Proving that John Carpenter and his collaborators on Halloween (1971) weren’t the first people to juxtapose babysitters and psychopaths, the passable British thriller Fright stars Susan George as Amanda, a sexy teen tasked with watching a young boy on the night a killer lays siege to the boy’s home. Eventually, it becomes clear that the invader is actually the boy’s father, Brian (Ian Bannen), a nutter who just escaped from the loony bin. He’s been incarcerated ever since he tried to kill the boy and his mother, Brian’s now-ex-wife, Helen (Honor Blackman). On the night during which the movie takes place, Helen and her new husband try to enjoy their first evening out since the original Brian episode, so, of course, their departure coincides with Brian’s return. Director Peter Collinson, an eclectic storyteller who made a handful of tense thrillers in addition to action movies and dramas, helms Fright competently, layering on exactly the elements one might expect to find in a picture of this sort. The camera angles are low and shadowy, the jolts are cheap and sudden, and the atmosphere is laden with sex.
George spends the entire movie in a purple minidress, her tan legs on constant display, and for a good portion of the picture, the front of her dress is torn open, making her white brassiere a de facto costar. And while George’s performance is merely adequate—she’s best when expressing a mixture of disgust and fear while being violated—her sexiness compensates somewhat for her dramatic shortcomings. Bannen’s performance is florid but imbued with sympathetic tonalities, so even though he’s playing a cartoonish madman, it’s possible to feel for his anguished plight. And the elegant Ms. Blackman, best known for playing Pussy Galore in the 007 classic Goldfinger (1964), acquits herself well in a one-note role. However, Fright isn’t particularly frightening, though it’s certainly creepy; in particular, the transgressive moment when Brian assaults Amanda while thinking she’s actually Helen is enough to make any viewer uncomfortable. Plus, the complicated implications of the ending retroactively add a bit of substance to the rest of the picture.