In the 1950s, Dorothy Yates (an iconic performance from Sheila Keith) tempts lonely people to her caravan for fortune-telling. But she isn’t looking to get rich from it; she’s looking to feed off them – killing them, then eating their body parts.
Devoted husband Edmund (Rupert Davies) aids her in her cannibal nastiness before they’re found out after killing Barry Nichols (Andrew Sachs).
Escaping the death penalty and sent to a mental institution, the pair are eventually allowed back into society in the 1970s – when it is deemed they are no longer a danger to society – and take up residence on a remote farm.
Back in London, Edmund’s daughter Jackie (Deborah Fairfax) struggles to have a social life while looking after her delinquent 15-year-old half-sister Debbie (Kim Butcher) and secretly visiting her parents, dropping off animal brains bought from the butcher’s shop to keep her stepmother’s urges at bay.
It all seems to be working until Dorothy suddenly starts to tempt lonely people to the house for readings. Has she really been cured, and has Debbie developed the same urges as her mother?
Critics bashed Frightmare in early reviews, citing not only the violent content – a drilling, a pitch-forking, a hot poker impalement and a dead guy with an eye missing from the socket – but also seeing the film as a harsh statement against the justice system’s failures. Rupert Davies (in his final film appearance) was singled out for special attention by outraged critics, appalled by his involvement in such ‘lowbrow’ material. The controversy only helped the film to become a bigger success.
Brilliantly made and cleverly written, Frightmare is a true British exploitation classic.