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Review and Exclusive Artwork by Mark Satchwill

1957: Dorothy Yates is committed to a mental institution for a series
of sadistic murders involving cannibalism. Her husband Edmund (Rupert
Davies) is committed for his part in covering up her crimes. 15 years
later they are released, apparently cured, and they set up house in a
farmhouse in the country. However, Edmund’s daughter from a previous
marriage, Jackie (Deborah Fairfax), regularly arrives with “packages”
for Dorothy, and Dorothy has started advertising her tarot readings
again. Jackie herself has problems with Edmund and Dorothys biological
daughter (her half-sister) Debbie (Kim Butcher), who is curious to
find out more about her parents and seems to be developing a sadistic
streak of her own…

Pete Walker’s 1974 shocker is a genuinely disturbing piece of sadistic
cinema. The film takes a swipe at psychiatry and the medical
establishment (who think that Dorothy is cured of her “illness”). It’s
no coincidence that Dorothy’s victims are lonely people whose therapy
is to go to her for some comfort from “superstitious” tarot cards, or
that a psychiatrist becomes one of her victims.

It’s also about “family” – the sacrifices made for family and what
people will do to keep their family together and protect their loved
ones. The film takes a gleeful pleasure in the perversion of this
idea, culminating in the disturbing final scene. The films male
characters are nearly all rather weak, easily manipulated and
dominated by the female characters.

At the film’s core is the performance of Sheila Keith as Dorothy -
sly, manipulative and cruel, she totally dominates both her family and
the screen whenever she is on it. While the murders (involving hot
pokers, pitchforks and electric drills) are nasty, the gore is fairly
minimal – it’s Dorothy’s facial expressions of bloodlust and pleasure
while committing the dreadful acts that provides the real unsettling
horror. Watch her face as she approaches her final victim, it’s almost
inhuman – brilliant stuff.

Frightmare is a great British horror movie that, while a little slow
to get going, packs a nasty punch, especially in the final half an
hour. Well worth viewing!

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Mark Satchwill

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