Jessica (Zohra Lampert) was recently released from a psychiatric institution after having had a nervous breakdown. She and her husband Duncan (Barton Heyman) sell everything and move from New York City. They purchase an apple farm in upstate New York. The couple’s friend Woody (Kevin O’Connor) comes with them to help out for a while to get the farm and orchard in shape. While passing through the nearby town of Brookfield to get to the property they get a cold welcome from the town residents. Since their mode of transportation is an old hearse, they aren’t surprised.
The farm has a large farmhouse and was once owned by the Bishop family. When they enter the house, they find a squatter. She says her name is Emily (Mariclare Costello) and she’s been living in the house believing it was abandoned. Since it is late, they invite Emily to have dinner and stay the night. The next day they see that Woody is interested in Emily and she seems to be interested in him. Jessica is up for having some girl company, so they decide to invite her to say on at the house.
Duncan and Jessica need money, so they scrounge around the farm looking for things to sell. One of the items is a silver framed picture of the original owners of the farm. It is a portrait of Mr. and Mrs. Bishop and their daughter Abigail. They take the items to an antique store run by Sam Dorker (Alan Manson). He tells them that the farm they bought is said to be haunted by Abigail Bishop. Abigail drowned in 1880 in the nearby cove the day before her wedding. Local legend says she is still in the lake and roaming through the nearby woods as a vampire.
As strange things start to happen, Jessica begins to see a young girl (Gretchen Corbett) wandering around the woods trying to warn her of something evil. Jessica doesn’t know if the girl is real or if she is, once again, having a breakdown. Jessica starts to feel alone realizing the Duncan is attracted to the unusual Emily. A young woman that strangely looks similar to the long dead Abigail Bishop.
“Let's Scare Jessica to Death” was released in 1971 and was co-written and directed by John Hancock. It is an American independent horror film with psychological horror undertones and is a bit of a vampire movie. The film has a ton of atmosphere but is a little slow going. The ambiguous ending is equal parts eerie, fascinating and frustrating. It is an unusual vampire movie.
The movie was filmed in several locations in Connecticut. The exterior shots used to represent the Bishop house were of a house in Old Saybrook, Connecticut called the Piontkowski House. The house was built in 1875. The interior shots were of the E.E. Dickinson Mansion in Essex, Connecticut.
Although the film didn’t do well during its theatrical release, it has since garnered a cult following. In 2006, the Chicago Film Critics Association voted the film as one of the scariest films ever made.