Black Roses (1988)

AUGUST 7, 2009


My best friend Jeff has been telling me to watch Black Roses for years, but always ends his request with “it’s so bad!” Now, obviously I have watched my fair share of, and even occasionally enjoy bad movies, but still - I do this primarily to find rare gems and expand my horror film knowledge, not to watch bad movies that even someone among the few who have seen it don’t seem to care for. More of a disincentive, really.

Luckily for Jeff, he hasn’t sat through as much garbage as I have, so I can see why he would think this would be the epitome of “so bad it’s good” horror movies. Sadly, it wasn’t even the best example of this type that I watched this week (that would be Night Of The Demon); I merely found it kind of boring for the most part.

Part of the problem is the film’s repetitive storytelling. The titular band (who can apparently possess their fans through the power of their two songs) plays for 3-4 nights in this small town, but you know that all hell can’t really break loose until the last half hour at most, so you get a concert, and then maybe one death, then the hero investigates a bit, tends class (the hero is an English teacher), and then the next concert begins and the whole cycle starts up again. I would have preferred that the band only did two shows, with some actual build up to the first show, then a small wave of murders, and then our hero tries to stop the 2nd show from occurring. Or something of that nature - anything but the lather/rinse/repeat setup they got going now.

Also, the opening scene sort of spoils the film’s end. It’s an 80s horror movie, so you know perfectly well that the villains won’t really die at the end, but still, it kind of deflates the suspense when the plot hinges on the fact that the band has never played live before and have decided to start in this little town, when the film opens with them playing for a large audience in some major city.

Right after this, we witness a continuity holocaust, though I must admit that I probably only noticed due to the fact that there’s a "Collins Hotel" in the shot.

First, the singer looks at the town (this is his POV). Note the Collins Hotel further up the street.

Then he turns to look at his bandmates...

...and now the hotel is behind them.

Still, it’s not without entertainment value. Many of the kill scenes are delightfully insane, such as when a dad plays “strip gin” with his daughter’s best friend (apparently the actor suggested the daughter be a part of the scene, but the actress refused to do nudity), or when a girl gives her stepdad a back rub before clubbing him to death with a weight, or when another girl tries to seduce her teacher (every murder starts off like a letter to Penthouse, you see) before turning into a little dinosaur type thing and chasing him around the house.

Also, the lead singer looks like an 80s’ Michael Bay.

There are also a number of performances from future or past stars. Creature from the Black Lagoon’s Julie Adams plays one of the mothers, and Vincent “Big Pussy” Pastore has his screen debut as a dad who is sucked into a speaker. It’s not the best acting work he’s ever done - he merely seems kind of confused during his death scene instead of frightened or angry - but it’s fun to see him before he just played generic mob guy in every movie. And for the first time ever, I’ve watched a movie with a My Bloody Valentine lead. Paul "TJ" Kelman plays the aforementioned stepdad, and further demonstrates why he didn’t have much of a career.

In another tie with My Bloody Valentine, we have people who are way older than the suggested age of the character they are playing. But where in MBV it was kind of vague how old they were, here they are high school students, and yet this one guy is clearly 35 years old. I actually thought he was the film’s hero for a while, but he gets sort of phased out of the movie after awhile, allowing the mustachioed English teacher to take front and center while displaying ugly sweaters.

Director John Fasano, writer Cindy Cirile (wait, this was written by a woman? DADDY ISSUES!) and some other folks offer a commentary track, one with the usual sort of “OK it’s been 15 years so we can mock our movie” tone. Unfortunately he’s afraid to burn bridges I guess, and only hints at some behind the scenes drama (a fired DP, for example) rather than give details, which is a bummer. His young daughter also joins in, and doesn’t seem to be much of a fan of the film. I guess it’s supposed to be funny but it’s just annoying. Then there are some auditions for the role of Damian, which is a surprise as they usually won’t even give the names of other actors who tried out for a role, let alone their audition footage (maybe because none of them seem to have gone on to anything resembling a successful career?). There are also a pair of promos, one used at Cannes to try to sell the film, which are interesting because they make the film look even more boring and cheesy than it actually is.

So it’s not without its entertainment value, but there are a number of films far better (and by that I mean worse) to amuse yourself with in this manner. And it’s rare, apparently, so it’s not worth the effort you’d probably have to put into finding it (not counting a Netflix rental, of course) unless you are an aficionado of the rather small sub-genre of rock n' roll horror movies.

What say you?

HorrorBlips: vote it up!


  1. Sadly, somewhere along the line I became an aficionado of the rather small sub-genre of rock 'n roll horror movies...and in that vein, I would HIGHLY recommend you check out Rock 'n Roll Nightmare. Not only is it the pinnacle of the sub-genre, but it also features some of the best hand puppet work ever committed to celluloid, IMHO...

  2. I've got this on DVD and it gets a spin every Halloween season. It's terrible, but awesome at the same time. For this genre I think the best you can watch is 1986's "Trick or Treat."

  3. i think part of the charm is that you have to be really into glam and hair metal to really appreciate it-- i think thats why jeff likes it so much. it's been a while since i have watched it-- we don't own it, we always borrow miss press's, but i love it. i forgot about the penthouse thing, and the theme song-- "ITS JUST MEEEEE AGAINST THE WOOORLLLDDD" is amazing-- it makes it onto many a mixx cd. sure there's worse, but who cares?

  4. While also seconding the recommendation of "Trick or Treat," it's more worth noting that the director of "Black Roses," John Fasano, in fact was merely sharpening his "Canadian rock horror" genre skills here, having previously directed the above-recommended "Rock 'n' Roll Nightmare," a film that succeeds in every way it is possible for a film to succeed. Anyone who has not seen "Rock 'n' Roll Nightmare" cannot really knowledgeably comment on cinema.

  5. Having seen all of the above mentioned movies, "Rock 'n Roll Nightmare," "Trick or Treat," and "Black Roses," there is no contest. "Rock 'n Roll Nightmare" is a cheesy horror movie fan's dream. Oh, it's terrible, but masterful in that terrible in a funny way. Get ready for a 10 minute van ride of an opening scene and an entire catalogue of full length Thor music. What it lacks in having Skippy from Family Ties as a leading man (ie. Trick or Treat), it makes up in flying puppets.

  6. Actually there is no continuity error due to the opening scene of the film. Prior to the second concert Damien says something to the effect that the band has never played outside the studio before coming to Mill Basin, except for one time, and that was a disaster, a reference to the opening of the film. What happened between then and the band's arrival in town is never explained though.

    The main selling points of the movie were a slick VHS package with an extremely raised image on the front, which made it a must pick up video judging from the cover alone. Plus the soundtrack is one of the more coveted than the film itself as it is extremely rare. I spent eight years in bidding wars on eBay every time a vinyl or CD copy came up. I never won because the amouts grew obscene very quickly. I was just lucky enough recently to get a burned copy from a friend, so I am rocking out to it every day.

    -Master Vyle

  7. Oh yah? Well, I got in my collection, bought not rented Trick or Treat Phantom of the Paradise Black Roses and Shock 'em Dead.!!! Rock'n Roll Nightmare I got rid of when it was on vhs. I might get it again in the future but I'm not gonna die without it either, ya know?

  8. Does anybody know what or where the school is located they use in this film??? ...Is it right in Dundas, or in some residential area in Hamilton?

  9. I worked on the film (all those years ago) and yes it was shot in Dundas, Ontario as well as Hamilton. I think the school was in Dundas.

  10. GBC, are you serious????
    you actually really worked on the set for Black Roses??
    That blows me away. What did you all do on the set??What do you all remember about the filming of this movie all those years ago???
    This is our favourite movie of ALL TIME. We actually scored Black Roses shirts and wear them still to this day in the town of Dundas hoping SOMEBODY will recognize/remember the filming of this movie from back in 1987 and could supply us with information and memories.
    If you GBC or anybody out there has any information and or worked on the set for this movie and could PLEASE give me more information, that would be beyond a dream. You can contact me via email at:


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