Hello and Hallo-welcome to another edition of #TBT Terror, where we get nostalgic for the good old scares. Your bloggers, Andy and Lilly, would like to assure you that you aren’t just seeing things; there is a corpse in the pool.
Today’s film offering: Taste of Fear (note: this film’s USA title is Scream of Fear)
Lilly: Hammer Horror sort of has a reputation. We all know this. Kensington gore, Dracula, gasping heroines swooning and brave young men bally-well doing their jolly best to stop that horror, whatever it might be. It’s over the top, it’s flashy, it’s sex, sex, sex and death.
That all said, Taste of Fear is not that.
Andy: No less an authority than Christopher Lee said this film was the best thing Hammer had ever done. It’s a cold, twisty thriller, with nothing supernatural at all – which is unusual, at least.
Lilly: Set in the south of France, Taste of Fear is the story of a daughter coming to visit her father after ten years of being estranged. She has spent that time in Switzerland with her nurse, who, not long before her coming, died–we see this in the first few moments of the film, in fact. Did I mention the daughter was in a wheelchair after a riding accident? That was pretty important. She’s in a wheelchair after a riding accident.
Anyway, the daughter gets a letter from her father, asking her to come home, and so she does, to meet…well, everyone, as she hasn’t seen her father for ten years, so hasn’t met his new wife or driver or Christopher Lee. They’re all there, happy to meet her, but something is missing. Oh yeah. Her dad. Off on some mysterious business trip, she is told he’ll be back soon. She is suspicious, and just gets more so as events unfold that aren’t exactly pointing to her father coming home any time soon.
Andy: Like seeing his body, for instance. In many places. More than once.
Lilly: Taste of Fear is a psychological thriller that is well written, fun, and more twisty than the craziest of crazy straws.
Andy: It’s like an M Night Shyamalan marathon, without the sudden, utter drop in quality after a solid opening. Or M Night Shyamalan coming in to solve the plot. It’s amazing what this film crams into its 76 minute runtime.
Lilly: It has hints of Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte and Shadow of a Doubt to it, and as you watch Penny (the daughter) figure out what has happened to her father (spoiler: if there is a body, he’s possibly dead, okay?), the plot starts to thicken so quickly that the last half hour is literally like wading through delicious, plotty molasses. The characters all settle into who they really are, and it all kicks off.
There is a lot to praise in this film. The masterful build up of the plot, the hints at what is going on being dropped in neatly, not in the heavy-handed way you can get sometimes, for instance. It is only 76 minutes long, as Andy has said, yet nothing is left hanging–tying up as many loose ends as this film does it’s a feat to be noted. Then there is the acting by all of the cast, none of them coming off as camp or flat–the weakest was probably Ronald Lewis as Bob, and even then, he was good as the ‘what even is your job description’ chauffeur.
Andy: I wouldn’t rank it as among my favourite films, but it’s one of the most efficient thrillers I have ever watched. And if you can guess all the twists before they come, you’re smarter than me.
All in all, there are worse ways to spend an hour and a bit. I haven’t written too much this review, simply because the less you know about a film like this, the better – go in almost blind, and you’ll have a great time.
Lilly: While it wouldn’t crack my top ten films ever, this is definitely one of my favourite psychological thrillers, especially for how short it is and how unknown it was to me prior to us going on a Hammer kick.
Now. Go. Watch. And enjoy!