The obscure 1983 horror film Frightmare isn’t your typical 80s slasher. There’s a bunch of partying kids in a house. They get picked off one by one. But their killer is not a masked goon…it’s the corpse of their favorite horror actor!
The iconic horror actor in the film is pretty much modeled after Christopher Lee. We meet him briefly right near the end of his life…and he’s not exactly going to heaven! When he dies, he leaves a video message at his funeral claiming he plans to come back from the dead.
His fans, a bunch of drama students, decide to break into his mausoleum and steal his body! They have a party with his corpse in a big creepy house (sitting at dinner with him, dancing with him, and posing for photos with him), having no idea that his grieving wife is busy having a séance that will bring him back to life!
Frightmare has a classic William Castle haunted house feel. The actor comes back dressed as a vampire, so there’s something cartoonish about his presence—but the fog and creepy music that follow him around add good old-fashioned spookiness to his presence.
Also, these kids aren’t exactly getting hacked to pieces. The actor uses his supernatural undead powers to terrorize and kill them, with plenty of close-ups of his hypnotic eyes. I swear the idea was stolen directly from how Dracula hypnotized Bud and Lou in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.
Don’t be looking for gory kills. This one is all about atmosphere, creepy corridors, eerie sets, and spooky music. And plenty of chase scenes! It also has a young, buff Jeffrey Combs running around shirtless, along with Luca Bercovici, who happens to have appeared in several forgotten horror films: Parasite, The Granny, and Rockula!
Frightmare might not be the best the 80s had to offer, but it delivers on the nostalgia for two reasons; it combines the fun common elements of 80s slashers with the classic vibe of 60s haunted house movies.