Another Blu upgrade of a previously released Troma offering, Frightmare (aka the Horror Star) is a Norman Thaddeus Vane affair primarily known as an early vehicle for Stuart Gordon and Full Moon Pictures standby Jeffrey Combs.
A very 80’s take on the horror film, Vane eschews much of that decade’s more directly “realist” slasher focus for an aesthetically more gothic and vaguely supernatural “teens wander through an old mansion and get killed off” approach. Some would still consider this allied to the slasher aesthetic, though this is a far cry from the usual “maniac on the loose” business that label generally implies.
Somewhat akin to a film like Spookies crossed with elements of Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things by way of an old episode of Scooby Doo, the aforementioned victims decide to dig up recently deceased horror hero Conrad Radzoff (Ferdy Mayne of The Vampire Happening, Vampire Lovers and Fearless Vampire Killers…hmm, notice a theme emerging?), a sort of cross between Christopher Lee and Vincent Price, to join them in a party at his palatial home as a sort of twisted tribute to the man’s career.
Yeah, I know, brilliant plan.
Of course, Radzoff’s been playing with black magic, so he manages to come back to life and kill off Combs and his cast of nobodies pals (not to mention his nasty old wife) before credits roll.
It’s silly, but atmospheric and makes good use of its mansion location, as well as the more staged mausoleum and graveyard settings. I had this one in the collection for years before this, so it’s probably worth a look if you’re into this period of (relatively bloodless) cult horror.
In terms of extras, outside of a 20m on camera interview with d.p. Joel King about his entire career, this one’s particularly commentary track heavy, containing no less than three of them. There’s an old 2012 audio chat with the late director serving as an ersatz commentary track, a more Frightmare-focused commentary track with Full Moon/Rapid Heart director and impresario Dave DeCoteau and another of those worthless jokey “commentary” tracks from Code Red standbys “the hysteria continues” (oh, joy.)
There’s no change in running time between the new Blu-ray and what came before, both coming in at about 1:26, but with the Troma-released iteration a decent if a tad grainy VHS sourced DVD. Vinegar Syndrome cleans things up quite a bit, delivering a more colorful and vibrant if still rather grainy and often shot under cheesecloth soft focus picture. Even my non-cinephile wife made comment on the noticeable improvement between the two, so you can take that to the bank.
Another relatively worthy Troma offering gets the spit polish and shine from the fine folks at Vinegar Syndrome.