Frightmare (1983)

FEBRUARY 23, 2009


As is the case with many horror movies from 1980 and beyond, Frightmare shares its title with an earlier film. So in case you missed the year on the title of this review, I want to reiterate that the following concerns the 1983 Frightmare that co-stars Jeffrey Combs, not the 1974 one with Rupert Davies.

Got that? Good.

Frightmare is a piece of shit. At first I was dismayed to discover that the DVD was distributed by Troma, as that meant it would be presented full frame and most likely be transferred from a VHS tape. And it was, but even a pristine Blu-ray wouldn’t have made this dud any more interesting or exciting. The plot is incomprehensible, the dialogue almost non-existent, the kills are repetitive... you name a problem with a horror movie, and this movie delivers it, and then some.

The repetitiveness is the biggest problem. Once it finally gets going around the 45 minute mark, all of the kills play out exactly the same: someone walks around a house, the coffin-bound bad guy makes a face (shown in closeup), and then he makes some object fly around and kill the person. Then someone goes looking for that person, and the whole process repeats. We watch this sequence 5 times in a row, and then the movie finally ends. Through all of these sequences is “music” that can best be described as a guy leaning on a keyboard for 20 straight minutes. Shit makes Brian Eno’s compositions sound as radio friendly as Nickelback.

The bad guy is an aging actor (the original title is simply Horror Star) who has planned his own death to go out with a bang, or something (couldn’t really understand his scheme - he fakes his death, then dies for real?). He’s a Christopher Lee/Vincent Price type, and he is referred to as the “last of the horror legends”. But earlier in the scene he talked about working with Laurence Olivier, so obviously he exists in the real world... where “horror legends” such as Christopher Lee and Vincent Price were still alive (actually, Lee STILL is). Whatever.

It’s also one of those movies in which any reasonable person would hate every one of the “good guys”. We don’t know much about them except that they love horror movies and the actor guy. In fact, they love him so much that they take his corpse from his grave, dress it up and sit it at the dinner table with them. Likeable? Fuck, these assholes are barely human. I would like to think that when one of my heroes passes on, my first thought isn’t “dress up time!”. And the lack of characterization is apparent right from the opening credits, which lists the actor AND the character name for just about every cast member, which is almost unheard of for an opening crawl (maybe one role, i.e. “Kane Hodder as Jason”, but ALL of em?)

And yes, Jeffrey Combs is in the movie. The funny thing is, he was allegedly cast because he had brown hair like the mannequin that they were going to use for a decapitation. Ignoring the fact that hair dye costs about 7 bucks, the hilarious capper to this bit of trivia is that the movie is so dark that you can’t see the goddamn hair color anyway (really, anything but bleached blonde would have worked) and the hair STYLE is nothing like Combs’. And he’s basically just anonymous filler (like everyone else in the movie besides the former title character) so I’d hardly consider it worth watching just for him.

Thankfully, Troma didn’t bother to include any extras for the film itself. No, all of the bonus features concern, well, Troma. Commercials for their DVDs and such make up the bulk of the content, but there’s also a heartbreaking ad for PETA (monkeys hugging each other!) and an odd little montage of public domain clips of Christopher Lee and Bela Lugosi doing their thing.

Finally, there’s a piece called “Learn From Their Mis-Steaks”, in which Lloyd talks about doing a no-budget indie film as a favor and all of the mistakes the film crew made while he was there (lack of sound equipment or lights, not color timing the two cameras, using real animal blood/guts for props, etc). It’s a great idea and, while probably already embarrassing enough for the film crew, something that should be included on every single Troma release. Hell, put it on non-Troma movies too; the technical qualities we see in the clips from the film (titled Beef in Satan’s Freezer or something like that) are no worse than that of several Lionsgate releases I’ve endured.

In closing, I would like to say that I can only hope that the 1974 Frightmare is better.

What say you?


  1. What say me is that I am glad you sat through this instead of me. Won't waste any time watching it now. Thanks, man!

  2. That's depressing to hear (I know this is an old blog, bear with me...) because my sister and I are big Combs fans...and really were considering watching it JUST for him. But if he's hardly in it, I don't think I'll waste my money.

  3. I see that no one has commented on this in 5 whole years. So late to the comments. I actually find this to be one of my favorite Troma films so far. Viewed it this afternoon and was a bit surprised that Ferdy Mayne who played Count von Krolock in the (variously named) Fearless Vampire Killers--also had a role in Kubrick's Barry Lyndon--was the main actor. I liked it quite a bit. But...I an a somewhat of a Troma devotee. Somewhat, because the later they go, the worse they get. But I really liked this one. Loved the ending warning from Conrad about hell--the food...and the Champagne being from California! Here, Here!