of the film, allowing the deeper middle-class anxieties (dark Led Zeppelin-style hippies run amuck, liberal psychology usurping common sense law and order) to solidify that sense of modern myth. When Keith is not on-screen, things are less exciting and, generally, as horror it could perhaps have been pushed further, but it's a potent document of its time with a great star and director team.