[review by Justin Kerswell]
FRIGHTWORLD is a horror flick that straddles the slasher subgenre and art film, whilst attempting to also be a meditation on the concepts of good and evil. Quite ambitious for a low budget movie.
The eponymous FRIGHTWORLD was an old time amusement park, designed as “The Disney of fear” by a Russian immigrant called Solomon. Originally it opened its doors in 1957 (although the newsreel footage is from much earlier in the 20th century), and was an immediate success; but bad business deals took their toll and Solomon was forced to shut the doors and put the exhibits in storage. He killed himself soon after.
Fast forward to the present day and entrepreneur Jack (Andrew Roth) has bought the old exhibits and plans to reopen the theme park in the next few weeks. After catching a slasher flick he invites his busty English girlfriend Kat (Kamillia Kataxenna Kova) and their friends (a raggle-taggle bunch of goths, emo nerds and general wannabe teenage reprobates) to the warehouse where the exhibits are kept. Jack takes them on a tour of all the ghoulish fayre, before the group settle down to partying (smoking the biggest joints I've ever seen in my life!). They also settle down to amusements of the fleshy kind, with them all pairing off and stripping off for softcore grapplings (that slow the film down no end).
Jack also offers to take the group to see the last resting place of notorious serial killer Verden Fell (Gary Marzolf), who had killed 29 people before being killed by the FBI. However, what they don't know is that Fell's body was never found. In fact, he made his way to the same warehouse where the FRIGHTWORLD exhibits are kept and then expired on the floor. Unluckily for them, a mixture of Fell's pact with the devil and all that ample flesh on show brings the demonic killer back from his gooey resting place ...
Kenneth Anger isn't a name that's usually mentioned when talking about slasher flicks, but bits of FRIGHTWORLD reminded me of his garishly experimental shorts, such as LUCIFER RISING (1972). Director Williams uses similar quick cuts, trippy colours and mixed film stocks to give the film an other worldly quality in parts. Whilst this is one of the film's strengths it is also contributes to one of its weaknesses. Of course, it's a matter of opinion but I find the overuse of quick cutting and frenzied camera work a little distracting (not to mention headache inducing). At times FRIGHTWORLD tips over into sustained epileptic frenzy (and is soundtracked with gravel throated shouty death metal to boot). Thankfully, the film does eventually avoid the sustained tiresome aural and visual onslaught of Rob Zombie's HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES (2003). Despite all the visual trickery, the film ironically comes to life during the quieter moments, such as the scene when the drunk girl has a one way conversation with clown faces staring down at her from the walls. Also, given the scenario the woozy fairground song that plays over one scene made a much better accompaniment to the proceedings than the ubiquitous grindcore (although maybe I'm just getting old!).
For a low budget feature the sets are top notch (actually they are a real dark ride in Buffalo, New York); all neon and creepy-assed faces gurning down from the rafters. Williams makes the most of the setting with some excellent set ups. He's also clearly a fan of the genre, with classic posters for 70s and 80s horror and slasher flicks adorning the walls of the party room. There's also a fair bit of grue on show, but the subdued lighting does sometimes make it a little difficult to see what's going on. The cast range from the adequate to the sadly amateurish, but they (and the film) do get going more when the bodies begin hitting the floor. What does let FRIGHTWORLD down, though, is a common complaint for low budgeters: muddy sound – with the dialogue sometimes almost drowned out by the ever constant booming soundtrack.
Overall, FRIGHTWORLD is perhaps not my cup of tea, but you have got to admire what the film makers were aiming to do with meagre funds – especially the ambitious mephistophelean ending.
female:4 / male:13
1) Male hit with axe
2) Male killed with barbed wire
3) Male hit in the stomach with axe
4) Male killed with arrow
5) Male killed with shotgun
6) Male killed method unseen
7) Male hangs himself
8) Female killed method unseen
9) Male has cock chewed off
10) Female found dismembered
11) Male has spike pushed through eye
12) Male has face slashed with spiked glove
13) Female cut in half with chain saw
14) Male dismembered with chain saw
15) Male found dead method unseen
16) Female stabbed to death
17) Male burnt to death