A psychological thriller by Jimmy Sangster, Fear In The Night is yet another in the long line of Hammer movies often overlooked by fans of their horror movies featuring the archetypes of the genre. I was looking forward to seeing this one, not expecting anything great as I had heard nothing about it beforehand, but I was definitely intrigued.
The plot sees young Peggy (Judy Geeson), recently recovered from a
nervous breakdown, joining her husband (Ralph Bates) on the grounds of
the school where he works. The school is presided over by Michael
Carmichael (the ever-watchable Peter Cushing), who stays there with his
wife (Joan Collins). As fragile as she is, Peggy is made even worse
when attacked by a mystery assailant. And the worst thing is that
nobody will believe her, simply putting it down to recovering, shaky
While it's not a very remarkable entry into the psychological thriller
subgenre, this movie does a number of things quite well. Geeson gives a
decent performance as the young, nervous, often child-like, wife. Bates
is solid and Collins is pretty good. Cushing is, it goes without
saying, great. Before the twists and turns start to occur the pacing of
the film also works just fine, drawing you into a mysterious atmosphere
of unease and doubt while flagging up some, admittedly easy to spot,
future plot developments.
It's also surprisingly bleak in places, rather nihilistic and hopeless
for a Hammer movie - another point worth noting and another aspect that
impresses when weighed against many other films released by the studio.
Sangster is a better writer (he co-wrote this screenplay with Michael Syson) than he is director, from what I have seen
of his work, but he's capable enough and frames his material
adequately, if nothing else. Fear In The Night ends up as a movie worth seeing, though perhaps not worth seeking out
ahead of many other psychological thrillers you could give your time to.