Fright Show is an obscure anthology that was compiled by Starlog (a science fiction rag) in 1985. They held a short film contest where the four winners would be showcased in a straight-to-video release. Despite the workaday title, this is not a Creepshow-style conspectus. There is no wrap-around story to bind these disparate vignettes together. In its place, we have a pair of goofball hosts who introduce each liver-tickler (ew) with the righteous pizzazz of a post-mortem Gene Siskel. I was looking forward to sitting down with Fright Show, so I was summarily disconcerted by the opening "banter" between Dunderfuck Simpleton and Milksop Twitwat. NOTE: I might have fabricated those names. To clarify, this is not an admission of guilt; I might be full of shit. The jury is still deliberating.
As I was saying before I rudely interrupted myself, I was highly anticipating this flick. While it's somewhat easy to find online, it's considered a rarity. Plus, I have a well-documented anthology fetish. I won't say that Fright Show failed to meet my expectations because I honestly don't know what I was expecting. Having said that, I wasn't blown away. There are two chief hardships precluding this cheese dish from becoming a paragon of virtue. Yes, virtue. I've already covered the first - and most exasperating - glitch. All of the attempts at sophomoric humor fall flat. Maybe kids found it to be funny (if the film had been assessed by the MPAA, it probably would have received a PG rating), but I doubt it. The second pitfall is directly related to the running time.
Fright Show clocks in at an exiguous 58 minutes. Why couldn't they tack on another contest entry? I can understand if this b-banquet was intended to be a bedtime snack, as opposed to a robust meal. However, the damn thing ended just as I was beginning to climax, so to speak. I did have fun with Fright Show. I realize that this review has been 98% negative, but I haven't finished typing yet. In fact, here is a concise recapitulation of the Starlog-approved short films on display.
"Mr. Dobermind" ~ A little girl runs afoul of a demented taxidermist. Too short, but it's creepy and effective. In essence, nothing happens, and we don't get a real payoff. Again, I'm complaining, but trust me when I say that I dug this segment. Directed by Jonathan Mostow, a talented fellow who went on to helm U-571 and T3: Rise of the Machines.
"Illegal Alien" ~ A point-blank parody of Alien that does wonders with its infinitesimal budget. The sets are truly impressive, and the cast looks eerily similar to that of Ridley Scott's genre-defining epic. I appreciated the inclusion of an evil clown. This is definitely a loving send-up worth watching.
"Nightfright" ~ Ah, a monster in the closet. It's a shopworn premise, but I'll never grow weary of it (check out 1986's Monster in the Closet for a barrel of laughs). Cool creature suit. Barebones plot, although it entertains without much effort.
"The Thing in the Basement" ~ A meteor-born extraterrestrial crashes a card game. Another cool creature suit. The visual effects are so fucking 80's, you can't help but to smile. I'm repeating myself, but I wished it was longer.
That about wraps it up. Fright Show makes for a divine rental, but unless you live near an independent video joint (and if you do, congratulations and fuck you), you won't be able to rent it. If you happen to see a VHS copy at a flea market, then by all means, give it a whirl. It's also available as Cinemagic: A Journey into the Bizarre World of Horror and Sci-Fi. Neither version has landed on DVD. It figures.
Posted by Dom Coccaro at 11:37 PM