Thursday, July 11, 2013

ROCK 'N' ROLL NIGHTMARE (1987)

Make no mistake — ROCK 'N' ROLL NIGHTMARE is a terrible, terrible film. But it's terrible in a way that almost dares you to ignore it. I was introduced to this low budget mess a few years ago by a longtime friend who had come across it on a non-chain video store shelf. He rented it out of curiosity and none of his friendships have really ever recovered. His desire to repeatedly show it to unsuspecting victims at every opportunity has caused threats of drunken violence against him, his family and his pets. I think I had the same reaction that anyone would've had... minus the wish for the sweet relief of death but plus the numbing influence of alcohol. By turns bored, incredulous, amused and flabbergasted, I came away simply stunned that this thing existed much less that a cult had grown up around it and its star John-Mikl Thor.

The film tells the story of a small rural farmhouse that apparently resides atop a gateway to Hell. As the film begins we witness an attack on the residing family by a vicious Oven Demon (derived from the Latin demonicous magicus chefis) that renders the place an impossible sale for real estate dealers for the next 10 years. Then, in a series of never ending shots, we watch Jon Triton (Jon-Mikl Thor) drive his band's van to the remote house to utilize its seclusion to his creative advantage. Bringing his band The Tritonz here he hopes to use the newly installed 24-track recording studio in the barn to record a new album while also recharging the band's inspirational batteries. Along with the band members are wives, girlfriends and enough interpersonal angst to fuel an after school special. The band settles into the farmhouse and right away we are given floor level monster-cam shots of something lurking in the house with evil designs. I assumed that the cast would just need to stay away from the kitchen and they'd be safe but I was wrong. It seems that possession is a trick these demon-types have mastered so as soon as they attack/kill/eat (whatever-the-hell they do off camera to save money), the rotting corpse is then used to lure the next sucker to their doom. The first victim is dorky Tritonz manager Max (David Lane). He acts as cook, recording engineer and all-around cheerleader but is too dumb to recognize the danger signs right in front of his eyes, such an incredibly hot but snooty babe disrobing for a quickie in the barn's basement. (The fact that the barn has a basement is pretty silly, of course, and they do such a poor job of faking the location that it just adds to the fun.) This converts Max into one of the house's possessed creatures, lurking around slowly (slowly!), picking off the other characters one by one. I was amused that when the band's drummer is taken over by the spirits/demons/whatever the only discernible changes are better skills in bed and on the skins — and the loss of his astoundingly bad English accent. Maybe this possession thing isn't so bad, huh? Until that demonic hand rips through your chest to grab your naked girlfriend, that is.

As the cast disappears Thor becomes more and more angry that so little practicing is getting done. In an attempt to keep viewers awake, liberal amounts of nudity are spread throughout with the clichéd (required?) shower scene thrown in for good measure. Of course, since the best looking person on screen is Thor, the shower involves him and his girlfriend Randy (Teresa Simpson). Nice to know they included something for the ladies but I could've lived my whole life without seeing Thor's wet ass.


    After the shower Thor sits down in the barn to work on his new love song, seemingly unaware that the rest of the cast has been eaten/possessed/pulled down to Hell. The devilish creatures that have been sliming around the place show themselves in full and to top things off, Beelzebub himself puts in an amusing appearance. To give away any more of the climax would be to rob the film of its one truly inspired bit of madness so I'll just smile and have another drink. Suffice to say that if you can make it to the end you will barely believe how the story wraps up. It may not be genius but it is jawdroppingly insane and well worth the wait for lovers of cheesy badness.
    Steeped in that most atrocious of all decades, the 1980s, ROCK 'N' ROLL NIGHTMARE is like a low budget time capsule of things that made life insufferable during the Reagan years. The worst elements of music, horror films and fashion are on display as if one of the script's appendices were a checklist of 'things that will embarrass us in five years'. Neither scary, interesting nor entertaining on the level it hopes for, this is a film that most folks would be smart to skip. It's poorly done on nearly all fronts, with the aforementioned crazed ending being its only saving grace. Having said that I can now admit that on a certain level I actually enjoy this movie. In the PLAN NINE FROM OUTER SPACE range of so-bad-its-good fun this actually scores very high. Preposterously silly, with terrible acting, hysterically bad dialog and some of the worst screen monsters this side of H.R. Puffnstuff, this would have been perfect for an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Indeed, the small spud-like puppet demons that appear in ROCK 'N' ROLL NIGHTMARE are so funny that I began to suspect the effects crew weren't told they were making a horror film. The little one-eyed creature's quivering, gape-jawed reactions to Thor are incredibly funny reminding me of Beaker from The Muppet Show — and that's not the way to scare anyone! By the time Satan shows up things are so off the rails that the only possible reaction is incredulity. I can attest that most people watching this for the first time look like they've been smacked with a baseball bat. By my second viewing I was wondering if the special effects budget was less or equal to the cost of hair spray for the cast.
As you would expect in a story about a rock band there are several songs performed, and as the title would indicate the songs are ROCK! (Or should that be spelled RAWK?) The Tritonz are a typical late '80s hair metal band with peroxide taking the lead over musical complexity in the performer's bag of tricks. Each song is a by rote slab of cheese with very few lyrics, reliant on a simple repeated chorus to bang its way into your head. Turn your brain off and the tunes can be fun but no ones ever going to mistake this stuff for good music. And the film doesn't help itself by scattering extra metal songs over every other scene as a form of sonic wallpaper. It's as if they were trying to get as many songs in as possible to give them some exposure. Less would have been more, I think.
    With a film this bad it would be tempting to excoriate the creative force behind it, namely Jon-Mikl Thor. After all, he wrote the script, produced and starred in this mess. Except that once you've seen the film it becomes hard to dislike the man. He is so earnest in his desire to entertain that in the end his enthusiasm is contagious. And even if the songs he writes are crap, the film sucks and he is little more than an overly made up clown posing in silly outfits- its really just all in fun. No one's taking this stuff seriously, least of all Thor. So you've been warned. Enter with the right mindset and you'll find gold but otherwise you’re in for a long ride. I won't force it on anyone but I can recommend it for anybody wanting to have his or her own night of Mystery Science Theater-style fun. You won't lack for straight lines with this film!

1 comment:

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