Though this British director’s work has often been criticized in the past-a plight similar to that of our beloved Uncle Jess, a.k.a. Spain’s Jesus Franco-a less critically jaded, revisionist eye reveals that Pete Walker’s 70s work remains a staple in over the top, lovably evocative British horror.
Though Pete Walker hasn’t been a prominent figure in the scene since the early 80s, the man’s limited output has aged surprisingly well in the computer generated age; a fantastic reminder of just how atmospheric these admittedly over the top films could be, and a true example of getting the most done for your budget.
Frightmare one of Walker’s best films, and a twisted example of British shock cinema at its best and most creepy. The film deals with the typical English family structure…only with a salaciously UN-typical twist: Mummy dearest is actually a murderous fiend with a taste for human flesh.
The film opens up with a chillingly successful black and white sequence of Mother (played by Sheila Keith, a Walker staple) being sentenced to a asylum with her husband-accomplice before fast forwarding many years later to the couple’s two daughters, played by the lovely Deborah Fairfax and Kim Butcher. The Butcher character of Debbie is a troubled teen prone to violence and delinquency, placed in the care of elder daughter Jackie-a product of the husband’s previous marriage-while both parents live in a comparatively serene, post-asylum country home.
It isn’t long before things begin to go awry, and people begin winding up dead, however, and what follows is a legitimately suspenseful and shock-filled ride through the human mind’s most depraved recesses. Walker manages, as usual, to get a surprisingly high level of sympathy and emotional availability from his actors-we genuinely care about how the whole thing is going to end-and leaves the audience guessing from twist to turn about what’s going to happen next in this dysfunctional family world.
The music of Stanley Meyers provides wonderful orchestral accompaniment to all the nefarious skulduggery going on here, while the film’s bright and rich colours strike an amazing contrast between all of the big city hustle-bustle scenes and the typical, pastoral English countryside.
For your money, the films of Pete Walker-four of which were released in a killer box set by Shriek Show a couple years back-are a worthy addition to any horror collection, and a chilling reminder of how far a good story, honest performances anda chilling atmosphere can take the viewer, when placed under capable hands.
Written by MetalGeorge