• Frightmare

    Released by: Kino Lorber/Redemption
    Released on: March 11th, 2014.
    Director: Pete Walker
    Cast: Rupert Davies, Sheila Keith, Deborah Fairfax, Paul Greenwood
    Year: 1974
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movie:

    British genre director Pete Walker was always a bit of an odd duck since his films were primarily designed to deliver the exploitation goods but also skewer the establishment on both the conservative and liberal side. Walker vehemently denied the auteur tag as well and liked to describe himself as a businessman. But his films, most notably titles like this one and HOUSE OF WHIPCORD, had very distinct social and political messages.

    FRIGHTMARE is both Walker's generally best-loved and most outlandish film. It also remains quite unique with its use of middle-aged but highly capable character actors as the leads and a genuinely disturbing premise that involves taboo subjects like cannibalism.

    As the film opens, Dorothy (Sheila Keith) and her spouse Edmund (Rupert Davies) have just been caught and convicted for a number of murders that also involved cannibalism. The judge, though utterly disgusted by the crimes, sentences the pair to an insane asylum instead of the gallows. This leaves the couple's two children adrift. Stepdaughter Jackie (Deborah Fairfax) is from Edmund's previous marriage but younger child Debbie (Kim Butcher) is the twisted couple's mutual daughter. Jackie is tasked with looking after her younger sister after Debbie is thrown out of the convent that was caring for her. After parents Dorothy and Edmund are released from the mental institute fifteen years later - having been deemed "cured" by the state - all hell breaks loose when Jackie reestablishes contact.

    The twisted older couple take up residence in a deserted farmhouse and Dorothy goes back to reading tarot cards for lonely and desperate individuals while Edmund is away for his new chauffeur job. Soon Dorothy is back to her old habits but even more disturbingly, her youngest child is exhibiting highly bizarre compulsions and the older sibling is following in her father's footsteps in covering up Dorothy's activities..

    FRIGHTMARE is about family ties and the destructiveness that misguided loyalty to disturbed family members brings. Dorothy and Edmund are clearly insane, but they do love their children. And the feeling is mutual. Walker's social commentary becomes quite barbed when it comes to the issue of psychiatry in the film. It is when Graham (Paul Greenwood) enters the picture as a therapist/love interest that Walker and scriptwriter David McGillivray really get the blades out. Paul is well-meaning and well-educated in his field but also utterly clueless when dealing with the kind of violent pathology on display. His incompetence has dire consequences. No pity is spared for the state either. The unresolved question is - if you are unwilling to permanently incarcerate or execute society's most dangerous members, what guarantees can the state provide that these people are cured at some point? The truth is that they simply cannot. And when these people are not monitored effectively it just adds up to more victims.

    FRIGHTMARE is a moderately gory film - Walker doesn't shy away from the cannibalism angle but he has more on his mind than just gratuitous violence. Sheila Keith dominates the show with her wild character and while her performance is certainly OTT at times it works perfectly. The two younger daughters performances are more controlled so the film's balance remains strong. Edmund is more of an enabler than anything else but Davies does a good job. It seems strange to describe something like this which trades in so many grotesque taboos as "fun" but as a horror film it really is. The premise is unusual and interesting and Keith is a captivating crazy. And the anti-authoritarian yet conservative subtext of the script mark this as a unique British horror film.


    Kino's 1.66.1 framed AVC encoded 1080p image looks good and follows on from the company's general HD practice of minimal restoration but basically organic transfers. Color reproduction looks natural and is devoid of weird anomalies. Black levels are strong and digital denoising and other manipulations are not in evidence. Grain seems natural and untampered with and print damage is very limited. This is a nice and natural looking presentation.

    Audio is provided by a good LPCM Mono track that is properly balanced. Upper range is adequate and hiss and obvious audible deterioration isn't present. This is a true to the original source track and while it isn't fancy it gets the job done and is authentic.

    The most important extra is a first rate commentary track with director Walker and his DP for the film Peter Jessop moderated by author and Walker expert Steven Chibnall. This was on both Anchor Bay's previous USA DVD as well as the film's older UK release but it is great to have it here as well. These three have history together and get along famously so the anecdotes and humor flow strongly. Walker gets pretty expansive about his entire career too so this is a very informative track for fans as well as being loads of fun.

    Next up is a featurette "For The Sake Of Cannibalism" which clocks in at just under 15 minutes and allows Walker to discuss the film's most controversial element as well as his approach to exploitation in general. Finally we get another featurette focusing on actress Sheila Keith with Walker and some colleagues and fans discussing her career and mostly focusing on her projects with Walker. He disc also includes some additional Pete Walker movie trailers.

    The Final Word:

    Recognized as Pete Walker's strongest film by many FRIGHTMARE isn't for everyone due to the graphic nature of the subject matter but it remains a potent mix of pitch-black humor, blunt force social commentary and disturbing violence. Bolstered by Sheila Keith's bravura performance this one is heartily recommended to adventurous horror fans that like their exploitation on the quirky side.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Paul L's Avatar
      Paul L -
      Got this and FLESH AND BLOOD SHOW on their way to me. Looking forward to seeing both in HD! Nice review, Horace!