When you think about British horror of the 1970s, you probably think of posh scream queens yelling their way through slightly shonky melodrama. And when you sit down to watch Peter Collinson’s 1971 shocker Fright, that’s exactly what you get. But the entire thing is done with such a sense of self-aware silliness and a real infusion of dark fun that it becomes a genuinely enjoyable ride. Arriving on Blu-ray in the UK this week via Studiocanal, it’s well worth an hour and a half of your time on any given evening.
Susan George is Amanda, who is babysitting for wealthy couple Helen (Honor Blackman) and Dr. Cordell (John Gregson) while they go out for a meal. There’s clearly some tension between the couple and it’s evident that Helen’s former husband Brian (Ian Bannen) might have something to do with it. Cordell states sadly that, although he’s geographically far away, he “seems to be there all the time” in Helen’s mind. Back at the house, Amanda’s doofus boyfriend Chris (Dennis Waterman) turns up, but there are strange noises surrounding the house and she is very much on edge.
There’s very little that’s big or clever about Fright, which is an enjoyably campy home invasion horror with some nasty gore and impressively stylish tension building. Collinson’s direction is engaging and creepy, with even a scene as harmless as the Cordells dancing transformed into a work of tension by the camera, which seems to stalk the couple from the outskirts of the dance floor. The material is trash, but there’s a sophistication in the trickery behind the camera.
George is excellent in the lead role, mastering the dying art of the perfect horror movie scream and delivering a defiant performance as a woman driven by her responsibility to protect a child who isn’t even hers. The standout, though, is Bannen as the tormented Brian who, it won’t be a surprise to know, eventually shows up at the house with a fractured mind and violent intent. Collinson loves a close-up on Bannen’s eyes, which seem to exude sinister evil, and utilises some impressively smooth effects work to flit between reality and what Brian perceives.
The supporting turns are great too, from Blackman’s grief-stricken mother to Dennis Waterman as the scumbag boyfriend – very much the goofy Ron Weasley to George’s Hermione Granger. Fright is a movie with a colourful collage of characters who, crucially, are interesting and three-dimensional enough that there’s a real emotional connection when the tension ratchets up and the stakes rise to life or death levels, en route to a genuinely surprising climax.
This film is a tonne of fun and comes with a delicious package of extras on the new Blu-ray, including an interview with critic and horror specialist Kim Newman. He’s always good to add a few films to your watchlist, and the detailed chat with him provides great context for the movie. This is a disc that’s well worth adding to your collection.
Dir: Peter Collinson
Scr: Tudor Gates
Cast: Susan George, Honor Blackman, Ian Bannen, George Cole, Dennis Waterman, John Gregson, Maurice Kaufmann, Roger Lloyd Pack, Michael Brennan
Prd: Harry Fine, Michael Style
DOP: Ian Wilson
Music: Harry Robertson
Run time: 119 mins
Fright is available on a new DVD and Blu-ray in the UK from 14th October.