Written by: Michael Den Boer on October 19th, 2015
Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1981
Director: Norman Thaddeus Vane
Writer: Norman Thaddeus Vane
Cast: Ferdy Mayne, Luca Bercovici, Nita Talbot, Leon Askin, Jennifer Starrett, Barbara Pilavin, Alan Stock, Jeffrey Combs
BluRay released: October 20th, 2015
Approximate running time: 86 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Sound: DTS-HD Mono English
Subtitles: English SDH
BluRay Release: Vinegar Syndrome
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $24.98
Synopsis: A famed horror film icon’s corpse is stolen from his crypt by drama students, who are great admires of the recently departed actor. From there they pay tribute to their idol by taking him back to place where he shot several movies. And what started off as a joyous celebration, quickly turns dark when it becomes apparent that their guest of honor has been awoken from the beyond.
Frightmare was directed by Norman Thaddeus Vane a jack of all trades filmmaker whose other notable credits include as screenwriter Lola and 1931: Once Upon a Time in New York and as a second unit director Dracula Sucks. Besides Frightmare, another title this film is also known under include The Horror Star.
This is a film filled with misdirection and right from the get go its gets the balling rolling in this regard with its opening sequence. The film opens with a young woman who is oblivious to the lurker vampire creepy up behind her and after he bits her neck, a director yells out cut. This opening moment is actually a film within film scene where this film’s protagonist Conrad Radzoff is struggling with his latest performance. This is a key moment in the film since it firmly establishes who the protagonist what his motivation are and by what means he is willing to get what he wants. And as mentioned this is just the first of many well executed moments of misdirection in this film.
From a production stand point the narrative is well executed as the film finds a good balance between its highs and lows. Unfortunately anyone looking for back-story should look elsewhere as this film is inhabited with your garden variety caricatures which have become all too familiar do to their over use in the Horror film genre. The good news is when it comes to each of these type of characters it is easier to cheer on their demise.
Without a doubt this film’s greatest asset are its visuals which have a tremendous amount of atmosphere and they firmly reinforce the tone of the film. And when discussing this film’s visuals one must not overlook the contributions from cinematographer Joel King (Just before Dawn). Also when it comes to the visuals one can see the clear influence cinematographer Mario Tosi (Some Call it Loving) had on this film. King worked with Tosi of the Brian De Palma film Carrie.
When it comes to the death sequences they all delivers the goods and then some. With the standout moment related to carnage being a scene where one of the drama student is decapitated. Another brutal moment that pushes the boundaries of gore is a scene where one of the drama student’s tongues are ripped out of their mouth.
Performance wise the majority of the cast are serviceable in their respective roles. With this film’s standout performance coming from Ferdy Mayne (The Fearless Vampire Killers) in the role of Conrad Radzoff, this film’s protagonist. Reportedly Christopher Lee was the original choice for Conrad Radzoff and though another actor ended up in the film, Lee stills appears in the film via old film clips. Recognizable faces in this film include Luca Bercovici (Parasite) and Jeffrey Combs (Re-Animator, From Beyond). Ultimately Frightmare is highly entertaining film that immediately grabs your attention with its devious premise.
Frightmare comes on a 25 GB single layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. This transfer was sourced from a brand new 2k scan and restoration that from the 35mm original camera negative. And though this film has a deliberate soft focus look, this does not hamper the image clarity with is rock solid throughout. Contrast and black levels are consistently strong and grain always looks natural. Also there are no issues with DNR or compression.
This release comes with one audio option, a DTS-HD mono mix in English and removable English SDH subtitles have been included with this release. The audio sounds clean, clear, balanced and robust when it needs too.
Extras for this release include, an image gallery, a trailer for the film under the title The Horror Star (1 minute 28 seconds), an career spanning archive audio interview with director Norman Thaddeus Vane, an interview with cinematographer Joel King (21 minutes 21 seconds) and two audio commentary tracks, the first audio commentary track with David De Valle and David DeCotteau and the second audio commentary with The Hysteria Continues who once again provide an entertaining track that is equally humorous and informative.
Topics discussed in the interview with Joel King include, his interest in photography and how he got into the film industry, working with Mario Tosi and how it influenced him as a cinematographer, working with Norman Thaddeus Vane, the look of the film and his favorite actors to photograph.
Topics discussed in the audio commentary track with David De Valle and David DeCotteau include, how Christopher Lee was the original choice for the role of Conrad Radzoff, cast & crew and various other projects that they have worked on. Also David De Valle who spent time on set reminisces about his experiences.
The archive interview with Norman Thaddeus Vane runs about eight five minutes in length and it plays over the film like an audio commentary track.
Rounding out the extras is a reversible cover art option with the film’s alternate title The Horror Star. Also included with this release is a DVD that has the same content included on the Blu-Ray included as part of this combo release. Overall another exceptional release from Vinegar Syndrome, highly recommended.