Drama students decide to pay tribute to their favorite horror star by stealing his body from his crypt for a farewell party. They fail to realize their violation of the tomb has triggered ...
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Drama students decide to pay tribute to their favorite horror star by stealing his body from his crypt for a farewell party. They fail to realize their violation of the tomb has triggered powerful black magic, and Conrad hasn't taken his final bows yet. Written by
Sister Grimm <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Shortly after the corpse is stolen, a cane is moved over the corpse, and you can very clearly see eyelids twitch on the actor who is playing dead. It is so obvious, that it made at one viewer think the "corpse" is alive, or coming back to life. See more »
1983's "Frightmare" is an odd little film. The director seems to be trying to combine the atmosphere of classic '30s/'40s style horror movies with the shock factor of the then-exploding '80s slasher genre. It isn't totally successful (mostly due to very obvious budgetary restraints, and the less-than-professional caliber of its cast of young actors) but it still has its moments, mostly due to the classy performance (classier than the movie deserves) by the late German actor Ferdinand Mayne, who plays an aging old time horror movie star (ala Vincent Price) named "Conrad Ratzoff." At the beginning of the movie we meet the has-been horror star as he's shooting a commercial for dentures and we quickly learn that ol' Conrad is a bit of a hoity-toity, prima donna jerk-off. Just when you think he couldn't be any more un-likable, the commercial director berates Conrad for blowing a take for the umpteenth time and the old goat pushes him off a balcony to his death. Nice, huh? Conrad then visits some fans at a college campus horror movie club, unfortunately he suffers a heart attack in the middle of his speech to them and eventually ends up back at his mansion waiting to die. Still feisty even at Death's door, he manages to do away with a despised business associate by smothering him with a pillow before he finally kicks the bucket himself. Conrad is then laid to rest in true Hollywood style in a high tech neon tomb with video screens above the casket, which will play personal video messages from Conrad himself for visitors who enter to pay their respects.
It is at this point that the kids from the college Horror Movie Society decide to pay Conrad's grave an after hours visit, breaking into the tomb and taking his body back home with them for an all night party. (Not exactly my idea of fun, but hey, these are characters in an '80s horror film. Logic has no place here.) The college kids spend the evening having dinner with Conrad's body seated in a place of honor, posing for photos with it and even dancing around the room with it, before parking Conrad and his coffin in the attic, planning to return him to his crypt in the morning. In the meantime, Mrs. Ratzoff, distraught over the theft of her husband's body, has called in a psychic friend to try and "reach" Conrad through a seance. You can pretty much figure out the rest from here. Since Conrad wasn't a very nice guy in life, it's not much of a stretch to assume that he won't be any friendlier in death. Psychic Lady makes contact with Conrad and he re-awakens in predictably ticked off fashion, then spends the rest of the movie strolling around the corridors of the students' ridiculously huge house, picking off the young grave robbers one by one. This is where the movie falls apart. Endless scenes of teens wandering around empty hallways saying "Hello? Is anyone there?" are intercut with occasional bursts of violence (we do get a pretty gnarly decapitation scene, which is the highlight of the movie) before the last two survivors finally figure out (WAY later than any semi-intelligent people would have figured out the same thing...but again, we're in an '80s horror film!) that the only way to stop the mayhem is to get Conrad's body back to its crypt where it belongs. The sluggish pacing is padded out with a lot of weird lighting and dry ice fog effects backed by a soundtrack made up almost entirely of sound effects rather than music(thunder, moans and groans, howls, etc.) that becomes severely annoying after a while.
I can't really recommend "Frightmare" to anyone who didn't grow up watching cheap movies like this on late night cable back in the '80s. "Modern Horror" fans will doubtlessly find "Frightmare" incredibly slow moving and goofy. If you came of age in that magical decade, however, you may get a blast of nostalgia from "Frightmare." Fans of Jeffrey ("Re-Animator") Combs may also want to check it out, as the future Dr. West appears in an early role here as one of the unlucky film students.
I will advise the reader to avoid the version of this film on the EastWestDVD label (paired with Roy Ward's "Vault of Horror" and sold at dollar stores) because the print quality is terrible. I'm told the film has gotten a deluxe release via the fine folks at Troma, which seems appropriate. If you're a Troma kind of person then "Frightmare" will be right up your alley.
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