Among the softer offerings from Britain’s Hammer Film Productions—although still quite gruesome in parts—Fear in the Night is an old-fashioned psychological thriller about a young woman who worries that she’s going mad because she repeatedly experiences assaults but cannot convince others that the assaults have occurred. The situation drives her to a paranoid frenzy, leading her to commit violence, so the film’s major narrative question is whether the circumstances are the result of malicious attackers, an odious conspiracy, or something supernatural. Unfortunately, not many viewers will feel invested in solving the central mystery of Fear in the Night, because the movie is far-fetched, repetitive, and slow-moving, problems accentuated by the overly polite and reserved performances of the actors comprising the small cast. As with most of Hammer’s pictures, Fear in the Night is an attractive film thanks to colorful photography and intricate set design, and the film also benefits from a supporting turn by Hammer regular Peter Cushing. Nonetheless, the picture is disposable.
In contemporary England, 22-year-old Peggy (Judy Geeson) leaves her job as a caregiver in a mental-health facility—where she once received treatment for a nervous breakdown—in order to join her new husband, Robert (Ralph Bates), at the remote boarding school where he teaches. Upon arrival, Peggy meets the school’s kindly old headmaster, Michael (Cuashing), and his sexy younger wife, Molly (Joan Collins), quickly deducing that all is not right. One rather large clue: Despite Michael acting as if school is in session, no students are present. All the while, Peggy suffers assaults—or delusions of assaults—during which she’s grabbed by a one-armed man. Cowritten, produced, and directed by Hammer stalwart Jimmy Sangster, Fear in the Night strives for complexity, instead delivering underwhelming results thanks to silly contrivances and thin characterizations. Still, the movie has a couple of adequate jolts, some imaginative imagery, and an enjoyably overwrought finale during which everything that came before is explained in almost laughable detail.
Fear in the Night: FUNKY