WRITER: Screenplay by David McGillivray
Original story by Pete Walker
DIRECTOR: Pete Walker
STARRING: Rupert Davies as Edmund Yates
Sheila Keith as Dorothy Yates
Deborah Fairfax as Jackie
Paul Greenwood as Graham
Kim Butcher as Debbie
Fiona Curzon as Merle
Noel Johnson as The Judge
Jon Yule as Robin
Michael Sharvell-Martin as The Barman
QUICK CUT: When a couple gets released from a mental institution and are reunited with their children, can the body count be far behind?
Dorothy - A few crisps short of a bag, she was convicted in the 50s for murdering a few people who came to get their misfortune told. She seems like a kindly woman most of the time, but when triggered, she becomes a brutal madwoman.
Edmund - Dorothy's husband, who will do anything to protect his wife and children. Woe unto him if those two interests clash.
Jackie - Their eldest daughter, who knows the truth about her parents, and is helping Edmund take care of Dorothy. She works in broadcasting doing makeup, and is generally a good daughter trying to look out for her family.
Debbie - Jackie's sister, and a typical teenaged hooligan. She runs with a bad crowd, dates the bad boy, and spends most of her nights on the streets causing trouble before coming home and causing a headache for her sister.
Graham - A psychology student who has taken an interest in Jackie, and once he hears about the troubled teen, tries to help Debbie out.
THE GUTS: Oh god, Frightmare 2? There's a second one? Wait, it came out in '74? Nine years before the first?! I am somehow sure this is all the Doctor's fault with his timey wimey BS, isn't it?
Anyways, Frightmare 2 (sic) starts off all black and white, because they had yet to discover colour in 1950s England, I suppose. But they had discovered carnivals by then, and those had already fallen out of favour, as this one is completely empty, save for one guy hunting for a trailer.
Barry came all this way looking for help, but all he gets for his trouble is the last few moments of his life being spent in a crappy little trailer, in a crappy empty carnival, in crappy London.
The film cuts from Barry's beaten skull to a trial for Edmund and Dorothy Yates, and the pair of them get sentenced to time in an institution until they're deemed mentally sound. Since they chose to appear in this movie, I declare their sanity questionable, at best.
Which brings us to the present day! Where London has at last been colourised and some bikers are making a stop at a local pub to be told not to cause trouble. Yeah, that'll happen.
That advice lasts all of ten seconds, as one of them sends Debbie to get a drink, but she won't be served because she's underage. She whines back to Alec and tells him the server called her names. Cue the show of masculinity!
Outside, Alec and friends wait for the barman to finish his shift and harass him some more. The whole gang plays pigpile on him when he comes out, until someone else from the bar comes outside to see what the ruckus is all about, and calls for help. The gang vrooms off, except for the girl, who probably wants to get that drink now.
In a nice sense of symmetry, although pointless, we see Jackie's dinner party going their seperate ways as well. And that's when our plots come crashing together, thankfully, as Debbie from the bar is sisters with Jackie from the party.
Back at the scene of Debbie's crime, the police are asking questions, and looking for the barman who has mysteriously disappeared. But the bobbies do find a spot of...well, they call it blood.
Later, Jackie sneaks out like Debbie was accusing her sister of doing, and I gotta say, it looks awfully bright for 2am, or any time even remotely close. But I digress. She drives off into the more rural areas of town, and is dropping off a package. The door mysteriously opens, and Jackie creeps around inside before finding the person she came there to meet, and apologises for being late.
We find out the man is Edmund from the courtroom, all better and sane, and he has Dorothy under his care, who may be trying to trick him into making him think she's all better. And to add on top of that, we learn that they are the parents of Jackie and Debbie, a secret that they've been keeping from the younger sibling.
After they hand Dorothy her bloody package of whatever it is, Jackie heads back home, and the movie zooms in on her face. Suddenly, she's on a train instead of a car, and her mother is staring at her and trying to give back the bloody package. I'm not sure if this is a flashback or fr...nightmare.
Turns out to be a nightmare, as Jackie is woken up the next day by some inspectors at her door, looking for her sister. Surprise, they have questions about the curbstomping of the barman. And gasp, surprise, she lies about it some more, with a whole new version of the story.
Later, Jackie rushes off to meet her dad when he calls her at work. While those two meet to discuss Dorothy some more, she gets a visit from a young woman for a tarot reading. Oh, a fortune being read by a crazy person, nothing can go wrong there.
Just once, I'd like to see a tarot reading in a movie or show that doesn't involve the death card. It is such a cheap stunt for tension, especially since it's not a literal meaning of death. Which, naturally, is ALWAYS pointed out. And then becomes literal anyways.
Meanwhile, Edmund and Jackie are still discussing just how much Dorothy knows about what's going on. Well, if she's a good tarot reader, she knows everything, right? Right?? Dad wants Jackie to stop by again and talk with mom, but she's putting her foot down and would rather go on a date than stop her crazy momma from whatever. Even after her dad shows her bloody stuff in the trunk.
But Jackie feels guilty during her date and bails on Graham the psychiatrist, leaving him to wander on home to his roomies making out, while she sneaks off into the night.
Graham finds out all about Jackie's troubled sister from her coworker in the make-up department, and they decide what Debbie needs is a psychiatrist. Graham heads out to offer his services, thinking that Jackie is at home, but she's not where she said and...did I step into a 1980s sitcom?
Jackie decides to push her mother on her strange behaviour, and I just love how she has zero tact in it, and comes right out and asks Dorothy if she's well. Yes, because crazy people don't lie. They try to find out if she's started telling fortunes again, like she did back in the day with Barry, and show her the tarot cards. I laugh that in this movie, tarot cards are some form of foul contraband.
"Where did you get these? Who taught you to tell fortunes?" "I learned it from watching YOU!!"
Dorothy's surprisingly candid about what she's been up to, and seems genuinely confused by any accusations of wrong-doing. She just wants to help the lonely people in town, not kill them.
But then things get interesting. Dorothy is all blubbery, and blurts out that they've taken her baby away from her, her only child, and she doesn't even know that her mother exists. Well well. Is that Jackie, or Debbie? Why doesn't mom remember Jackie calling her that? Are they both her kids and she's just confused. Colour me actually intrigued!
Meanwhile, Graham has stopped by and found Debbie to chat with her. She seems to open up to him, but with her history, I have to wonder just how much is BS and how much it is genuine conversation. Once Jackie comes back home, it's not at all surprising how quickly the kid turns back to her old self and bolts out the door. It is interesting that Graham takes Debbie's side in all this.
Back at the Crazy Fun Time Ranch, Momma Nutjob is skulking about with a lantern, and finds her way to a room full of hay, under which is buried the body of the poor girl who just wanted a tarot reading. See what I mean about that death card?
Then things get weird, as Dorothy gets out a drill and goes to town on the poor girl. Or so I assume, since we just see the blood splattering on dotty Dotty's face. And the glee she shows, the joy...it almost comes across as orgasmic. It is quite off putting.
After Graham gives his expert opinion on Jackie to her sister, trying to get the girl some help and answers about her past, we jump over to see where our wayward youth went. She's been busy meeting up with Alec at an abandoned storage place where she has a car stashed and OH SWEET KAUFMAN! There's the barman's head in the boot of the car. Alec is about as surprised as I am to see the bloody thing, and Jackie seems to be taking after mommy dearest.
Graham gets in touch with the people in charge of the place where the Yates were locked away, but we jump back to the Tarot Death Hut where Dorothy has another client. And gasp, surprise. She turns over the Death card again. I call shennanigans.
During the reading, Dorothy shifts from kindly old fortune teller to crazed old psychotic, and the shift is...well, it's kinda wonderful. The sense of menace, of danger, that she gives off is palpable, and I kinda love it. She refuses to continue the reading, and throws the money back in her client's face, and you just know things are only going to get worse.
And they do! The poor girl tries to escape, finding every door out locked. She franticaly scurries about, but Dorothy just stands where she was laughing quietly. Again, just so menacing. Finally, Deliah stops running, her options exhausted, and Dorothy grabs the fireplace poker.
And of course, that's when Edmund comes home, catching Dorothy in the act, and with blood all over her face. She comes clean, so to speak, and even admits its not the first.
Now, since this isn't the first body, Edmund wants to know where the heck they've been going. We get the answer not from Dorothy, but from the head of the asylum telling Graham, as we all learn that she was a cannibal. Now, that's a nice little twist, and just adds even more to the creepiness of Dorothy. Although, that still leaves the question of where the skeletons went, but I digress.
The doctor goes on about Dorothy's history. He tells Graham about how she lost a pet as a child, and her parents used it for food, since the Depression was in full swing. This twisted Dorothy's way of thinking, making her associate death with eating, and she began dissecting other animals, particularly interested in their brains. That's when Edmund enters the scene, helping her, in more ways than one, to help her control her urges, and find new bodies to feed her curiosity and hunger.
We get further infodump, clearing up that Jackie was Edmund's child from a previous marriage, and Debbie IS Dorothy's only child. Things begin to make more and more sense. Which is a nice change of pace. The doctor also tries to sell us on Edmund being the more interesting patient, because he was so completely devoted to his wife that he would cover things up, help her, etc. Yes, that is much more interesting than eating people!
And we learn a new word, cannibanthropy!
After getting way too much information, we cut to something way more interesting with the Yates checking out Dorothy's collection of bodies. Naturally, Edmund isn't going to tell anyone, as the doctor just explained. I am amused that he asks if they're all here. Now, he could just mean are all the victims here, but part of me wonders if he isn't asking if the bodies are intact.
When her sister finds bloody clothes, the truth comes out about Debbie's body in the car, and Jackie tells Graham about it. Now, we're being told that Alec struck the fatal blow, but...that doesn't sound right. Now, we didn't actually SEE how he died, but...with this family? And Debbie's history? Yeah, the cops pretty much agree with me upon seeing the body.
Not surprisingly, Debbie has run off once the cops show up to ask her a few questions. Moment of amusement, Jackie says her closet has been emptied, and we cut to Debbie and Alec escaping on a motorbike. Yeah, where'd her stuff go? Ah well.
Debbie and Alec wind up at her parents' place, because that's where all wayward teens end up when they're on the run. Edmund is surprised to see her, but it seems she's been visiting for awhile, and she claims that Jackie told her. Yeah, sure she did. Debbie could say the sun is shining at high noon, and I wouldn't believe her at this point.
While the family reunion is going on, Alec stumbles into the barn or whatever where the hay is, and finds the bits and pieces of Dorothy's victims. His discovery doesn't last long though, when the two women find him, and Dorothy stabs him in the face places with a pitchfork.
That's when Jackie tells Graham about her little packages she's been delivering to mom; animal brains she's been picking up from the butcher. Her mom thought Jackie was doing the killing for her, and they all thought the fake people brains were keeping her satiated, but once she found out, Dorothy went looking for better food.
Back at the ranch, Edmund is covering up the latest body, literaly, and wanting to know how many more it will take until things can start fresh, without the killing. Debbie insists that they only need to kill Jackie. And yeah, that makes dad a none to Keen Eddie over killing his own daughter.
Graham shows up to get a reading, almost bullying Edmund who is very reluctant to let him in. And with all the bodies piling up, who can blame him?
Amazingly enough, the spread does NOT have the death card. Which is probably good for Graham. Of course, since he showed up calling them the Yates and they've been living under another name, Dorothy knows he's lying, and starts getting angry, death card or no. Debbie comes down and exposes Graham for who he is, and says he's there to take them back to the crazy house. Which sends Dorothy off the deep(er) end.
With only five minutes or so left to this movie, it's time to get everyone together and wrap things up, so Debbie calls Jackie down to the farm so we can get on with this.
She dutifully arrives down at the farm and finds her father stumbling around in the dark (Noo! Don't start calling out names!) and saying how they know the truth. Debbie told them, and they don't trust Jackie anymore. She turns the lights on, and sees this awful gash down her father's face from Dorothy.
Edmund says he has passed the torch on to taking care of Dorothy on to Debbie, and that they are far more alike than anyone suspected. Well, anyone except for the audience. I can't say I'm surprised to find they're both crazy people. The only surprise now is if Debbie likes a little bit of long pig now and again as well.
So it's no big surprise when Jackie heads upstairs and finds the girls slicing and stabbing at Graham's head like he's a life sized voodoo doll. Jackie freaks out, naturally, and the girls come at her with knifes while daddy dearest blocks the only door out of the attic, all of them believing Jackie sold out her family to the psychiatric insitution.
And so the movie ends on a downer, with all the good people dead, and the crazy people winning. There's a nice ironic callback to the sentencing from the start of the movie, saying they would never be released until there's no doubt they'd ever be a danger. Good job, legal system!
Video: This movie looks good. There's a lot of dimly lit scenes, some besides fires, where I think the flames are the only lighting, but even in the near dark, everything is pretty visible. The colours are maybe a bit too bright at times, but that could just be the time period. Everything seemed to be, well, technicolor.
Audio: A very solid stereo mix that has everything sounding good all around. Although it does get echoy at times, I again suspect that's just a product of the filming locations.
Special Features: A very good commentary by the writer/director and a film historian that gives some good insights into the movie and the controversies that arose when it came out.
First Blood: Poor Barry gets it just a mere few minutes in when Dorothy drills into his skull off screen.
Best Corpse: The Barman, hands down. The makeup job on his brutalised face is amazing, and you can really see the marks from the bike chain they claim was used on him. Very nice.
Blood Type - B: What? Just a B? Well, there is blood, but it's almost a cartoony red shade, and in truth, most of the violence happens off screen. Which makes it a little more terrifying, but cuts down on the gore a bit. Unless you have a mangled barman face!
Sex Appeal: A couple breasts dance through the movie here and there.
Movie Review: You know what? I really like this movie. It's well made, well shot, and has a story to tell, and tells it. The acting, especially from the elder Yates, is amazing. Even more so from Dorothy. The way she switches from confused mother to crazy psycho is just...wow. And she sells the creepiness so well. Even the daughters are very good, and it's a shame they haven't done much else. Graham! Even Graham! He could have just been a bland boyfriend to use for psychological exposition, but he has heart, and charm, and comes across very well. But I digress. The movie is all around solid, and deals with, for the time, some pretty dark, and unique subject matter. Even today, there aren't that many stories about insane families and cannibalism, outside of Texas. Most of the versions are mentally challenged hillbillies, but these people are functioning members of society, to some degree, and not the sort you'd expect to be insane. The movie is a little cheesy, but it's from the 70s. This was an overall well made, fun movie, that I am glad I stumbled upon. Four out of five pig brains.
Entertainment Value: And the entertainment value is not diminished by the quality. It doesn't have laughably over the top performances, although Dorothy chews a little scenery, and so does Debbie, but having such a well rounded cast with good performances, is always a treat to watch. The kills are fun and shot in such a way that you don't see much of what's happening, leaving your imagination to fill in the holes, which I appreciate. It's the situations that are messed up and enthralling to view, not the performances. The entertainment value drops a little from that, but not enough to matter. Four out of five tarot cards.
Fun Fact: The movie was originally known as Cover-Up, and had some small cult status. But in the 80s, when Frightmare somehow hit some level of notoriety, and video stores were in full swing, this movie was released as Frightmare 2, to capitalise on the name. Why this movie of all things, who knows?