SEPTEMBER 7, 2009
After I reviewed Black Roses, several folks asked (dared?) me to watch Rock N’ Roll Nightmare (titled The Edge Of Hell on the film itself), and to each and every one of them, I say THANK YOU. What a gloriously stupid, inept, wonderful piece of crap. If I could see a movie this inane just once a month, then I will gladly do HMAD until the end of time.
Things start off laughably bad as soon as the first shot comes on the screen. We have two establishing shots of the same house, one only slightly at a different angle from the other - less than 8 seconds in and we already have bad editing. Then we get a “vertigo” shot with no apparent subject to remain in place as the background shrinks. My best guess would be one of the random shrubs near the house, but since the cameraman doesn’t quite pull off the shot, it’s hard to tell. And then a woman is sucked into an oven, a fact her husband doesn’t seem to think is really strange (seeing the oven shaking around, he just casually says “Honey? You in there?”). All this in the first 3 minutes, folks.
We then watch a van drive along for about 10 minutes, and this is a problem that continues throughout the entire movie. Either they simply didn’t have enough legitimate footage to make a full length film, or the editor suffered from whatever the exact opposite of ADD is. It never gets as bad as this part, but shots going on longer than necessary seems to be an issue at least once per minute. And that’s ignoring whether their respective scenes should be left in the movie at all - there are at least three scenes revolving around people doing dishes, with as many if not more that concern people discussing the need to do dishes. A bit of advice for any filmmaker, especially those making horror movies - NO scene in your film should revolve around making dishes, unless it is the setup for a garbage disposal and/or detergent-based kill.
Oh and the laughably cheap events just keep coming. The little demon puppets are clearly socks, and they don’t even bother to put a hole where the mouth is. A typically “OK, cut now!” kill scene is played entirely by watching shadows on the wall, which would be fine if the shadows actually resembled killing motions in any way. But the highlight has to be the final battle between our hero (John Mikl-Thor) and the devil (another puppet). After Thor lists off every possible name for the Devil, the devil begins to throw starfish at Thor (odd form of the Hadoken), but since they aren’t actual weapons, Thor is clearly catching them and pressing them against his skin to simulate being attacked. And, it should be of no surprise by now, it goes on forever - he does this with at least a dozen starfish, not a single one ever appearing frightening.
The fact that this and the following “fight” (the two just locking arms and spinning around for about 6 minutes) plays without any actual sound, just another hilariously hair metal song, makes it all the more ridiculous.
Of course, I say none of this to be negative. If you rate a film strictly by how much you are entertained while watching it, it’s the greatest film ever made. I was never bored (well, maybe during the dishes scenes), the soundtrack is damn Shocker-y (not to mention the Tourist Trap-esque score, which largely consists of a choir-like “Ah!” sound every 5 seconds or so), the cheap puppets made me laugh out loud every single time, and, again - the climax involves Satan throwing starfish at a guy that looks like a cross between Dolph Lundgren in He-Man and a female Vince Neil impersonator (indeed, when he begins a sex scene in a shower with a red haired girl, I momentarily thought the film was giving us a lesbian scene). It’s 83 minutes of bliss.
The weird thing about it is that it LOOKS much newer than it is. The DVD transfer must be immaculate, because I seriously thought I was watching something from the 2000s that was just SET in the 80s. And possibly parodying such films. In fact, I’m still not sure if they were being serious or not - like Suburban Sasquatch, it’s missing that winking-at-the-camera feel of other intentionally goofy movies (such as Die You Zombie Bastards).
Listening to the commentary by director John Fasano and Thor doesn’t clarify things. They mock the film (and its "actors") and frequently bemoan their lack of money to pull off proper effects and such, which leads me to believe that they wanted to make something that was fun but not intentionally stupid, and over the years have come to grips with the fact that that is precisely what they ended up doing. Either way, it’s a fun track, and some of the behind the scenes stories are priceless. For example, there’s a scene where the band’s producer brings some groupies to the house and asks them to take their tops off, which they all refuse to do. In reality, the ‘actresses’ refused to take their tops off as well, resulting in the scene becoming meta and the actor becoming legitimately angry with them.
The other extras aren’t as enjoyable. There’s a retrospective with Thor that’s a bit too delusional at times (by delusional I mean he seems legitimately proud of this thing), and two behind the scenes pieces shot during the film’s production. Not only do they follow the film’s habit of being assembled instead of edited, but they are lacking context. Though, you do get to hear Fasano yelling at the child actor and berating him for “ruining shots” - and you find out on the commentary that the kid is his stepson, making the moment even more uncomfortable - so there’s something. Then there are a couple of music videos by Tritonz.
Oh yeah - the character’s name is John Triton. So I guess this movie is a prequel to The Marine.
The movie wasn’t half over before I was asking Phil at the New Beverly to screen it (as a double feature with Dark Floors - another ridiculous, metal band-centric horror movie). Even if it’s on a goddamned DVD (do prints of this thing even exist?) I would relish the opportunity to watch this with a bunch of drunks. Someone make this happen!
What say you?