11th Sep2018

‘Frightmare’ Blu-ray Review (88 Films)

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Ferdy Mayne, Leon Askin, Jeffrey Combs, Luca Bercovici, Nita Talbot, Leon Askin, Jennifer Starrett, Barbara Pilavin, Alan Stock | Written and Directed by Norman Thaddeus Vane

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Fandom takes on a whole new meaning when a group of film loving college students decide to pay the ultimate respects to their favourite horror icon, the recently deceased Conrad Radzoff (Ferdy Mayne). How do they do this? Hold a memorial? Have a Radzoff horror marathon? Nope, they decide to steal his freshly buried body and give hime the ultimate farewell house party back in their mansion! Like most cases however, this is one of those instances were one of your heroes is actually an arsehole (Cough-Tom Savini-Cough!). You see, Radzoff had an often fatal temper. Not even a cameo from Leon Askin (The Robe) is safe! To make matters infinitely worse for our group of corpse stealing cinephiles, Mayne decides to carry on his bloody streak from beyond the grave. One by one, the students learn a valuable lesson; let sleeping corpses lie (see what I did there?, especially if they happen to be a bloodthirsty prima-donna!

Frightmare, also known as The Horror Star (the title which actually plays on the print used for this Blu-ray) is a somewhat unique experience. A supernatural slasher that although rather straight-faced, is still fun and doesn’t take itself too seriously. That being said, in between Radzoff dying and him picking off the students, the film does plod a little. It’s still a very solidly directed and written film however. There’s some solid cinematography that utilises light perfectly from Joel King (The Mighty Ducks) and an atmospheric score from Jerry Mosely (Blood Tide) who should have gone on to do greater things as the score seems to take reference and pay homage to many horror film scores of yesteryear, as well as being contemporary with some fantastic synth work. All in all, aesthetically the film ticks all the boxes. The deaths, although not too graphic are staged and executed solidly thanks to the work of Jill Rockow (Pirates of the Caribbean) and Chuck E. Stewart (Con Air).

The star of the show is of course Ferdy Mayne. Sure, he can be campy as hell in his performance, but it works perfectly within the context of the film. A role intended for Christopher Lee (Dracula: Prince of Darkness), Mayne fills the boots perfectly and even though we see clips of young Ragzoff, it takes a minute to realise it’s actually footage of a young Christopher Lee. Although a despicable character, it’s so satisfying to see him kill the group of unlikeable students. This isn’t because of bad writing, it’s because they are complete douchebags. Within the group of students we have performances from a young Jeffrey Combs (Re-Animator) and Luca Bercovici (Drop Zone). The film is really well cast and everyone puts in a great performance, no matter how significant their role is.

If you’re a fan of horror cinema that deals with horror cinema, this is a film you must watch. Thanks to film historian David Del Valle, the film itself is littered with actual props and memorabilia. From the poster of Lucio Fulci’s Zombie Flesh Eaters to the decapitated head of Frank Zito from Maniac. There is so much to ingest in that regard. Not only that, but there are typical horror tropes and references throughout for the seasoned horror fans out there to discover. All in all, I enjoyed Frightmare more than expected. Sure, it won’t change your perception of the slasher genre, but it has enough there to warrant repeat viewings.

In terms of this release, 88 Films billed this disc as featuring an “all new 2K Scan and Restoration from 35mm Camera Negative” but it looks very much like 88 Films have used the same base HD print as Vinegar Syndrome did. Speaking of which, this UK release has a number of extras ported over from the VS disc too: including two commentary tracks; one from The Hysteria Continues and one from David Del Valle and David DeCoteau; plus an archival audio interview from Vane himself prior to his death (which plays out as an audio commentary over the film), an interview with cinematographer Joel King, original theatrical trailer and reversible artwork showcasing The Horror Star artwork.

So pretty much a port of the already released Vinegar Syndrome disc then..? Not quite. The UK release of Frightmare does have some 88 Films-specific extras, including a 4pg booklet penned by forthcoming Shock and Awe authors Dave Wain and Matty Budrewicz, who have also contributed words to a number of 88 Films releases in the past on titles such as Creepozoid; and a new interview with Scott Thomson, who plays Bobo in the film. Plus the 88 Films release of Frightmare includes a FOURTH audio commentary track from Nathanial Thompson and Tim Greer of Mondo Digital!

If you didn’t pick up the Vinegar Syndrome release of Frightmare/The Horror Star previously and you’re a fan of the film, or 80s horror in general, then this is an essential purchase. Even more so for you “Slasher Classics” completists out there!

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