This is a lean and mean 1970s yakuza exploitation picture that plays with a lot of genre tropes – rival groups, old ways versus young guns, etc. – all capped off by a deeply fatalistic streak. And mannequins!
Bob Rafelson and a great ensemble cast demonstrate that Atlantic City during the winter in the 1970s is a terrible time and place to hatch a madcap real estate scheme.
All of the genre elements of this film — martial arts, blaxploitation, gang warfare, police procedural, and man-in-a-suit monster tropes — work well individually and in combination. Of course they do! People are out there eating Mountain Dew & Doritos donuts for fuck’s sake.
Years before it was a hotbed of technological innovation and unaffordable housing, the San Francisco Bay Area was the “headquarters of occult and metaphysical activity in the United States.” This is just one of many bizarre assertions by the creators of the 1972 religious short film, THE OCCULT: AN ECHO FROM DARKNESS, that makes it perfect viewing for the spooky season.
Above all other descriptors, LET’S SCARE JESSICA TO DEATH is deeply atmospheric, and that’s due in no small part to the choices in location — they are every bit as idyllic as they are menacing.