I rented a lot of tapes in the ‘80s and most of them were horror movies. It is unusual when I find a movie from the decade of Mom and Pop video stores that I’ve never watched. I have to chalk it up to my normal haunts not stocking it on the shelf. Frightmare is one of those movies so when I saw it on Blu-Ray I grabbed a copy.
Conrad Radzoff is an old school horror star. When we first meet him, he is shooting a commercial and getting yelled at by the director. It becomes clear that he is past his prime, but not past pushing the director off a balcony! You don’t disrespect this guy. When next we see him, he is making an appearance at a film festival where he is greeted by his adoring fans. While speaking he collapses. Fear not he doesn’t die yet. But he is on his death bed and is visited by the director of his greatest movies. Radzoff wants him to direct his funeral so he can go out with one last show. When he dies the director yells at his corpse telling him his success was all due to his excellent direction and that he was basically a hack. But Radzoff isn’t really dead and he kills the director. Remember don’t disrespect him!
He finally does die and is interred in a fancy crypt with televisions and video taped messages. Some film student fans break in and steal his body for a party. Along the way they are disrespectful to him so when his wife has a séance to help find his missing corpse he comes back to life and well… You don’t disrespect Conrad Radzoff!
I’m afraid I’ve made this movie sound much better than it is. I love the premise and Ferdy Mayne is crazy good as Radzoff. We also get to see Jeffrey Combs in his first of what would become many appearances in horror movies. But while there are some cool bits in Frightmare overall it is a mess. The pacing is incredibly uneven starting off with a bang only to slow down with the is he or isn’t he dead plot. Why does the scene with the director even exist? We already know that Radzoff will kill and the director doesn’t play into the plot at all. It isn’t like the movie was short, it clocks in at eighty-six minutes. Cutting five here or there wouldn’t have killed them. A tighter movie would have been a much better experience.
The first kill of the movie, well the first kid that gets killed anyway, gave me some hope that we would get some decent gore. Radzoff rips someone’s tongue out and chokes him with it! But they never come close to that again as we see him use his mind powers to set on woman on fire, gas another in the crypt, someone else is done in by a floating coffin (again with mind powers!), and yet another gets knocked out and cremated. The only decent kill is a decapitation that doesn’t look great on screen but does give us some blood. And a funny bit with a cop casually bagging the head!
Frightmare isn’t a great movie. Not saying it is horrible either, but it falls into the category of mediocre. If you can rent it or if it shows up on Netflix it is worth a watch. But I can’t recommend buying the Blu-Ray like I did. Not worth the money. I noticed it took almost two years after it was made for it to get released on VHS and then it took forever to get released on disc. After watching it I can see why both of those happened.
© Copyright 2017 John Shatzer
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