Ever since BLACK SABBATH opened their self-titled debut album with the spine-chilling sounds of pouring rain, growling thunder and eerie chimes back in 1969, the Heavy Metal- and the horror genre have been connected to each other almost as closely as Belial and Duane Bradley before their forceful secession. And since I’m both, a dedicated horror nut and a die-hard headbanger, it’s no wonder that I dig just about every movie–no matter how cheesy `n sleazy it might be–that features riff-laden rock music, blood-curdling killings and gruesome fiends all together. Here’s a list of my personal Top 10 rocksploitation flicks of all freakin’ time!
Ok, I admit, ZOMBIE NIGHTMARE isn’t a very good film… in fact, I’d even say that this flick, which tells the story of the righteous baseball star Tony Washington (played by Canadian bodybuilding champion and rock warrior Jon Mikl Thor), who gets re-animated by a voodoo priest after he’s killed by a gang of thugs and henceforth hunts down his tormentors as a jersey-wearing zombie, is really damn bad. The plot is lame, the effects are bad and the twist in the end is predictable. So why does it end up in my Top 10 list anyway? Well, the answer’s easy. Cause it features one of the very best soundtracks of all time and throughout it’s 90 minutes running-time, we get to hear kick-ass tracks by cult metal bands such as MOTÖRHEAD, THOR, GIRLSCHOOL, VIRGIN STEELE, FIST and DEATHMASK!! Believe me, if you’ve got at least a tiny, little weak spot for oldschol metal sounds, you’ll love this flick for its soundtrack alone… oh, and the fact that ZOMBIE NIGHTMARE features WANYE’S WORLD-star Tia Carrere in one of her first roles, doesn’t hurt either…^^
Uuhh, another pretty bad movie. But one that definitely belongs into the category of “films which are so bad they’re actually good”. GHOUL SCHOOL is a hilarious ultra-lowbudget flick about a highschool swimming team, whose members terrorize the other pupils and teachers after they’ve been turned into blood-thirsty zombies by a strange chemical that accidently ended up in their swimming pool. In order to prevent the ghastly ghouls from taking over their school, a bunch of ROBOT NINJA-lovin’ geeks has to team up with the worst heavy metal band that ever appeared in movie and fight back the attack of the undead. Next to the afore-mentioned band, the film does also feature the most untalented basketball team ever, the clumsiest Fulci homage ever and last but not least one of the coolest lines of all time… say whatever you want, but that alone should be more than enough to justify GHOUL SCHOOL’s mention in this list!
Teacher: “You don’t know what you’re getting into here. I do! I’m older than you. I’m your teacher.”
Geek: “Yeah, but you’re also a dick!”
Normally this should have been the best movie ever… I mean, c’mon, can you think of a better story than the twisted tale of an up-and-coming glam rock band, who is about to play a concert in the small town of Grand Guignol but eventually gets electrecuted by the town’s head, who–after taking off his mask–turns out to be none other than Adolf Hitler? And as if that ain’t already be enough, the film continues with the rotten band members being raised from their graves by the lead singer’s underage girlfriend and ends with a no-holds-barred battle of the Hard Rock Zombies against Hitler and his loyal horde of ghoulish zombie henchmen… there’s no doubt, HARD ROCK ZOMBIES could have been one of the greatest cheesefests of all time, but unfortunately the humor doesn’t always hit the mark and the course of the proceedings is quite a tad too tangled and muddle-headed and so the film gets more and more annoying towards the end. Nevertheless, I sure as hell want it in my list for the simple reason that it’s most likely the most bizarre and fucked-up Heavy Metal horror film ever made!
As a matter of fact, no self-respecting horror film list is complete if it doesn’t feature at least one werewolf movie. Ok, the smartasses among you might say now that at some point in HARD ROCK ZOMBIES, Hitler’s wife transforms into a lycanthrope, too, but that doesn’t really qualify the film as a werewolf flick… I want the real deal… and I get it in form of John Callas’ LONE WOLF from 1988. This obscure little gem, which is almost impossible to find on VHS these days and hasn’t been re-released on DVD yet, provides solid oldschool camp that’s always good for a few scares and a helluva lot of laughs. As so often in the rocksploitation genre, the story of LONE WOLF once more centers around an aspiring highschool band (played by a bunch of actors who look like they’re in their late 30s to mid 40s) who dream of makin’ it big. Too a bad a hungry werewolf keeps showing up at their campus as well as their concerts and devours teenager after teenager in the most brutal and savage ways imaginable…
John Fasano’s second work as a director, BLACK ROSES, is without a doubt one of Heavy Metal horror’s biggest cult films of all time. And rightly so… the story of a bunch of demons dressing up as rockers and reaping the innocent souls of the teenagers who show up at their concerts is just helluva good fun from start to finish and the goofy latex monsters and kick-ass soundtrack (incl. tracks by LIZZY BORDEN, HALLOW’S EVE, KING KOBRA, BANG TANGO and others) should please each and every fan of the genre more than just a bit… still, I personally like Fasano’s debut, ROCK’N'ROLL NIGHTMARE, even more… but I’ll come to that later on.
Wanna get a diploma in dying? Then join the Phi-Epsilon-Nu fraternity and get ready to pull one cruel but hilarious prank after the other on pledge night… but beware, cause there’s always a good chance that the vengeful spirit of a fraternity brother, who got killed in a prank many years ago, will suddenly come back from hell to take bloody revenge on everyone who still plays evil games with others on that one, faithful night of the year. And that’s exactly what happens in Paul Ziller’s PLEDGE NIGHT, cause after a good 45 minutes of pretty hilarious goofball comedy, the film all of a sudden turns into an over-the-top horror shocker when the re-animated corpse of a deceased student named Sid appears at the fraternity house and uses his supernatural powers to bring death and havoc to the moribund members of Phi-Epsilon-Nu. So far, so good… but what is it that qualifies this movie as a rocksploitation flick? Well, first of all does the demon version of Sid look quite a bit like a headbanger and secondly (and more important) does the soundtrack not only contain several songs by New York’s speed metal pioneers Anthrax, but also do we see the band’s lead singer Joey Belladonna getting drowned in acid in a short flashback sequence…
Heavy Metal wakes the beast… or, in extremely bad situations, not just one but hundreds or even thousands of beasts! That’s what the two boys Glen and Terry have to learn the hard way, when they play a cursed LP by the band SACRIFIX backwards and, by doing so, open a gate to the underworld in Glen’s parent’s backyard and accidently release a true army of tiny fiends, who henceforth turn the kids’ and their friends’ otherwise happy lives into living hell by pestering them all day and night long. And if those little devils weren’t already enough to worry the hell out of the two boys, their boss–a gigantic worm-like monster from the fiery depths of hell–does soon make his way to the surface, too, to finish what his nasty, lil vanguard has started… Tibor Takacz’ cult film THE GATE from 1987 is without a doubt one of the most entertaining, most charming and most popular Heavy Metal horror films of all time. And that’s for obvious reasons, cause not only does the flick present the feature film debut of a young Stephen Dorff (who later went on to achieve wider fame in films like BLADE and ALONE IN THE DARK), but also does it feature some of the best special effects and stop motion animation you’ll ever see in a b-movie! There’s no denying, THE GATE is definitely a movie that deserves to be labeled a true classic of the genre!
Sammy Curr’s a bad ass! The infamous heavy metal singer is the hero of a whole generation of young rockers and the living nightmare of their parents, who fear that Curr’s devilish music spoils the toubled souls of their loved ones. And how right they are. Cause after the famous rock’n'roll star dies in a hotel fire, he uses black magick to come back to life and kill everybody who’s ever been mean to his biggest fan, the high school kid Eddie “Ragman” Weinbauer. At first Eddie’s pretty happy about his new accquaintance from beyond but when Sammy starts to go postal on the boy’s friends, family and queen of hearts, it’s up to Eddie to bring the nightmare to an end and plug out Sammy Curr’s guitar for good. So much for the plot of TRICK OR TREAT, which is already pretty kick-ass in itself, but what really makes this movie one of my alltime faves, is the helluva lot of attention to detail that’s been put into every single scene of it… I can’t think of another Heavy Metal horror film that feels more `legit’ than this one and watching TRICK OR TREAT is like a journey through Hard Rock heaven for every halfway observing headbanger… there’s just so much to explore in here, it’s almost unbelievable: Eddie’s got RAVEN posters on his wall, EXCITER records on his turntable, ANTHRAX shirts on his chest, IRON MAIDEN buttons on his denim jacket and LIZZY BORDEN stickers on the inside of his locker & throughout the c(o)urse of the film we get to see cameos by Ozzy Osbourne and Gene Simmons as well as to hear lots `n lots of awesome music by former MOTÖRHEAD guitarist “Fast” Eddie Clarke and his band FASTWAY. Honestly guys, if you got at least the slightest bit of love for the pounding Metal of the 80s, you’ll sure as hell love this movie to death!
Director John Fasano and actor Jon Mikl Thor have both already appeared in this list with other films of theirs, but both of them made their most remarkable contribution to the rocksploitation genre when they joined creative forces in 1987 and made an awesome little film called ROCK’N'ROLL NIGHTMARE (aka THE EDGE OF HELL). With Fasano behind the camera and Thor, who also wrote the script, infront of it, this movie is like the epitome of corny b-movie camp! The story of an aspiring rock band, who rehearses for the recording of their debut album in an eerie spookhouse is pure cheesefest gold, the music by Canadian cult rockers THOR is freakin’ awesome (“We Live To Rock”… YEAAHHH!!) and Thor and his lady’s love scene in the shower is only to be topped by his hilarious brawl with the devil that marks the movie’s big finale. No kidding, I’ve seen that movie like a dozen times already and I never grow tired of it… ROCK’N'ROLL NIGHTMARE’s got everything that makes a good b-movie: cool music, campy actors, goofy humor, silly looking latex monsters, lots of nudity and a completely ridiculous deus-ex-machina twist in the end. If you’re looking for the perfect film to watch on a Saturday evening with a handful of your pals and two crates of beer, ROCK’N'ROLL NIGHTMARE is an almost perfect choice!
The last of the classic oldschool rocksploitation films (at least the last one I know of) is also the genre’s undisputed masterpiece: Mark Freed’s SHOCK `EM DEAD from 1991. Ever since my friends ad I first found out about that flick and watched it a couple of years ago, it’s become a true cult flick for each and everyone of us and over the years we’ve been watching it again and again and belting out the film’s most hilarious quotes at any give occasion. According to sound designer and music supervisor Robert Decker, the makers of the film weren’t even sure themselves whether they were making a horror film or a comedy, but who cares, cause the only thing that really matters (at least to me) is that SHOCK `EM DEAD ended up to be one of the coolest, funniest and most entertaining trash films I’ve ever seen. Telling the story of a nerdy loser named Martin, who quits his job at a local pizza joint to become a world-famous rock guitarist and ultimately sells his soul to the devil in trade for some real talent after he got laughed out of his first audition with the words “We’ve finally found him… the worst guitar player in the world!”, SHOCK `EM DEAD is a non-stop camp bombardment of the highest and most hilarious order. Including the involvement of NITRO’s guitar wizard Michael Angelo Batio as a stunt guitarist and a stunningly hot Traci Lords as the female lead, this tour de force of sheer, outspoken campiness as a real must-see for every fan of Hard Rock-laden b-movies and so-bad-it’s-actually-funny horror films… unfortunately, this indubitable cult film has still not seen a proper DVD release yet, but I say it’s about time that a label like Anchor Bay, Synapse or Tempe gets hold of the rights for SHOCK `EM DEAD and gives the patiently waiting b-movie fans out there the longtime overdue collector’s edition DVD! If there’s one movie that should definitely find it’s way into every camp-loving rocker’s film collection, it’s SHOCK `EM DEAD!