Sunday, April 5, 2009

Frightmare (1983)


Cast: Ferdy Mayne, Luca Bercovici, Nita Talbot, Leon Askin, Jennifer Starrett, Barbara Pilavin, Alan Stock, Twyla Littleton, Joe Witherell, and (THE!) Jeffrey Combs
Director: Norman Thaddeus Vane
Studio/Label: Troma
Release Date: 2005

Ah! The 80s. A simpler time of cheesy horror, screaming bimbos, and budding horror stars. And I’m here to tell you, FRIGHTMARE is a classic example of that wondrous period in horror cinema history.
Ferdy Mayne plays aged horror star Conrad Radzoff, once great, but now bitterly arrogant and a little evil…well, just evil enough to kill a couple of people who piss him off before he crocks in front of an auditorium full of fawning college film students.
Some of these said idolatrous students decide it’d be a great idea to break into old Conrad’s Hollywood tomb and carry his corpse to his classic stomping grounds, an old mansion where his once great films had been shot. Well, you know the story…the kids get a little tipsy, a little naked, and the next thing you know, old Conrad gets a little back-from-the-dead and starts killing them off one at a time, in some pretty nasty ways.
Yeah, pretty standard stuff…but wait…this is where the film really starts to get better than the average back from the dead revenge flick.
Like a bad dream, things get weird. Fog rolls in from nowhere onto the set, the music gets dark and foreboding, and the scenes go from day to night, from one scene to the next.
Continuity errors, you say?
I don’t think so.
This looks to have been done on purpose, and it really gives the movie a nightmarish quality that disorients the viewer.
The acting is much better than you’d expect from this kind of low budget, run-of-the-mill lot, including (little known at the time) Jeffrey Combs. And the production values aren’t glaringly bad. At least the house remains spooky, and the lighting is consistent from scene to scene.
The worst part of the this film is the terribly ridiculous introduction by Lloyd Kaufman, the creator of the legendary Toxic Avenger and owner of Troma Studios, during which he makes some oblique attempt at humor as someone dubs in the names of the stars and director while he pretends to hold stuff in front of his mouth. Having a little background on Kaufman’s varied legal problems, I’m sure this was done more for a ‘fuck you’ to whomever got the short end from Troma in regards to FRIGHTMARE than for fun times. But, hey, Debbie Rochen is around to brighten it up, so I can forgive it.
The quality of the DVD isn’t great, folks. So don’t expect much from the tech end of this little seen gem of the 80s. I mentioned the lighting and music, both of which work hard for the movie. Unfortunately, Troma didn’t work hard for them. And that’s a shame; because I’m sure it would’ve added an extra kick to FRIGHTMARE.

Nickolas Cook