Frightmare – UK, 1974 – overview and more reviews



Frightmare is a 1974 British horror feature film directed by Pete Walker from a screenplay co-written with David McGillivray (House of Mortal SinHouse of WhipcordSatan’s Slave). Tony Tenser was the executive producer.


The movie stars Rupert DaviesSheila Keith. Deborah Fairfax, Paul Greenwood, Kim Butcher, Fiona Curzon, Jon Yule, Tricia Mortimer, Leo Genn (Die Screaming Marianne), Gerald Flood. Andrew Sachs, also in Walker’s House of Mortal Sin, has a minor role.


In an isolated farmhouse, a woman named Dorothy Yates lives with her husband. Dorothy has just been released from a mental institution after it was found she was a cannibal who killed and partially ate at least six people in 1957. Her husband, Edmund Yates was convicted as well but we come to find out that he only faked his dementia in order to remain with his wife. He was a truly devoted husband who loved his wife dearly but really had nothing to do with the actual murders in 1957 and in the present.

1974: It seems as if Dorothy has had a severe relapse. She secretly lures lonely young people to her Haslemere, Surrey home, promising tea and a tarot card reading, only with the session ending with a violent murder and “feast”…


Redemption/Kino Lorber Blu-ray Special Features:

  • “For the Sake of Cannibalism,” an interview with Pete Walker, by Elijah Drenner
  • Audio commentary by director Pete Walker and DP Peter Jessop, conducted by Steve Chibnall, author of Making Mischief: The Cult Films of Pete Walker
  • “Sheila Keith: A Nice Old Lady?” a profile of the late actress, featuring interviews with her former collaborators
  • Original theatrical trailer

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Reviews [click links to read more]:

“The quality of the acting is variable, even though the cast boasts a number of familiar faces from 1970s British TV (Paul Greenwood, Fiona Curzon, Tommy Wright, Michael Sharvell-Martin), and while the storyline doesn’t stand up to even the slightest scrutiny, it’s clear that Walker and McGillivray don’t really care — they just want to deliver the scares.” 20/20 Movie Reviews

Frightmare is an effective horror film because of its creeping sense of dread. Director Pete Walker delivers an atmospheric film with believable performances and a shocking ending. The screenplay by David McGillivray keeps the dialogue grounded and turns what could have been a camp premise into a genuine chiller.” Battleship Pretension

Frightmare is a marvel of effectively layered techniques. It’s genuinely shocking (the climax/ending most prominently), embossed with slight social concepts (nature vs. nurture, failings of the justice system), and filled with terrific direction (intentionally abrupt edits, lively camera work).” Bleeding Skull!

“Walker isn’t making a particularly tasteful film, but the movie’s shock shots are few and far between, mostly concerning facial wounds captured in loving detail. The lack of gore is somewhat disappointing, as Walker is good with grotesque reveals, but he makes for the absence of the obvious with unsettling shots of blood-soaked packages and scenes of Dorothy conducting creepy business at home, adding tension when necessary.’

“The entire cast of new and familiar faces are adequate but Sheila Keith really stands out as the seemingly feeble but insanely lethal mad mama, Dorothy. She is a Walker regular but this is her first starring role and she relishes in the insanity of the part. Kim Butcher (who two years later would be cast alongside Keith in Walker’s The Confessional) is nice eye candy but she doesn’t get naked or anything exciting.” Cinesploitation


“Aside from the clever story by McGillivray and Walker, what makes Frightmare so good is the performance by Sheila Keith as Dorothy. Keith, who appeared in a total of five outings for Walker, has an outward grandmother-like appearance, and she brilliantly plays it up as a seemingly sweet old lady ready to snap at any moment, as her character often does.” DVD Drive-In

“Walker’s direction is sharper than usual here, as he paces the film really deliberately but doesn’t slow things down too much at all. He uses the effective and sufficiently grisly gore set-pieces as accents to the horror that comes out of the story, while the cinematography from Peter Jessop does a really good job of becoming more and more claustrophobic as the film reaches its dire and unholy conclusion.” DVD Talk

“The pacing is uneven; while the scenes dealing with the main thrust of the narrative are handled with confidence and conviction, there is some padding along the way that detracts from the overall effect. True, the central image of bloodthirsty Sheila Keith is unstoppable, yet the film never manages to be as disturbing as his later The Confessional.” Eccentric Cinema

” …it unsettles you by allowing you to spend a lot of time with the cannibalistic family itself, and these are people you don’t want to spend a great deal of time with. It’s not quite as effective as the Tobe Hooper movie; it’s a lot more predictable, for one thing, and some of the shocking revelations aren’t exactly surprising, as the shocks are somewhat telegraphed. Still, it has its moments…” Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings

Frightmare certainly seems dated and is admittedly a little rough around the edges in places but it still packs a wallop, even today, and comes highly recommended as what is very possibly Walker’s finest film. And, as a final treat, is topped off with an ending which, on first watching might seem a little abrupt, but is in-fact chilling, unexpected and deliciously cruel; which was to become something of a trademark for its director.” Hysteria Lives!




“Walker cleverly subverts expectations by pointing out that corruption stems not from the “free” swinging lifestyle shown at the beginning of the film, but rather from barbaric familial practices spread down from one generation to another and which fester right under the noses of polite society.” Mondo Digital

“an exceptionally nasty and depressing little movie … One of the first British horror films to match the callousness of the American independents, Frightmare may not be Walker’s best movie, but it remains his most upsetting.” Kim Newman, Nightmare Movies


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“It’s an undoubtedly pulpy story and there’s not a subtle moment to be found in the entire film but it doesn’t matter.  Frightmare is properly named because it is pure nightmare fuel.  This is a film that works both as a family melodrama and a satire on the trust that people put into authority (the authorities said that Dorothy was sane so, everyone assumes, she must be) but ultimately, this is an intense and frightening little film.” Through the Shattered Lens

“It’s just a shame that Walker takes almost forever to get to the good stuff.  There are still a number of effective sequences here.  You just wish that Walker hadn’t been trying to be so damned proper and respectable.  If he was willing to let his hair down and allow things to get a little nasty.” The Video Vacuum

Choice dialogue:

“Nasty, innit?”

Cast and characters:

  • Rupert Davies … Edmund Yates
  • Sheila Keith … Dorothy Yates
  • Deborah Fairfax … Jackie
  • Paul Greenwood … Graham
  • Kim Butcher … Debbie
  • Fiona Curzon … Merle
  • John Yule … Robin (as Jon Yule)
  • Trisha Mortimer … Lillian (as Tricia Mortimer)
  • Victoria Fairbrother … Delia (as Pamela Farbrother)
  • Edward Kalinski … Alec
  • Victor Winding … Detective Inspector
  • Anthony Hennessey … Detective Sergeant
  • Noel Johnson … The Judge
  • Michael Sharvell-Martin … Barman
  • Tommy Wright … Nightclub Manager

Filming locations:

  • BBC Television Centre, Wood Lane, Shepherd’s Bush, London, England
  • Dawes Farm, Henley Common, Fernhurst, West Sussex, England
    (exterior and interior of the Yates’ farmhouse)
  • Haselmere, Surrey, England
  • Shepherd’s Bush Green, London, England

Technical details:

  • 83 minutes (BBFC censors cut the original ‘X’ certificate release but details are not available via the unelected quango)
  • Black and White (opening sequence)| Eastmancolor
  • Aspect ratio: 1.37: 1

Audio: Mono

Fun Facts:

Also known as Frightmare IICover Up and Once Upon a Frightmare

The protagonists go to see Michelangelo Antonio’s Blow Up (1966).


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1974 - Frightmare (DVD)

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Watch full film free online on YouTube