Heavy Metal Massacre 1989
Directed by: David De Falco
Starring: David De Falco,Sami Plotkin, Americo Carrocio
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Some guys have all the luck. Yes, indeed. And so do some movies too. Let’s take for example Nail Gun Massacre from 1985. Shot on the tiniest of budgets, it could be packaged and shipped globally to film schools as a lesson on how not to produce a feature. It’s terrible. Despite the fact that it is totally devoid of talent or professionalism, it is one of the most popular slasher movies out there. Why? Well because it’s so damn bad that it transcends criticism and flies into a new arena that makes you kind of appreciate it. It’s like when you sleep so much that you become more tired or expand your hunger due to the amount that you over-ate, NGM leaps beyond the borders of rubbish and straight into being a surreal kind of praiseworthy. I’m not aware of the budget that was spent on Terry Lofton’s Nail Gun- themed slasher, but you can rest assured that it made a reasonable profit after the success it achieved on both VHS and DVD. Blue Ray to come next and a long standing reputation as a cult classic. So bad that it’s good? Well yes, exactly.
What I want to explore today is what separates a title that is abysmal but likeable from one that is just plain awful. What is the magic that NGM, Don’t Go In The Woods or Houseboat Horror possess that allows them to rise above titles like Day of the Ax or Blood Lake? Heavy Metal Massacre was released in 1989 and I picked it up for next to nothing in the mid-nineties. For reasons that I’m unable to describe, I have never managed to sit through it to the end, despite trying numerous times. It is yet another a SLASH above exclusive and therefore a complete obscurity that has become very hard to find. Browsing online I noticed that I’m only the second author to post a review of it and the first slasher critic. It is pure back garden filmmaking in every sense of the word, but very collectible because a) it’s a rare slasher film and b) it is a Heavy Metal Horror. The mix of the two means that it should have been tracked down more times than many similarly unknown pictures that popped up and then disappeared during that decade.
On the IMDB, it has an impressive 1.8 rating. That makes it one of the worst films on a site that boasts listing over 2.2 million titles. It was written, produced, financed, edited, acted, marketed, sponsored, decorated and most likely sold door to door by David De Falco who some of you may recognise as the director of The Backlot Murders. He also notched up a classless torture porn feature called Chaos and has proven himself to be an interesting person throughout his career. Promoting the aforementioned Chaos from 2005, he is reported to have begun arguing with his audience at a screening of the film and spouted lines like, “I am the king of violence” and “I am the demon!” The former pro-wrestler went on to launch a scathing attack on Roger Ebert, who zero starred his movie, and threw threats at attendees. Later I read that he also verbally abused a fellow blog author and wanted to fight him in a wrestling bout. After hearing this, I began to panic. I mean, should I give Heavy Metal Massacre the full 5 stars in order to prevent myself from getting suplexed by Mr De Falco? Well, I am not much of a wrestler to be fair.
Anyway, moving on. There’s not a great deal in terms of story with this one actually. De Falco plays Bobby Young, a sleaze metal dude who hangs out at The Dungeon, which is a club that caters for sex, drugs and rock and roll the eighties way. What he likes doing is picking up hookers or sluts, taking them back to his impressive warehouse sized flat and killing them with a sledge hammer. The friend of one of his victims goes out to try and track him down…
Being that I’m a big fan of slasher movies, I will always go out of my way to try and defend them as an entertainment form. At first, I was hoping that I could say something along the lines that Heavy Metal Massacre is not a million times worse than Bits and Pieces. In fact, they’re even quite similar. But then I began reading about David De Falco’s antics and narcissism and I started to dislike the idea of giving his movie any credit.
You see, I don’t enjoy watching some wannabe massage their ego on celluloid, but if it is done in an entertaining way, then I guess that I can live with it. The film starts with a collection of still photos that show ‘Bobby Young’ (De Falco) in various poses. Looking like the not so pretty fifth member of glam metal idols Pretty Boy Floyd, the camera lingers on each picture for at least two minutes before cutting to another from his collection. After a stream that feels like a Picasa slideshow, we eventually get going with our horror film.
HMM is best watched in 10-minute parts. It’s poorly paced and has countless moments of nothingness. In fact, I swear 15% of the runtime was just out of focus shots that pan the walls of Bobby’s apartment, with some wacky strobe effects and the crunch of a heavy metal six string in the background. Still, somehow though, I wanted to watch it through to the end. It’s from the antagonist as protagonist school of slasher, so the other faces that appear are only included to move the plot from A to B with as little fuss as possible. Oh or to die. I counted a body count of four, which is not too bad, but it kind of felt like a gore film that was missing all the gore. There was one killing that I think was meant to be the money shot. Our Bogeyman ties a (surprisingly hot) chica to a crate and then puts a pair of pliers in her mouth. I was thinking that he was going to pull out her tongue, but in the end it looked like he removed a hair (?). Seriously, I have no idea. Watch the video above and let me know what you think? It’s one hell of a weird special effect.
Perhaps the biggest drawback with the film’s synopsis is that it’s impossible to believe that De Falco’s character is a serial killer at all. He comes across like a mummy’s boy and in all honesty, a bit of a geek. He lacks any kind of screen presence and seems shy, so frankly I couldn’t buy in to the whole insane lunatic thing. The threadbare plot attempts to incorporate a couple of cops that are on the case of the cocaine snorting killer, but the script’s written unrealistically and clearly by someone who has no idea of police procedure. For example they’re hunting a mad man that has slaughtered various people (one with a chainsaw) and when a witness calls up and says that she may have him in her home, they say, “Ok try and stall him and we’ll be there soon”. Really? Stall a maniacal killer? Isn’t that a tad dangerous? It does soon become very clear that the whole picture is just a vanity showcase for a guy with a few dollars who thinks that he has star potential.
In a twisted way, we should all aspire to be like David De Falco. The guy is so confident that he has been a wrestler, director and has never given up on his (and only his) belief that he has something to offer the world as a celebrity. He’s also on Twitter where he updates his 81 followers about what he gets up to on a daily basis. The songs for the movie were performed by a group called The Electric Afterburner band. I would bet you my last dollar that our friend De Falco was involved with them too. To have that much self belief is impressive, but sadly in his place it’s slightly delusional.
So what I learned from my experiment was that not every movie can be so bad that it’s good. Some of them are just plain bad. Heavy Metal Massacre is one of those. It’s not inadvertently funny, it’s not cool, It’s just absolute tosh. Don’t bother with it…
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: √√
Dead Girls 1989
Directed by: Dennis Devine and Steve Jarvis
Starring: David Chatfield, Jeff Herbick, Brian Chin
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Dead Girls puts us back in killer stalking heavy metal group territory, only this time it’s an all girl gang of head bangers put to the sword…
With the amount of rock bands that have been stalked since the launch of the slasher grouping during the early eighties, it’s amazing that there’s any of them left recording. It all kicked off with movies like Shock Evil Entertainment, Blodaren, Terror on Tour, Hard Rock Nightmare and Rocktober Blood, which were the first hack and slashers to feature a band as the body count material. Even the Australians got involved with the sub-genre giving us Ollie Martin’s insipid Houseboat Horror just before the turn of the decade. The theme ran extremely sporadically throughout the nineties, because the slasher cycle began to fade due to poor sales and even poorer production qualities. But after the Wes Craven inspired re-invigoration in 96, movies like Slash and Backlot Murders have given the category a new lease of life to build upon. There are even websites that are scattered around dedicated to the ‘Heavy Metal Horror Movie’ and include the likes of Rock and Roll Nightmare, Blood Tracks and other such intriguing pieces.
This slash and roller was released by Cinematrix films, a Los Angeles based independent studio with a fantastic story. Key members Denis Devine and Mike Bowler had run in to Jeff Hathcock, the director of Night Ripper and Streets of Death. After offering to help write scripts for his films, Hathcock would give them ideas and they would take them away to work long hours to make them viable for a film. Whenever they went back with their best efforts, Jeff would have already given up on that concept and would offer them something new and so the process would start again from scratch. This happened on four or five occasions until Steve Jarvis stepped in and said that instead of them trying so hard for no obvious gain, why don’t they all put their pennies together and finance their own feature. The result was the pretty decent Fatal Images and it launched the label that went on to release a fair few memorable budget hits. This is arguably one of the best of them.
Lucy Lethal, Cynthia Slayed, Nancy Napalm, Randy Rot and Bertha Beirut are all members of the heavy metal band Dead Girls. They have found notoriety with a gimmick that revolves around murder, death and lyrics that glorify suicide. Bertha Beirut is the lead songwriter and would like to try and move them in a more uplifting direction, but her band mates just don’t think it would work. “We’re the Dead Girls not the Shirelles,” remarks Lucy Lethal sarcastically. Looking at the clearly bemused songwriter, she continues, “You call yourself Bertha Beirut and strangle yourself with the American flag every night, so we’re not gonna break out in a chorus of Stand by your man!” I’m pretty sure that Tammy Wynette would certainly agree…
Just as the group are about to embark on a nationwide radio, television and stage tour, Bertha receives a shocking letter via special delivery. Her younger sister Brooke has attempted to commit suicide whilst repeatedly listening to their morbid album and she is currently comatose in a hospital bed. After visiting the youngster, Bertha decides that the band need to be alone together for a short time to clear their heads and maybe start afresh. They head out to a remote cabin in the woodland to find some peace and serenity away from the pressure of their superstar status. Meanwhile, an ominous stranger dressed in a black raincoat, gloves, fedora and skull mask has decided to follow the band to their retreat and is sadistically slaughtering the musicians one by one. It seems someone else has taken the death gimmick a tad too seriously…
Director Dennis Devine admits that Dead Girls is widely regarded as the best of his B movie output. He also notes that it was possibly the most difficult and frustrating project that he has worked upon. This was mainly due to the size of the script that he had to squeeze into a fourteen-day time-scale. Apparently the abysmal weather conditions didn’t help, as he had to shoot a lot of scenes outdoors and it kept snowing at all the wrong times. Snowing in California – now that was bad luck!
Despite these production challenges, Dead Girls is a pretty decent late entry to the cycle. It takes a little while to step up a gear, but once the victims are stranded in the realms of woodland wilderness – struggling to uncover the maniac’s identity – it provides a few cheesy thrills. All the essential slasher movie regulations are intact, including a tad of nudity, some tacky gore and a soundtrack of ear numbing heavy metal that seems only to be found in these kind of pictures. There’s even a gooey finger-lopping scene, which looks to have been inspired by Tony Maylem’s The Burning.(Although co-director Steve Jarvis swears blind that it wasn’t!) The killer himself looks pretty creepy in a decent rubber skull-mask and traditional Giallo-like psycho garb and there’s more than enough suspects to keep viewers playing the guessing game until the film’s lengthy climax.
The only real problems with Dead Girls are those that plague almost every other genre attempt from this period – uneven performances. It’s a shame that the dramatics continuously blow so hot and cold, because in this particular movie it really does hold back the chance of a higher rating. Some of the potential shown by the leads was hampered by unconvincing work from the supporting cast, which never allows the motion picture to go to the heights that it could have done. Some have also said that the film is too long and at an hour and forty-five minutes, it’s reaching omnibus status. To be frank, I didn’t really have too much of a problem with the runtime and I actually enjoyed the film quite a lot.
A while back, I attended a horror festival type thing in London. Some of the ‘stars’ in attendance were Alan Birkinshaw, George Dugdale and Caroline Munro to name but a couple and I watched Killer’s Moon for the first time on a big screen. On the way back I got talking to two guys about horror in general and more specifically, the slasher genre that we know and love. The thing that sticks in my mind most about our conversation is that they really took issue with my liking of Dead Girls. I have also noticed that not many websites give this one the thumbs up and there’s a fourteen-minute review on YouTube by a guy (bit of a douchebag) who tears the film to shreds. But this got me thinking about my idea of a rating. Well let’s put it this way. What do you expect to gain from watching a slasher flick? A few bloody kills? A chance to guess who’s killing everyone? For me that’s what make these things so much damn fun in the first place and on both those counts Devine’s slasher delivers. It’s a bit over-long, it’s definitely not going to win awards for its dramatics, but it does exactly what you expect it to. Most importantly, I think it does it very well.
Dead Girls is hilariously cheesy and gratuitously gruesome in the same breath and adds just the right amount of both to end up as one of the better belated genre entries. Recommended to fans of rare-ish slasher movies that enjoy gore and decent killer disguises.
Final Girl √
Directed by: Dennis Devine
Starring: Reggie Bannister, Mark Alan, Jed Rowen
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Well dear readers, here I have a bit of an exclusive for you. Sawblade has yet to secure a release globally and seeing as it was completed in 2010, chances are now that it never will be sitting on your shelf on any purchasable format.
Another of the many David Sterling productions, it was directed by Dennis Devine. Now if you know your slasher movies, then that name should ring a bell. He was involved with the development of titles such as Fatal Images, Dead Girls, Club Dead and Bloodstream on the decent indie label Cinematrix along with Steve Jarvis and Mike Bowler. ‘Matrix is no longer releasing flicks, so in order to carry on working, Devine has linked up with Sterling and kept busy ever since. Something of a slasher movie heavyweight, he has been on the crew or in the chair on eight or so genre pieces. His career has been varied in terms of output quality. In 2007, his psychological thriller, Caregiver was one of the best B-movies of that year and the light hearted Dewitt and Maria from 2010 displayed a previously unseen ability for creating warmth and positivity in a screenplay. Whatever your opinion on his filmography, it must be said that he makes the most of the resources that are given to him. It’s always an argument that possibly even someone like David Lynch would struggle on a budget of $20,000.
Perhaps his most recognised piece is Dead Girls from 1989. Not only is it a noted stalk and slash flick, but it is also one of the few heavy metal horrors from the peak period. Sawblade also has a plot that incorporates a hard rock group in to its synopsis and therefore I was keen to see how well Devine would handle a return to the neighbourhood that brought him his biggest success.
Up and coming rockers Sawblade are offered the chance to shoot their début video in a recently opened studio. Their manager has the idea of locking them in overnight and having the press awaiting in the morning when the doors first open. Unbeknownst to them, they are recording on the site where vicious killer Elliot Benson was entombed some 25 years earlier. Without a key, the youngsters are left alone until the break of dawn with the menace who returns from the grave to cause havoc with a few trusty blades…
Chemistry is such a beautiful thing. You can’t touch it but you can feel it. You can’t see it, but it’s there and uncannily obvious. It’s absolutely unmistakeable. It exists in all walks of life, but is very rarely mentioned. Let me describe an example that most of you have most probably experienced if you’ve been fortunate enough. You go out on a date. After the initial getting to know you period and perhaps a few drinks you both feel this uncontrollable urge to begin cuddling and kissing. Your head will be reminding you of that unwritten rule that your folks told you about and those words echo in your head: ‘it’s too early’, ‘we hardly know each other’. You just can’t control yourself though and the magical feeling draws you closer as your heart says ‘ignore your head.‘ There are those (me included) that are spontaneous enough to pick future partners on the strength of such chemistry and it’s an occurrence that most definitely does not strike many times in one lifetime. Such nights usually don’t end up where you initially expected them to and are a big slap in the face of traditional values. But hey; you only live once, right? A wise man once said that you don’t remember when you grow older about the reports that you had to get done before eight on Monday morning, which you spent hours working on. You never forget or regret those times of amazing passion like I have described.
Chemistry can be discovered in cinema too if you look hard enough. Take for example that wonderful scene from Tony Scott’s True Romance. Heavyweights Dennis Hopper and Christopher Walken sit opposite each other to deliver a master class in acting during the Sicilian history lesson sequence. The way that they both bounce off of each other with such a natural connection is flawless and it must have been partly due to the vibe in the air that day between them. Sawblade also has a kind of chemistry, but unfortunately it’s on completely the opposite side of the scale. There is no worse sight in cinema than a few appalling actors on screen at the same time and here it feels as if they are trying to out perform each other with the levels of their ineptitude.
Calling them ‘actors’ is in itself a fallacy. I mean, surely if you logically planned for a career in the movies, you would have at some point at least been to an audition or a rehearsal where it would have been proven early on what we, the viewer, have to discover during this exercise in restraint? I work in sales. Now sales is a tough racket, which not everyone can succeed in. Many firms will hire graduates fresh from Uni with the idea of seeing if they can cut it or not. Most of them don’t. At least on the sales-floor, people try a bit. There’s a scene in Sawblade that’s supposed to be quite aggressive. It’s like a typical confrontation that looks set to go to fisticuffs, but the four players speak like a group of elderly buddies that are about to have a muffin and a cup of tea. Any suspense or atmosphere is totally destroyed by the obvious lack of effort from the performers and the film becomes almost comedic very quickly.
The characters are also laughably developed to the point of being infuriating. Each one is conceited, shallow and it doesn’t help that they are given dialogue that seems to have been written by a rebellious fourteen year-old. There’s a lot of vulgar swear words and talk about ‘ass kicking’ and gags that only the aforementioned teenager would find amusing. The killer reminds me of the nut job from Honeymoon Horror in terms of his appearance, but even that forgettable entry from the early eighties would wipe the floor in terms of entertainment levels with this half-hearted throwaway. As fans of slasher cinema, we are used to experiencing poor continuity and silly plot devices, because let’s be honest, usually that’s the most fun that there is to be had. One thing that is totally unforgivable however is that Sawblade feels like its been pushed together and rushed out the door with minimal effort from those involved and it doesn’t even make an attempt to cover up the fact. Towards the end of the runtime there’s not just one, but two silly twists and although the first is totally predictable, the second is mind boggling and laughable. The killer works his was through a large number of victims, but the obvious lack of budget means that the effects are expectedly cruddy. On the plus side, things move along quite quickly and you’ll never get bored. I am just not sure whether you will have the paciencia to sit through the inane scripting and annoying personas that adorn the screen from start to finish.
I don’t blame Dennis Devine, as he was most likely given a 7 day shoot time and $15k to make a slasher flick. Some of his photography is quite audacious (watch out for a couple of Argento-esque shock attempts) and the movie certainly doesn’t look too bad. From what I have heard, he’s a really nice guy and passionate about the genre, so it’d be nice to see him get back to working with Jarvis and putting out some more of the type of titles that he unleashed during the nineties. You know, I would like nothing better than to sing the praises of a film that has not yet been released and start a campaign to get it out on the shelves. I am a fan of the little guys and always defend my favourite horror genre. There’s just no way that I can do that with Sawblade though as it is a feature devoid of quality. I’m glad that I watched it, but I wouldn’t want to have to sit through it again.
If you really want to see an unreleased flick that deserves a stab at recognition, try and check out Bloodstream from the same director, but Sawblade should be left in the vaults of Allied Entertainment.
Final Girl: √
Rocktober Blood 1984
aka Concierto de Sangre
Directed by: Beverley and Ferd Sebastian
Starring: Tray Loren, Donna Scoggins, Cana Cockrell
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Ferd Sebastian woke up one sunny morning in 1983 to a hot cup of coffee that his wife, Beverley had made for him. The pair headed out on to the patio for their morning cigarette and the conversation turned to a common topic in the Sebastian household, filmmaking. “You know what honey bun?” started Ferdinand, “Those slasher movies are making a tidy profit nowadays”. Beverley looked up from her mug and said, “Yeah, but they’ve all been doner than done by now”. There was a moment of silence as both contemplated the possibilities. Suddenly, Ferd looked up like he had been possessed by the ghost of inspiration and responded, “You’re right, but none of them actually ROCK now do they?” “A slasher movie by the Sebastians (or as it says in the credits ‘Sebastian’s’) would ROCK like a cradle on a cliff top!” With that sentence, Rocktober Blood was born…
Ferdinand and Beverley met at a roller rink before they were twenty, got married within days and have been together ever since. With the new husband being a photographer, he managed to get work on some TV commercials and that allowed him to scrimp together enough money to fund his own feature with his significant other. Throughout the seventies they released a few intriguing sexually charged exploitation pieces including one proto-slasher, Bloody Friday. By the time that the slasher boom was in full swing, they were amongst a few former exploitation hacks that had found that their hunger for film was revitalised and so they got to work on their own entry.
The story here is almost as hammy as the actors playing the parts. After Billy Harper, the lead singer of a popular metal band, is caught, convicted and electrocuted for 25 murders, his former squeeze and backing vocalist, Lynne Starling, takes over lead voice duties. Now called ‘Headmistress’ the newly put-together group embark on a global tour with their successful new image. Things are going rocktastically well, until Lynne is visited briefly by the guy that her witness testimony sent to the electric chair. She warns everyone in a panic that it looks like Billy is back from the grave, but of course no one believes her. Before long people begin disappearing and the truth is revealed…
Like many phases that have passed in decades gone by, Heavy Metal seems so distant that it could be referenced alongside the death of the dinosaurs nowadays. But back in its time, this was the music that summed up the rebellion of youth with its audacious fashions and explicit lyrics. I can remember having hair longer than my mum as a nine-year-old and a leather jacket with a Faster Pussycat tag sewed on the back. I swapped reading Kerrang! for Four Four Two many Halloweens ago, but for a moment this brought all those memories flooding to my mind and it was like I had been transported back to the small room in London with a Hi-Fi and a Wraithchild LP. Oh the joys…
Rocktober Blood has that kind of effect on you and its a capsule that only those who were alive during those times can truly enjoy. As a slasher movie, it’s pretty poor and awfully padded. There’s one part where the final girl pleads with her friends to help her prove that Billy has returned from the beyond and so they drive out in the pitch black of night to dig up his grave. I can see the point of including it as a method of building the plot, but it could have been cut down by about five minutes and still had the same effect on the story. The film starts rapidly, with numerous killings in the opening twenty minutes and an overload of screams, hard rock-a-hula, knifes, boobs and bad acting. You could hit fast forward straight after those initial few minutes though, at least until the final scene, because it becomes somewhat bloated in the mid-section and doesn’t really take anything anywhere.
When we are given our explanation for Billy’s re-emergence, which I won’t spoil for you here (you’ll easily work it out though) the movie makes the most of its theme to offer a splendid closing sequence. The killer jumps on to the stage in a demon mask and takes to the m.i.c, dismembering three dancers with a kind of sword/microphone-stand device. He even goes as far as to throw a decapitated head in to the baying crowd who think it’s all part of the act! If you still have a soft spot for this kind of metal (the songs were performed by Sorcery, a Hollywood based group from that period) then you will surely dig the soundtrack and there’s some fairly gooey killings too. Now in a movie this fast paced and poorly put together you can pretty much forgive the lack of any character development for the victims, because hey; they’re only there to die, right? Well the thing that got me about Rocktober Blood though is that the last four or five females look like they may have been played by the same actress? Anyone else notice that?
Some of the photography is impressive, especially in the rock concert and lakeside scenes, but technically that’s about all that there is of note. The movie has some of the worst and most laughably amateur actors that I have ever seen, especially Nigel Benjamin who played the plum accented Chris. Interestingly enough, he was the lead singer for glam metal titans, London at around the same time that Nikki Sixx played for them. Another issue is the fact that the story is also quite jumbled, confused and poorly scripted. It is only salvaged by some fantastic dialogue and lines like, “I want blood. I want your hot steaming pussy blood all over my face!”
Rocktober Blood is a one of a kind slasher flick that everyone needs to see. I enjoyed it because it is outrageously eighties in every sense and includes a great killer mask, a gang of the worst actors since Eldorado went off air, a workout scene that sees three bunnies bounce like chickens whilst delivering lines with no sentence structure and a snarlingly characteristic and cheesetastic bogeyman. Where else can you find all of that under 85 minutes, huh?
On a side note, all the films I feature, I have on VHS and DVD, but I never ever thought to buy the soundtracks. That’s foolish on my part, because if I had the original of this, I could whack it on eBay and it would go for about £500. It’s become a real collector’s item
Final Girl √
The Backlot Murders 2002
Directed by: David DeFalco
Starring: Priscilla Barnes, Corey Haim, Charles Fleischer
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
I wonder if in the future there will still be Elvis and Beatles men? Who knows if people will remember that such styles of male characterisation even existed? Me, much like Clarence Worley from True Romance, I’m definitely an Elvis man and that’s why I jumped at the chance to purchase The Backlot Murders when it was released a few years back. A nut job in a mask of the king… I mean why the hell didn’t someone think of that earlier?
An extremely average rock group have a spot of luck when their singer hooks up with the daughter of a big time record producer. She begs her father to give the band a record deal and for their first single, they are offered the opportunity to shoot a music video on the Hollywood lot of some classic horror movies. Once they’re on location and night falls, it becomes apparent that a masked killer is sharing the set with them. Could it be the psychotic band member that they recently fired? Or has someone else got a grudge against the rockers?
This was another of the many titles released after the Scream rebirth that went for the tongue in cheek approach and played self-referential games with recognised trademarks. In the case of Backlot though, the target is silicone bimbos and drug addled rock stars as opposed to its category brethren and the comment here is a subtle dig at the shallow image-addicted nature of conceited youth. There’s a great line when one of the older characters speaks about Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho with his daughter and asks her if she’s seen it, to which she replies, ‘Sure! Isn’t that the one with Anne Heche?’ It’s moments such at these that give the script a smart hook. Much like Cherry Falls, it could be said that this was unfortunate not to get a cinematic outing as it seems far too polished to share a shelf with the other straight to video entries of this point in the period.
It’s easy to see that The Backlot Murders is a larger scale production without the usual bottom of the barrel financing that plagues DTV outings. The aerial photography of the Hollywood hills gives the film a stylish opening and the visuals are crisp and sharp. In the first twenty minutes, we are introduced to an abundance of characters and I felt concerned that the plot may get lost in the myriad of faces, but thankfully the main players soon get to grips with their roles and the frolics start flowing a lot smoother than I had initially expected. It takes a while for the killer to put in his first appearance, but from the moment that he arrives on screen, the bodies carry on dropping at a rapid rate and the runtime never ties itself in knots of tedium.
The producers had access after hours to classic sets from Universal studios and so they decided that rather than redecorate them so as to disguise their origins, they would incorporate them in to the feature. It’s great seeing the house from Psycho and even some of the killings are redone from classic slasher flicks. Look out for the spear through a love making couple from Friday the 13th part II and there’s a brief cameo from Ken Sagoes who was one of the most memorable characters from the A Nightmare on Elm Street series.
Although most of the youngsters are too clownish to be credible with their portrayals (it’s hard to tell if it’s intentional or not), Charles Fleischer was good as the camp and hilarious music video director. A lot of his one liners were improvised and he adds great energy to his dialogue. Priscilla Barnes is perfect as the super bitch producer and has a ball with a limitless characterisation that gives her the chance to chew the scenery and spit it out with a high intensity. Corey Haim’s here too, but he is hardly on screen for longer than a minute at a time.The girls were obviously hired for their lady lumps more than their dramatic strengths and anyone who has read at least one review on a SLASH above will know that there are few that appreciate the female form more than I. Although its easy to see that the inclusion of more boobies than a California beach in summer was a nod to the cleavage factor formula of modern entries such as I Know What You Did Last Summer , I just felt that these bimbos were a tad too shallow to be attractive. Still, T&A fans that are looking for some nice visual stimulants will be in heaven.
Whilst the story comes across well with its comedic tone, it fails in its attempts at horror. Director David DeFalco, who was behind forgotten eighties slasher Heavy Metal Massacre, doesn’t manage to muster any suspense at all and a film with such a great location and high production values deserved a more creative fluidity from its manager of visuals. I don’t personally know David DeFalco, but what I’ve read about him, is not great. He is certainly someone I wouldn’t socialise with. It’s also worth noting that there’s no real final girl here, which was a strange choice. I’m not sure if it was deliberate, because there were a couple of possibles introduced, but one of them was killed, whilst the other – and most likely candidate – was written out of the script early on. I wonder if this was because of a disagreement or if it was actually the original intention? You’ll probably guess who it is under the Elvis mask and the motive is the only one that it could have been, but it manages to avoid mediocrity by maintaining an impressive pace.
Now make no mistake about it, The Backlot Murders is no Scream and it’s not even a Cherry Falls, either. But for an unseen and never mentioned flick, it has some pluses that set it far apart from the likes of Blood Reaper et al. Somewhat unfairly brushed aside, if you are realistic with your expectations, then there’s nothing here that will disappoint you.
Final Girl √
Terror on Tour 1980
Directed by: Don Edmonds
Starring: Rick Styles, Chip Greenman, Rich Pemberton
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Ok – so who is brave enough to admit to remembering, or perhaps being a fan of glam metal? If you are too young, (or too embarrassed) to know what I am talking about, then I will give you the briefest possible insight. Before Gangster Rap had set a new level of explicit lyrics and rebellion, the baddest boys of music wore blusher, lipstick and more hairspray than Dolly Parton. Bands like Poison, Faster Pussycat, Pretty Boy Floyd and even early Guns n Roses were regulars on LA’s Sunset Strip and often looked prettier than the groupies that stalked them. Think Tommy Lee’s as hard as nails? Well, check out his perfect lipstick on the cover of Mötley Crüe’s ‘Too Fast for Love’ LP and then get back to me…
The true roots can be traced way back to the mid sixties, but the origins that cemented the theme were seventies metal group Kiss. Gene Simmonds and his band mates were a massive draw throughout the following decade and their outrageous costumes were the pre-cursor for the musical sub-genre that would follow until Kurt Cobain and his grunge buddies from Seattle would kill off hair metal completely in the early nineties. It’s not a style that I imagine would ever return, even if there is still very much an impressive following around the world. I noticed recently on eBay, Heart Throb Mob’s brilliant début CD, Hit List, was selling for over £2,000
Now I have mentioned previously on a SLASH above about the slasher genre often attempting to incorporate trends from outside of cinema in an attempt to reach other audiences. Well producer/director Don Edmonds, who had a made a name for himself with his exploitation classic Lisa: She Wolf of the SS, tabled this effort to mix the then extremely popular slasher trappings with the musical craze of the time.
The Clowns are a popular glam band who have a great stage act, which includes chopping the heads off of mannequins and threatening audiences with lines like, “Go home or we will kill you!” They wear distinctive make-up and face masks and their second LP is flying off the shelves. It seems however that someone has been taking the death elements of their shows a tad too seriously, as a killer dressed in the same costume has been hacking his way through the groupies backstage. Is it a fan with an unhealthy obsession? Or perhaps one of the band members has grown bored of only decapitating models and wants to experience the real thing?
When I sit down to watch any movie, I think about it as a meal. The screenwriter (recipe) gives us the ingredients and then the director (chef) has to find the right seasoning and cooking method to put it all together. Take a great killer guise, a host of naked females and a director with experience and surely only a fool could make a mess of it, right? Well Don Edmonds did many Interesting things in his career and I still think that True Romance (which he helped produce) is one of the greatest movies anywhere ever. Keeping that in mind though, it’s hard to know what he was thinking when he put together this alarmingly disappointing slasher.
Ok, so let’s begin with the cast. Rarely have I seen people that are so close in terms of location seem so distant in terms of chemistry. One character begins a conversation with another and we have to wait an unusual amount of time for a reply. When the response comes around it feels like the actors had just woken up from an overlong siesta and they maintain the same lack of emotional urgency, no matter what the situation. Whether it be a chat-up line to one of the countless semi-naked groupies (there’s loads of nudity in this one) or the reaction of discovering a bloody corpse splattered in the corridor, the mood never rises above… well, pancake flat.
With performances that stilted, you can imagine how much this drags when the killer’s not on screen. I found myself browsing the back of the video box by the thirty minute mark and had to remind myself that what I was reading about was actually playing on the screen. The killer, who proves he is REALLY crazy by going ‘grrrr’ in to the camera, is one of the less creative types that I can remember. He goes on his merry way with a large knife, but never gets a tad more creative or adapts his bog-standard MO. There’s a fairly large body count, but no development of most of the victims, so we don’t give a damn what happens to any of them. Come to think of it, they are so alien to the audience that they are billed in the closing credits as, Girl, Girl 2 and Next Girl etc.
There’s the opportunity to guess who’s killing everyone and the first two characters on the screen do their best ‘red herring’ Impersonation, but if you haven’t figured this one out by the forty minute mark, you need to really question whether you should be watching a R rated movie. Things come to a close with the obligatory final chase sequence, but despite a few possibilities, the momentum never feels suspenseful. It doesn’t help by having basic errors in the continuity, like a four-inch cut in the victim’s face that doesn’t bleed.
This was made before the genre had defined its trademarks, so there’s no real hero or heroine to root for. They introduced a possible final girl late in the feature, but she didn’t overpower the bogeyman this time around. In fact, I’m struggling to recollect a central protagonist to relate to and I only finished watching this an hour ago, so there was definitely no worthwhile characterisations of note here.
I’m not usually so harsh on these films, because I love slasher flicks, but this one left me so frustrated. It had the potential to be really sleazy and actually very good, but it never seemed to step back and make the most of its strengths. To have such a cheesy set up and such a great opportunity to exploit its synopsis, you’d think that this would be everything but tedious. It drags like chain smoker with his first cigarette for a month.
I didn’t mention what The Clowns as a band actually sounded like. Well the actors were from a real group called The Names and even though I didn’t enjoy their stage work so much, there’s an acoustic ballad about halfway through that’s actually quite good. They at least deserved better than the lacklustre ideas that they were given for their one and only movie outing.
Terror on Tour could have been better with a more motivated cast. It could have been better if someone had proof read the script. It could have been better if there was a bit of gore, suspense… Actually anything else that they chose could have been better than this.
Unless you have trouble sleeping – don’t even bother…