Triskaidekafiles is a love letter to cheesy cinema from the 80s and 90s, with the occasional dip into other eras.  if you're a fan of MST3K, Elvira, Joe Bob Briggs, or just bad horror movies in general, Trisk is the place for you.

Frightmare (1983)


WRITER: Norman Thaddeus Vane

DIRECTOR: Norman Thaddeus Vane

STARRING: Ferdinand Mayne as Conrad
    Luca Bercovici as Saint
    Nita Talbot as Mrs. Rohmer
    Leon Askin as Wolfgang
    Jennifer Starrett as Meg
    Barbara Pilavin as Etta
    Carlene Olson as Eve
    Scott Thomson as Bobo
    Donna McDaniel as Donna
    Jeffrey Combs as Stu

QUICK CUT: When horror icon Conrad Radzoff finally dies, he gets corpse-napped by a college film society.  Things go from bad to worse when Conrad's angry spirit takes over his body and wreaks havoc upon the hapless students.


    Conrad Radzoff - A horror movie star long past his prime, trapped doing commercials and living off a reputation built decades ago.  A prankster, and an egotist, he doesn't take things lying down, and will always try to be in control.

    ...And you know what?  No one else in this movie has a personality worth a damn.  If they even have a name.  I can't be bothered to try and find their personalities.

This is one that will definitely keep you up at night.

THE GUTS: We doze off and begin our Frightmare with Conrad Radzoff as some Dracula looking guy sneaking up on a woman and biting her as vampires tend to do.  Thankfully the director is already calling cut.  Good, let's make a whole different movie!

The director has issues with Conrad's performance, but he goes off on a bit of a rant about being a respected actor reduced to doing these roles.  Are you listening, Christopher Lee?

Worst of all, this whole elaborate setup is for a commercial.  Man, I'd be annoyed too, if I was asked to go through all this just for a commercial.  Anyways, Conrad decides to take out his frustrations while everyone is on break by shoving the director off a balcony, living out every actor's dream, I am sure.

YAY that was fast! Wait, damnit, just a movie in the movie. Damnit.

Later, Conrad pays a visit to a college film society, apparently having no consequences from his little case of murder.  But...he has a monocle!  He must be evil!

However, as he's giving his epic speech about being a forgotten actor that is pleased to have people actually remember him, he gets a case of the vapours and swoons down to the stage floor.  They wisely send the hot blonde student to try and save him, although that might just make his heart condition worse.

Fortunately she knows movie CPR, and gets his heart beating again, for the time being.  I'm sure he's grateful they didn't ask Jeffrey Combs to do it.

He tastes like Mentos and Old Spice.

The incomprehensible jumping plot continues to bounce along, as we find ourselves back at Conrad Radzoff's mansion, where he is sitting on his bed, dressed as Dracula once more, and clearly not doing well.  He says he's near death, and wants to do it right.  The only thing tying any of these scenes together so far is Radzoff's heart condition.  And that is a thin thread indeed.

Whatever his plan is, he better hurry up, because he keeps having heart attacks every five minutes.  And at a 90 minute movie, he won't make it to the intermission.

Turns out this time was for reals, so now it's time for his director friend to direct Conrad's funeral, his greatest performance.  If your greatest performance is to lay in a box motionless, what does that say about your career as an actor?

But wait!  Gasp surprise!  Conrad isn't dead!  Once the director is done bitching about how Conrad got all the glory, and more importantly the money, Conrad reveals he's only mostly dead, and smothers him with a pillow.  Which makes two directors the guy has killed now.  Am I supposed to be taking away some sort of message here?

That...actually won't work. Pull away, director guy!

Conrad tries to hobble off, but has more heart issues, and falls over onto his organ.  Seriously, he should rethink all this strenuous murder.  He hobbles over to his coffin and tumbles in, making sure to be nice enough to close the lid before dying.

Okay, first...he kept the coffin in the room with him?  Second, won't people notice the dead director?  Third, do you REALLY expect me to buy his death this time movie?  Seriously, you've had Radzoff die three times in almost as many minutes.

As for point two, there's some newsy narration that says the director had a heart attack.  Yes, a convenient heart attack at the exact same time as Conrad.  A heart attack caused by a pillow.  Please.

Conrad finds one way around being dead by leaving a video message for his mourners, and invites everyone back to Casa Conrad for food and drink and revelry.  He also points out that even though he's dead, whenever you watch one of his movies, he is also watching you.  Uh yeah, television doesn't work that way.

Funerals. You're doing it wrong.

Later, the movie remembers the film students exist and hanging around watching hookers.  One of them comments on how he could just imagine Conrad getting up and still being alive.  He must have seen the first 20 minutes, since that's all he's done so far.

After Jeffrey Combs does some terrible overacting, the gang decide to go check in on Conrad.  Not being the brightest kids in class, it takes them a while to figure out how to get into the cemetery.  And then break into the mausoleum.  They toss Combs onto the roof, since he's the smallest and wiriest of them all, and he finds a skylight.

The skylight is quickly broken so he can let everyone in from the inside.  Yet another video of Radzoff's starts playing, and it was polite enough to wait for everyone to get inside.  The recorded Radzoff threatens them that if they broke in, the door to the crypt will seal itself shut forever.

So, A, the first thing he thinks of telling ANY visitor to his resting place is that if they broke in, they're stuck.  And B, as soon as someone breaks in, no one will EVER see Conrad Radzoff's resting place again, since the doors won't open.  How thoughtful.

Yeah, I was surprised to see he was really in the coffin too.

Of course, starting your messages with a warning your interlopers that the doors will lock forever at the end of the message, gives them plenty of time to hold the doors open before the end of the message.  Especially if you babble on for awhile.  So the kids get out of the crypt, and take the corpse with them.  Yes, we have now become Weekend at Connie's.

They took the coffin AND the corpse.  I wonder just which would be easier, carrying them seperately like they did, or leaving Conrad in the box, and carrying them together...but I digress!

So the gang heads back to their film society dorm clubhouse place thing, and hang out eating a bucket of spaghetti while wearing monster masks, with their dead horror movie hero.  I didn't think I'd type that sentence today.

By this point, the scene of them dancing around with Radzoff's corpse is not even seeming that strange.  Nor is taking Polaroids for later incriminating, memories.

After dinner and dancing, they call it a night and drop Conrad back in his coffin to get some rest.  Meanwhile, back at the cemetery, gee!  They've noticed the coffin and body are missing and called the authorities!  Surprise!

Since the cops are useless, Conrad's widow calls in a psychic to try and contact Conrad's spirit, and she says the most absurd line I've heard in awhile.  And that is saying something.  "The spirit lives on after death.  Why not the body?"  Uhhh.  Because it's dead?

Oh please, let one of Sutek's totems pop out of that pyramid.

As the psychic tries to contact Radzoff, more gasp!  More surprise!  His body sits up!  Start the heart attack counter again, he should be down once more in five minutes or less.  Or your money back!

The kids hear Conrad's exhalation and rush upstairs to see what's the what.  And I'm pretty sure the coffin is empty in the quick pan as they come up the stairs, but his body is there in the closeup.  Oops?  Or a bad angle?  Anyways, looks like Conrad has gone back to sleep after a bad Frightmare.  See what I did there?

One of the students closes the coffin, saying that the dead don't walk or scream, but while he's being so sure, Conrad's eyes open and he sends messages to his Psychic Friend Network, demanding an eye for an eye.  So...he wants his wife to go steal the kids coffins?  They...didn't really do anything.  Yet.  Maybe he had his feet stepped on while they danced.  It's hard to get vengeance when they haven't really done anything.

Conrad gives such handy information on where he's been taken, like he's in a house.  A house with doors.  Whew, that will narrow it down!  He also says that he was in Hell, and they dragged him back.  So, the natural reaction is that the people who stole his body must be punished by sending THEM to hell!  Isn't that a bit harsh?  And isn't not being in Hell a GOOD thing?  C'mon, movie.

The new Pinto coffin!

It somehow became night again as Conrad goes in search of his kidnappers.  What happened to taking the coffin back in the morning?  That would have saved everyone a lot of trouble, death, and explosion.

For some reason, Meg has a crisis of conscience and calls Mrs. Radzoff to admit they have Conrad, but before she can say anything important, she hears someone coming.  Conrad peeks in on her, and since he likes Meg, decides to kill her last.

Conrad continues to stalk through the house, making two of the students stop getting naked and having sex, as the boyfriend goes to look and see what the shadow is doing lurking outside their room.  He proceeds to get promptly locked in the attic.

He creeps through the attic trying to find a way out, while Conrad stalks him from the costume racks stuffed up there.  The kid eventually finds his way to the coffin, which is still somehow mostly intact despite blowing up good, and finds Radzoff waiting.  He moves fast for a dead man.

As the kid stares at the not dead body, Radzoff lunges out and tears out the kid's tongue.  Not like his yelling for someone to unlock the attic was being heard, but better safe than sorry, I guess.

The girl gets bored waiting for her boyfriend to come back and pleasure her, so becomes the next person wandering the halls alone.  Cue far too much footage of a person stumbling through the dark, which we can't see in either, calling out someone's name.  She barely misses Conrad sending her boyfriend's tongueless corpse down the elevator for a visit as she bumbles about aimlessly.

She continues her meandering, in mimickry of the plot I suppose, up to the attic where she finds the empty, not exploded coffin, and then she's suddenly outside where at least she finds Conrad.  Which at least makes something happen.  And that something is Conrad setting her on fire with the power of his mind.  Which starts off kinda lame, but then becomes a pretty decent burn, so that's something.


There's a brief moment of pointlessness (yes, even more pointless) with the cops talking to Radzoff's widow, and really, it's like two lines of dialogue you can barely hear.  More importantly, back with the students, the ones that aren't dead yet are wondering where their dead friend are, and can't find a single trace of them.  So, no one noticed the exploded coffin, any blood from a removed tongue, or a giant singed patch of lawn from an immolation?

After realising no one has checked the basement, and no one wanting to do it, they decide that no one likes Meg and she goes down to investigate.  More wandering for long scenes in the dark, until the gang calls her back upstairs.  And just when the shadowy, lurking Conrad might have done something interesting.

Conrad mentally commands one of the kids to go to his mausoleum and...sigh.  Why didn't they just bring the body back?  They said they were going to do so.  Instead, they just sit around and wait to be picked off, or go where they were going to go in the first place, in a way that would have stopped ALL this from happening.  And yes, the body is gone NOW, but has anyone actually checked and discovered that?  Of course not.

But back to the current stupid.  Kid is now trapped in the crypt like he was supposed to be all along for breaking in, and more messages from beyond the grave play on the Radzoff display.  Just to make sure everyone knows that the crypt will fill with fumes and kill anyone inside within the hour.  Boy, this is a security system you do NOT want malfunctioning.  Fortunately, I doubt the skylight has been fixed, so this loser should be okay.

Rather than actually torment us and wait the entire hour, we cut back to the film society's clubhouse where their professor arrives to check in on the kids, but all he finds is Radzoff's signature red carnation dropped on the ground.  He bangs on the door, but the kids are would think the head of the society would have a key, but logic left us a long time ago, I suppose.

WARNING! Movie may cause headaches!

After seeing the kid in the crypt suffocate to death, it's back to the film society, where it has become night once again, and they're getting ready for bed after another day of doing nothing.  But they are college students, so I guess that's okay.  And since we have not seen anyone wandering the halls in the dark for a good five minutes, guess what?  One of the girls does just that, and heads up to the attic!  Where FINALLY we see the coffin is missing its lid and slightly damaged.  About damned time.

Unfortunately for her, it is about to get more damaged, because Conrad uses his zombie mind powers to float it into the air and stalk her with the box, until he decides to squash her like a bug.  Points to the movie for giving me a scene where someone is slowly stalked by a coffin.

I love how I know absolutely no one's name in this movie besides Conrad's.  We don't learn anyone's name until they go missing, and someone else spends the next five minutes as the next person wandering pointlessly calling their name.

Well, aside from Meg.  She notices the other girl is missing now, and is finally getting concerned with all their missing friends.  They want to dump Conrad's body, but she insists they have to put him back where they *ahem* found him.  You know, like they should have done two days ago.  Like they *said* they would do two days ago!

But wait, it's time for someone to wander the halls, so lets send Jeffrey Combs off to find some flashlights!  On the upside, he finds Conrad pretty damned quick, and he wastes no time beheading the poor bastard so Combs can get out of this movie and into a better one.

Suddenly there came a tapping, as of someone gently rapping, rapping on my Jeffrey Combs.

Meg starts to freak out, wanting to leave, feeling like someone is after her.  Oh yes, Meg.  It is all about you.  Everyone ELSE is dead, so it must be about you.

The movie mixes up it's formula by now sending out TWO people to wander around in the fog and shout out Jeffrey's character's name, rather than just one.  We must be winding down if they're putting two people in jeopardy at once.

Instead of Combs, or Stu as we now know he's called, Meg finds the burnt up girl. one looked outside all day long, no one smelled the charred body or rotting flesh.  This is me throwing my hands in the air.  \o/  I give up.

Before they can go to the cops, or die, Conrad's wife calls them up demanding her husband's body, and saying he gave her their phone number.  Well, he sure took his sweet time on that one.  If he'd told his wife two days ago, once again, most of this movie could have been prevented.

I didn't know Joe Don Baker was in this!

While the professor tells the cops about the carnation he found, Meg packs her stuff until Conrad comes after her.  She runs and hides, but unlike space aliens, a mere wooden door cannot stop undead psychic Conrad, and he busts through.  Remember how I said he'd come for Meg last?  I lied.

She finds a nearby cross on a pole and runs her persuer through with it.  Now now, he's not a real vampire.  That won't do any good, he...

Wait.  He's actually staying down.  Huh.

The last guy standing, Saint, picks up Radzoff and drives away.  The next day, Meg is found by the cops, not sure what happened, and she's horrified when she sees them picking up and disposing of Jeff's head.  I guess she was too busy staring at the burned body of her other friend to notice that when she ran right by it.

Meanwhile, no one knows where Saint is, but he's busy breaking back into the crypt...nice how those doors shut forever, huh? and returning Conrad's body to where it belongs.  Finally.

Another Radzoff recording starts, warning Saint about the fumes he made two seperate recordings for different occasions to warn about the gas know what?  Screw it.  The movie is almost over, I don't care anymore.  I don't even care that Conrad is finally getting back up and chasing Saint right out the door.  Well, the gas was even more pointless this time.

Saint runs through the cemetery, taking a break on a gravestone until Conrad grabs his hair.  He escapes and runs some more, until breaking into the nearby mortuary.  The only difference between this scene and the rest of the movie; Saint isn't yelling out anyone's name, and it's daylight.  And it turns out the mortuary was a bad idea, because now the undead guy can catch up with him in the enclosed space.

Toro, toro!

He tries to come at Radzoff with a knife, but the zombie uses his mental powers to melt what little there is of Saint's brain.  He falls to the ground and into a nearby coffin, which Conrad seals up, and then wheels into the incinerator.

With everyone but Meg dead, the movie mercifully limps across the finish line.  Back in Conrad's mausoleum, his body has been returned to its rightful resting spot, and the medium is stealing all his jewlery as payment for things we never knew about until now.

As you can imagine, the undead Radzoff takes that about as well as anyone might if they were only mostly dead, and the movie ends with him killing the psychic by shoving a roll of money down her throat.  And we get two last pointless video messages.  Geeze, how many did he leave?

...Wait, how did the students get Conrad's coffin over the wall of the cemetery, which is how they got in?  Eh, screw it.

That's all I'm getting paid? Bullcrap!


Video: This DVD from Troma is one of the worst DVDs I've seen.  The quality isn't quite as bad as Colony of the Dark, but this has more dark, making things so much harder to see.  Colony was grainy, low quality, and badly shot, but you could generally follow the action.

Audio: It's a poor mono track that is often so low you can't hear the dialogue.  But that might be a blessing in disguise.

Sound Bite: "The question is, why are we doing this??"  Oh movie, never question your own plot logic.

First Blood: Five minutes in, Conrad shoves his commercial director off the balcony.

Best Corpse: I like the raven picking over Combs' skull, or the girl bursting into flames, but really.  How do you top a woman being chased and squished by a floating coffin?  There's a lotta good deaths here.

Blood Type - F: But they're so toothless.  Even the bheading isn't that great.  No real blood to speak of.

Sex Appeal: Some of the girls get their tops off, and some guys too!  A little something for everyone.

Movie Review: *hits his head on the desk* This one is bad.  The story is non-existant.  It starts off with something there in Conrad wanting to go out with a bang, but then he's dead and it undercuts all that potentially interesting stuff.  And then we divert to playing with a corpse, that then comes back to life to kill people for no good reason.  It's badly shot, the characters are complete non-entities save for Conrad.  There is no build up, nothing pays off, it is repetitive, and half the dialogue is, "Stu?  Stu??  Stu?"  The first act is pretty promising.  Ferdy Mayne as Radzoff is easily the single best thing in this movie.  He has presence, he has a character, and the embittered old actor reduced to the life of a joke is a great starting point.  The second act is boring filler of endless hall wandering.  And at least act three has some good deaths which bring the movie back up.  And also, there's this weird bit with Conrad killing the directors that has ZERO bearing on the plot, other than proving he's a cold bastard, but he also says after each one, "Take 19" then "Take 20" but...that gets dropped once Conrad drops.  It's like they had one movie about a killer actor, and then it got smooshed with another movie that had no real connection to the first.  Not the worst movie on this site, but dangerously close.  Two out of five exploding coffins.

Entertainment Value: This movie has GREAT drinking game potential.  Every time Conrad dies?  Take a drink.  Every time he comes back?  Take a drink.  Every time they play a Conrad video?  Drink!  Every time someone goes wandering the halls?  Chug, it's the only way you'll survive.  As a fan of Jeffrey Combs, seeing this early role of his is *hilariously* over the top.  Almost every line he tries to deliver with insane levels of overacting and accenting.  It's deliberate, the character is a goof, but it is SO bad.  Still, the movie has long stretches of wandering the film society's home that are boring as all hell as you wait for the next body to drop.  Three out of five severed heads of Jeffrey Combs.

Moral of the story, don't wait two days to do what you should have done.