A quintessential eighties supernatural slasher that cares little about making sense and only about boobs, blood, and screams.
A horror film star dies of a heart attack, and some of his fans steal his corpse to party with it, releasing a ghoulish entity that uses the corpse to murder them. Let’s dig into 1983’s FRIGHTMARE, directed by Norman Thaddeus Vane!
As I See It
Originally released as The Horror Star, this pseudo-gothic cheese fest had no intention of taking itself seriously.
Filmed in 1981 but released in 1983, it has the panache of the mid-eighties slashers that exploited the moral vacuity of teens. They don’t even bother inserting a character that sees their morbid and unethical behavior with clear eyes and pleads for the group to knock it off. They dance, smooch, and desecrate the body of a famous horror star who had recently passed and package it as some gruesome memorial celebration.
I’ve seen this called a spoof, but I wouldn’t go that far. Tongue in cheek would be a better description.
There is a constant haze throughout the film, and I’m not sure if it was an actual haze, poor film stock, or a result of a damaged negative that was used for the scan (I watched the Troma DVD version).
A young Jeffrey Combs is one of my favorite aspects of the film. He’s much more playful than we would see him later on in his more recognizable films, and it really just continues to prove he has the versatility we all knew he had.
Have to shout out the out-of-place Fulci Zombie poster on the stairwell of the Victorian mansion.
Jeffrey Combs (Stu), in his first substantial role, should be very familiar to genre fans. Whether you grew up in the eighties (Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator), nineties (Peter Jackson’s Frighteners), or two-thousands (Would You Rather?).
Ferdy Mayne (Conrad) was featured in a segment of Night Train to Terror and Howling II.
Scott Thomson (Bobo) had some success early in his career featuring in the seminal teen drama/comedy Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Police Academy (as well as some of the sequels), and Ghoulies.
Chuck Mitchell (Detective) played the titular Porky in the early eighties teen sex comedies Porky’s and Porky’s Revenge.
Sir Christopher Lee features on a TV as a young version of Conrad, and it would be believable if it weren’t such a horror icon used.
Of Gratuitous Nature
It wouldn’t be an eighties supernatural slasher without a sex scene that bares some breasts while the man keeps his jeans on.
This is the type of nostalgia I sought out when I started this column. I rag on many films for being shitty, and they are. But as long as they can make me feel a certain way that I haven’t in, say, thirty years or so — and give me a little taste of my childhood of chasing that fear dragon — baby, that’s all I’m looking for.
Ripe for a Remake
Sure, why not? A little Weekend at Bernie’s meets Fright Night could be fun.
No progeny to report.
Where to Watch
Originally released on DVD by Troma, Vinegar Syndrome put out the Blu-Ray, which is still available in the limited edition slipcover version. 88 Films released the UK Blu-Ray. You can stream it on Tubi, Night Flight, and Plex.