Fright Pack: Campy Classics

The '80s will always be damned as a cheesy, tasteless decade and the film industry is partly responsible. Anchor Bay's Campy Classics, part of their Fright Pack series, is a set of six somewhat like-minded films from the decade many would like to forget. What we have are some of the most diabolical, ridiculous films ever accepted into our culture, but that's what makes them so delicious. Elvira: Mistress of the Dark is the only real blemish, though a feature film starring the horror vixen did have potential. The film follows Elvira as she inherits her great aunt's estate in a small town that tries to run her out. There's sexual innuendo up the wazoo, but it's all so innocent that it's rarely worth a laugh. Return of the Killer Tomatoes follows its predecessor's absurd plot with less horror and ketchup, focusing more on the world trying to accept tomatoes, especially FT, the cute little fuzzy one. It's one of George Clooney's first big roles, but it's John Astin's tomato-breeding madman who steals the show. Return to Horror High is much like April Fool's Day, in that you never really determine whether what you're watching is a practical joke or people really being slaughtered. Featuring Clooney again, in an early bit part, Horror High is a paint-by-numbers slasher where a film crew shoot in a high school where brutal murders occurred years before. It's nothing innovative, but the mix of comedy and gore offer enough stimulation to make it worthwhile. The pick of the litter is Sleepaway Camp, one of the finest comedic horror flicks ever. Yeah, the camp idea is a rip-off of Friday the 13th, but there are so many classic gags, one-liners and offbeat twists that it takes the setting to a whole new level. Transylvania 6-5000 is the funniest of the bunch, as Jeff Goldbum and Ed Begley Jr. head off to the spooky country to report on a possible Frankenstein monster. There they find a motley crew of oddballs, most notably a juicy vamp (Geena Davis) and a daft butler (played beautifully by Michael Richards). The ensemble cast raise this beyond the stinker that it should be. Vamp closes out the box in fine cheese-encrusted form with a simple premise of college students on the prowl for a stripper to dance at a party. Instead they find Grace Jones, a sexy vampire who throws a wrench in their plans. Not exactly true to the vampire code, the film relies on its slapstick bits and the essence of Jones to carry it above mediocrity. Not without its flaws, but Campy Classics is well worth it for the '80s obsessed, but remember not all cheese ages as well as some, so tastes may differ. (Anchor Bay)