A breath of fresh air in a genre which has become increasingly victimized by the dictates of commercialism and lustreless remakes (exchanging pain for awe and good storytelling for disjointed experimentalism), Festival of Fright brings us back to the gory glory days of our beloved genre when monster movies were . . . fun! They're all here: ghouls, ghosts, and creeps of all shapes and sizes. Not so long ago, one could see mummies, vampires, monsters, and assorted deviants stalking the isles of movie houses or peering from the Drive-In screens (if you weren't fogging up the glass with your date!). The trailers in this wickedly fiendish compilation of twilight goodies resurrect several oldies from the crypt, allowing them to stalk, gnash, and bite once again. A dark gift from the fine fiends at Monsterclub.com, who also brought us the Monster Newsletter and the book Monster Movie Memories, this impressive compilation of previews is both nostalgic and invigorating, recommended not only for those who grew up on these films but also for horror fans in general. You may be surprised by the quality of storytelling and style exhibited in these trailers, and you certainly won't be bored.

Who among us doesn't have a fondness for the almighty trailer, that brazenly brief, condensed advertisement that is often superior than the product it represents? Movies in miniature, trailers are an authentic artefact from classic cinema and the Grind house -- a form of marketing rarely seen today in our cultural rush to move ever faster. Telling stories within seconds, trailers represent the entertaining 'quick' sale, bombing the mind with feverish imagery and information. Fang and claw, moldy crypt and sin-washed jungle -- all the B-movie tropes are here. A treasury of classic monster memories, this compilation charts the secret midnight country of our subconscious with little more on its mind than a good time. Sometimes chilling, often campy, the DVD runs the gauntlet of the field, featuring tongue-in-cheek laugh fests and campy sci-fi alongside classics. Supernatural and gothic horror is well represented, as are various creature features, early psychological thrillers/slashers, and films that fit in no category. Focusing on the 1950s and 1960s, this diversification of sub-genres is matched by an impressive variety of cultural specialties.

Italy's premier auteur Mario Bava is represented by Black Sabbath and Black Sunday, as his mentor Riccardo Freda with Caltiki: The Immortal Monster. Icons Roger Corman and the influential studio AIP -- both of which entertained generations of us by merging science fiction themes with horrific sensibilities, low budgets with innovation -- are honored by Tales of Terror, The Haunted Palace, Queen of Outer Spaces, and other Poe adaptations/ science-fiction-horror hybrids. More intriguing are the several rarely seen, forgotten horrors, such as Dr. Cadman's Secret, The Unearthly, From Hell It Came, and The Projected Man. From the erotic friction of Hammer's The Vampire Lovers to the deadly realistic science-fiction of Village of the Damned, Festival of Fright charts the bloody, shadow-drenched seas of a genre rooted in myth and the subconscious. Attention, monster girls and boys: there is something for everyone here.

Festival of Frights is also an impressive historical document. While such trailers as William Castle's Macabre and 13 Ghosts are amusing, they are more important, and perhaps more culturally significant, as tools of exploitation. In their scope and appeal, as well as in their approach and style, we see not only marketing techniques and brass showmanship from an age gone by, but also examples of what our culture fears and secretly wishes. Moreover, these previews suggest in their loud, genuinely 'fun' manner those psychological dreads, supernatural fears, and fancies that we harbor as both individuals and a culture. Not bad for what are essentially commercials, hey?

A primer of genre, celebrating horror directors, Festival of Fear also honors several key . Roger Corman's Tales of Terror (one of the finer Poe Compilations) alone features Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Basil Rathbone, and Debra Paget, while Boris Karloff lisps large in Corman's The Raven. Barbara Steele is burned at the stake in Bava's entry, and cult face Dick Miller runs rampant in Bucket of Blood. Obscurer offerings include The Fiendish Ghouls, Monstrosity, Curse of the Faceless Man, etc. Ed Wood's entry must be seen to be believed, and Spain's Black Pit of Dr. M is a visual highlight. It's wonderful to see such genre defining films as The Mummy and Tarantula side-by-side with Queen From Outer Space and Daughter of Horror. Running around 1 hour and 15 minutes, many of these trailers are in original full screen (with a few spots in widescreen ). The visual and audio quality is quite good albeit the rarity and age of some previews suffer from minor, expected damage. An optional audio track offers music and sound effects of a 'haunted house' nature, lending some additional polish to an already excellent package.

A perfect trip down monster movie memory lane, this orgy of monster madness is a cultural document of an age of art/culture gone by, a crash-course in publicity, and, at last, a delightful primer in what makes the genre successful as art and entertainment.

Review by William P. Simmons

Released by MonsterClub.com
Region 1 - NTSC
Not Rated
Extras :
see main review