There is a time in every Horror fan’s life when you realize that the DVD of something just ain’t good enough. I’ve had it happen a couple of times, and those movies that required “better” were not exactly movies that you’d think. I wasn’t after a new release of Creepshow (my favorite Horror movie). I was after new releases of The Children. I wanted a new release of Raw Force (the old VHS rip just didn’t do it for me in that Grindhouse box set). And then there came time to enjoy Frightmare on DVD after adoring it on 35mm. I was simply put out. Norman Thaddeus Vane created an incredibly fun, light-hearted, excellent kill filled movie in 1981, and the DVD just looked like it was slap dash put together with poorly constructed cover art and a crap transfer. I suppose it’s expecially damning when you are first exposed to a release on 35mm, in recent years and have full awareness of how the movie COULD look if treated well. That’s where Vinegar Syndrome comes in, and that’s where Frightmare’s story takes a turn from the shit transfer mausoleum of the original DVD to the well kept, electro-sonic, modern day Horror Star cemetery crypt of today on Blu-ray. Before I review the release, a personal thank you is owed to Vinegar Syndrome for taking a new favorite of mine and treating it right. It’s like a new prospective suitor taking your mom on a date and then you giving the okay for them to wed because he’s into a great movies, treats your mom great and is genuinely fun to have around at Christmas.
For those of you unfamiliar with Frightmare aka The Horror Star you have to understand that there’s a level of supernatural, near-slasher style camp that goes into a movie about a man who comes back from the dead to kill his post-mortem kidnappers, creatively. This movie isn’t scary though I will admit that there are moments that are a little suspenseful. Also Ferdy Mayne offers an ominous performance as Conrad, an undead Horror movie star, in Dracula garb with the unlimited power of the after world at his disposal. He’s a treat to watch on screen and the perfect mimic of your favorite Horror icon. Think Vincent Price with less class. Think Chris Lee only not as scary or nearly as versatile. There are moments of pure comedy, moments that epitomize what it means to love 80’s Horror and a certain meta quality that is a bit before it’s time.
The transfer is beyond gorgeous. I’ve seen this film projected on 35mm courtesy of Exhumed Films, and this is as close as you’d get to that experience. Vinegar Syndrome has cleaned it up and given it a 2k transfer from the 35mm camera negative. The blacks are nice and color rich. You may notice an almost soft focus through the whole film. Do not mistake this for DNR or other digital correction. That’s the way the movie looks. It’s almost dreamlike and definitely lends to the spooky atmosphere. The reversible cover art is perfect. On one side you get some new artwork that is completely enticing and fits the film perfectly. The reverse is the classic Horror Star artwork. This is a drastic improvement over the DVD artwork that was… strange at best. I wish the other poster art had been preserved (the skull with the knife in the eyes). I’ll live.
The extra package is fascinating. The most intriguing part was the audio interview with the director (before he passed away) that is shown as if it was a commentary track over the movie. The interview may be somewhat amateur and at times hard to hear, but it gives great perspective on the release and the “relationship” between Weekend at Bernies and Frightmare. Definitely take a listen. The disc also comes with a commentary track from my absolute favorite commentary recorders, Hysteria Lives! These guys love Horror and they make for an informed but entertaining listen/watch. Also included is a commentary track with David Del Valle and David Coteau. I’ve enjoyed Del Valle’s commentary tracks on Vincent Price releases and have always been a better fan for listening. There’s also video interview with Joel King, the Cinematographer on the picture.
I’m recommending this movie to fans of classic Horror who like to have fun with a Horror movie, but aren’t looking to be scared. Slasher fans, you’ll eat this up if you aren’t expecting too much skin. If you enjoy that near meta Horror where the joke is almost on the movie, Frightmare is totally for you. It’s not a perfect Horror Comedy mind you, but it is clearly meant to make you laugh. I think fans of Targets (the old Boris Karloff flick) would also dig this. It might even double feature well with Targets. Vinegar Syndrome took another movie distributed by Troma and gave it great new life after death. It’s almost as if the story of Conrad himself is a metaphor for the movie we are now able to enjoy.
Note: this is not the Pete Walker Frightmare from 72. That’s a great movie. This is too. Enjoy them both.
You can order Frightmare from Vinegar Syndrome now.
You can also order the bundle release for October and save some money on all the Vinegar Syndrome releases for the month. This month also includes Demonoid!
From Vinegar Syndrome:
Conrad Radzoff (Ferdy Mayne) was the biggest name in horror movies for decades until, one day, he died of a heart attack. Determined to celebrate his life, and death, the members of a local horror film society steal his freshly buried corpse and decide to host a party, in his honor, at their old and lavish mansion. Unaware that Radzoff’s interest in horror extended beyond the silver screen and into the black arts, his corpse is soon re-animated and he begins exacting a bloody revenge against those who disturbed his final resting place.
Slyly combining 80s slasher tropes with an insightful and self reflective look at the meaning of horror movies and death itself, Norman Thaddeus Vane’s FRIGHTMARE (originally known as THE HORROR STAR) is a quick witted and suspenseful tribute to classic horror cinema. With captivating cinematography by Joel King (JUST BEFORE DAWN) and supporting performances from Jeffrey Combs (RE-ANIMATOR), Luca Bercovici and Leon Askin, FRIGHTMARE has been newly restored from its original camera negative and is coming to Blu-ray for the very first time!
Director: Norman Thaddeus Vane
1981 | 86 min | Color | 1.85:1
+ Blu-ray/DVD Combo | Region Free | 1.85:1 OAR
+ Restored in 2k from 35mm camera negative
+ All extras on both Blu-ray and DVD
+ New video interview with Cinematographer Joel King
+ Archival audio interview with Director Norman Thaddeus Vane
+ Historical commentary track with David Del Valle and David DeCoteau
+ Commentary track by The Hysteria Continues
+ Original theatrical trailer
+ Reversible THE HORROR STAR cover art
+ English SDH subtitles