Hard Rock Nightmare 1988 Review
Posted by Luisjo Gonzalez
Hard Rock Nightmare 1988
Directed by: Dominic Brascia
Starring: Tom Shell, Troy Donahue, Greg Joujon-Roche
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
In my review of Dead Girls I touched on the heavy metal horror films that came out during the eighties and almost became a collective grouping of their own. As slashers were the leading style of trash flick at that time, it was logical that there would be some path crossing. Due to this, the number of hard rock stalk and slashers just eclipses the other styles (zombie/demon) and there are a few floating around for a SLASH above readers to enjoy.
By now, you guys and gals should know well that I am a man with an unusually large collection of forgotten, ahem, ‘classics’. I thought then, that I’d treat you to two of the biggest heavy metal horror rarities over the next couple of months, starting with 1988’s Hard Rock Nightmare. Not to be confused with either Rock and Roll Nightmare or Hard Rock Zombies, I have begun to believe that this one may have been cursed by the rocker demons from another of those films, Black Roses from 1988. How else can you explain why it has become as impossible to find as a celebrity that hasn’t slept with Rita Ora?
Don’t get me wrong, many eighties slashers vanished pretty quickly, but Hard Rock Nightmare was cut from different cloth. The film’s director Dominic Brascia had been something of a slasher ‘darling’ throughout the decade. Appearing regularly in horror fanzines where he spoke candidly about his love of the genre, the former Friday the 13th actor, who appeared in part 5, became the most successful slasher fan-boy until Kevin Williamson turned up some eight years later with his witty script and modern ideas. Brascia’s directorial debut, Evil Laugh from ’86, sold surprisingly well for such a low-budget cheese-fest and it still to this day has a massive cult following.
Evil Laugh of course was an early example of a slasher parody and whilst Hard Rock Nightmare does play it somewhat straighter, the idea here is still to underline the genre’s clichés in luminous marker pen.
The story begins with an old (drunken?) man playing tricks on his grandson. He tells the kid about werewolves and vampires and that he is really one of the latter himself. It’s most certainly just the alcohol talking, but the minor doesn’t see the joke. Later, when the guy is sleeping off the booze, the child turns up and rams a stake through his chest. As blood streams out of the wound, the grandma hears the commotion. She walks in to see what has happened and her screams pierce the sky as the screen fades to black…
Many years later and it seems that the unfortunate child’s luck has only marginally improved. ‘Jim’ is now the member of a hard ‘rawk’ band that brings to mind an unfortunate combination of Robert Palmer and Poison. The ‘Bad Boys’ have been getting hassle from the local constabulary due to the noise they make when they practice. One of them has the idea that they head up to Jim’s uncle’s secluded ranch where they can rock out and practice 24/7 with no complaints. They pack their instruments and groupies in to a SV and head off into the woodland. Upon arrival however, they quickly discover that things aren’t going too well when one of their number is killed by a lycanthrope type creature. It soon becomes apparent that Jim’s granddad may not have been jesting after all. At least about those werewolves….
Ok so firstly, Werewolf movies aren’t slasher movies. No one knows that better than me, but without ruining anything let’s just say that Hard Rock Nightmare is in the right place on this website. You’ll just have to trust me on that.
What we have here is a well written, encouragingly structured dose of cheesy slasher hokum and I’m at a loss as to why it has become so obscure. If Evil Laugh was Brascia’s homage to the ‘mad slasher in the house’ style of genre offerings then this is his tribute to the series that he obviously loves (and played a part in), Friday the 13th. I say ‘obviously loves’ because much of his previous script (the ending most definitely) was inspired by the goings on over at Camp Crystal lake. Well this killer in the woods flick doesn’t directly ‘borrow’ as many plot elements, but the Voorhees legacy is name-checked numerous times throughout the runtime.
A fine flair for subtlety mixing wit with the action is one of the best things about the film and there’s some really neat moments of humour. The most memorable is when one guy gets spurned by a groupie and pleads, “All I wanted was a little head.” The monster then appears and the next thing that we see is his decapitated dome flying across the screen! Brascia’s script never overplays the comedy though and for the most part we are treated to an engaging mystery. I have to give extra credit for the way that the story’s secret is well camouflaged in the shadows of the on-screen personalities. If you do manage to work out a small part of the oncoming twist, it’s unlikely that you’ll guess everything.
As I have alluded to above, we are given some larger than life characters that excel in the fact that they are fully schooled in the traits that we are expecting them to deliver. The slutty girl here is extra slutty and dies an incredibly gruesome death because of that, whilst the loyal heroine is extra loyal and keeps herself away from the assassin’s blade right up until the climax. Such ‘rules’ like ‘have sex and die’ are included not only once, but an extra time just for good measure. It almost feels like we have been handed a slasher check list and asked to tick off the trademarks and rate them as they are fired upon us from the director’s cannon. Whilst Brascia still may not have mastered the ability to create a tense atmosphere, his decision to maximise the use of smoke machines and over-illuminate the forest works to generate a creepy effect. I liked the way that he utilised shots of the full moon as a kind of ‘switch point’ between the murders and the return back to the cast. The werewolf strikes when the victims stroll off in pairs or on their lonesome and he stalks through typical POV.
The gore is kept to the barest of minimums, but much like Evil Laugh, the cheese more than makes up for it. If I had to pick a couple of the many slashers that I have seen that would give you an example to what this movie offers, then I would have to say Ruggero Deodato’s Bodycount , which is gorier and Richard Jefferson’s Berserker. Actually, an even better way to put it, is that if you squashed those two movies together and took a chunk of the combined mid-section, there lays Brascia’s second slasher effort, Hard Rock Nightmare.
If you are a horror movie regular and a collector of the genre, then you’ll know, and no doubt have learned the hard way, that films rarely disappear without good reason. This feature though is the odd occasion when an obscurity surprised me in a good way. It’s a mindless piece of fun that’s been put together with a subtle wink at its ingredients. A wise eye will recognise the satirical aspect of the story and that somehow gives it an alluring edge. What it lacks in performances and technical flair it more than makes up for simply because it is a real blast. Even the soundtrack is not that bad, which is really saying something
Tracking down a copy of this could well be an expensive exorcise, so I recommend waiting until someone releases a DVD. If you do have some cash and spare time though, you could do a lot worse. Along with Cards of Death, Terror Night and Hauntedween it’s one of those that actually does reward you for putting in the effort. I enjoyed it….
Killer Guise: √√√√√
Final Girl: √√
Posted on January 26, 2013, in Pure Eighties Cheese, Slasher and tagged 1988, a SLASH above exclusive, boobies, cheesy wotsit, Hard Rock Nightmare, heavy metal slasher, masked killer, Rare Slasher, Whadunit?, Whodunit?. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.