The Horror Connection

By David Maloney

In this monthly section we will discuss classic horror movies that either were very influential in the metal world, or have a metal soundtrack themselves. Metal and Horror cross into each others territories quite often. Be it in lyrical content, artwork, soundtracks or even stage presence.

Black Sabbath

There's supposed to be a reason why I had never seen Black Sabbath before, although it is the movie who inspired one of the greatest bands of all time, Black Sabbath. That's kinda of a known fact among headbangers, but I have been postponing it for something like ten years!

This anthology is composed by three segments, all of them directed by Mario Bava. The segments are masterfully crafted and range from tematics to time period with brilliance, resulting in a coherent and very solid experience, which rarely happens in the other anthologies I've seen before. Such wide variety of elements inside the movie allowed Bava to display his versatility in a way very few directors did, therefore, this movie deserves nothing less than five stars.

Black Sabbath also made even more convinced that Coppola was trying to recreate the ambience and style of period Euro horror with his Dracula, which is pretty awesome. And I bet the last segment might have been Argento's most powerful influence when he directed Suspiria!

Shocker

I was fortunate enough to see this film in a theatre back in 1989 and love it. Back then I was a hardcore fanboy, licking on Craven sack and loved everything he did. I am older, wiser, and not as much of a fanboy. So I revisited it and though the film is still good, with an amazing performance by Mitch Pileggi as Horace Pinker, but the similarities between it and A Nightmare On Elm Street are uncanny. You have a high school student with a Lieutenant as a father and doesn't believe him, you have the kid being able to interact with the villain within his dreams, you have elements within the dream able to be transported to reality. I mean why did I not pick up on these similarities back in 1989. Guess my tongue was to far back on Craven’s taint to notice.

The story follows Jonathan, a high school football star who dreams of is foster mother and siblings being killed by a mass murderer. Turns out his family was killed in real life and he’s the only one that can identify the killer from his dream. He sets out to get the killer with his Lieutenant father close behind. The killer, Pinker, is finally caught and is executed by the electric chair. But with his voodoo ritual background and intelligence he’s able to manipulate a weird electrical pulse or signal, that allows his spirit to jump from body to body. Pinker is looking for revenge and sets out to kill all his friends. Jonathan, along with his father, must stop Pinker for good.

So yes this strays from A Nightmare On Elm Street, but the similarities are certainly there. Peter Berg, as Jonathan, is something less to be desired in my opinion, so glad he traded careers and began directing movies.

shocker-1989-review Peter Berg tries his best acting impression in Shocker

Craven mixes some great music, like he did in his later films, into the score and really brings a rock ‘n’ roll atmosphere to the film. The electricity element added to the storyline in interesting and the end sequence within the TV is pretty cool. But what really makes this movie work and interesting is, again, Mitch Pileggi. The delivery of his lines, the intensity in his facial expressions bring the character to an over-the-top psycho level. Craven certainly knows how to choose cast his villians, that’s for damn sure.

The Crow

The Crow is a Gothic nightmare. With a view of Detroit that is every bit as bleak and dazzling as the urban panoramas presented in Batman and Blade Runner, this film makes it clear from the outset that wherever its flaws may lie, they will not be in the realm of visual presentation. Indeed, not only is The Crow a feast for the eyes, but it collides violently with another sense, utilizing a high decibel soundtrack to keep the energy level up.

There can be few in the audience upon whom the tragic irony of this picture will be lost. Lead actor Brandon Lee met his death in the final days of filming, killed as the result of a gun accident while acting the part of a man who returns from the dead to avenge his murder and that of his girlfriend (the film is dedicated to Lee and his fiance, Eliza Hutton). It is a case of "art imitating death", and that spector will always hang over The Crow. Fortunately, however, the vision of director Alex Proyas lifts this film above its sad history.

Lee plays murdered rock star Eric Draven, who returns from the grave one year following his Devil's Night slaughter. His task is simple and bloody -- avenge his death and that of his beloved Shelly by taking out each of the four killers. This he proceeds to do, with each murder becoming progressively more grizzly. Along the way, he teams up with a friendly cop (Ernie Hudson) who sympathizes with his goals.

The Crow allows no room for the viewer to take a breath, as it blazes with breakneck speed from scene to scene. Proyas displays a similar talent to that of John McTiernan and James Cameron in the way he packages the action scenes. This motion picture moves, and that makes up for a number of character and plot deficiencies. Admittedly, the appeal of The Crow is entirely visceral. There's nothing intellectual about frying eyeballs and impaled bodies. No matter how stylish the direction and how captivating the action scenes, it's hard to see this film as much more than a highly-accomplished entry into the "revenge picture" genre.

The decision to tell the story, at least in part, from the perspective of young Sarah (Rochelle Davis) is an effective choice. By utilizing her point-of-view, The Crow attains an emotional level that it would not otherwise have reached. This is one of the few occasions when a voice over works to advance, rather than hinder, the story. Most of the comic relief is provided by Angel David's Shank, but this character grows wearisome quickly, and lingers for a few too many scenes. Conversely, we probably don't see enough flashbacks of Eric and Shelly together in happier times.

Over the past few years, the flow of action movies has slowed, but that hasn't meant an overall increase in quality. The Crow is rare exception -- something that stands out because it's different and exciting. As a project that the director and producer finished in memory of their young star, this film is a fitting epitaph.

Halloween (Rob Zombie)

When it comes to remakes, I no longer ask "why?" but merely accept the inevitable. The reason always has more to do with greed and a lack of originality than a desire to re-create something out of affection or as an homage. To a certain extent, a remake of Halloween is as welcome as it is expected. Over the years, bad sequels have bled the concept so dry that it has become almost impossible to remember what it was about the first movie that made it such a touchstone of modern horror. The 2007 version of the film, while vastly inferior to John Carpenter's 1978 original, lets us travel back thirty years through the corridors of memory. Watching the new edition, we re-connect to the brilliance of the old one, even if what's on screen now is only a faded echo. This is not a good movie but, considering what Halloween has evolved into over the course of seven sequels, it's perhaps better than it has a right to be.

Turbulence 3 - Heavy metal

This is how bad my life has gotten. I was surfing some message boards when I found a post entitled “The worst movie I have ever seen...” I read on to discover that the author was referring to a film entitled TURBULENCE 3: HEAVY METAL. His description sounded so amusing that I went out and rented it that very night. At this point, I’m renting movies not based on recommendations, but on the dire warnings of people looking to help others avoid the pain and trauma they have had to endure. What’s worse; I actually enjoyed this so-called “worst movie ever,” since it has about as much faith in its audience’s intelligence as a scientist trying to explain nuclear physics to a classroom of preschoolers. The too-far-a-fetch-for-Lassie premise invites us into the world of outlandish and decadent goth metal. A Marilyn Manson-type rocker named Slade Craven (John Mann) decides to hold his farewell concert on a 747 in flight. I have no idea why anyone would want to do such a thing. We are told he is at the apex of his career, so it is unclear why a farewell is necessary. Nor is it explained why a farewell concert for Goth’s greatest star is being held on This is edgy? The interpretation of “Goth” in this film appears to be culled from MTV interviews with Good Charlotte and the writer’s memories of the outlandish behaviour  of the Hair Metal bands of the 80's.

Craven’s farewell concert also marks two others farewells; that of the careers of Rutger Hauer and Joe Mantegna, who appear in supporting roles in the film. Hauer plays the important role of the plane’s copilot. Hauer is so utterly unconvincing as a pilot that I kept waiting for the people looking for Frank Abagnale from CATCH ME IF YOU CAN to storm the cockpit and arrest him as a fake. Mantegna plays a cop who watches events unfold from the ground in a role that could be completely excised from the finished film without anyone noticing or caring. Mantegna could not look more bored if he tried; in his final scene when a relieved TV producer tries to thank him and shake his hand out of appreciation, Mantegna ignores him, and walks away in disgust. He does not appear to be acting.

The final piece of this unsolvable puzzle is Craig Sheffer, who plays a hacker, man of the people, and confused fan of goth music (His concept of goth is pastel blue shirts with matching bandanas). He says things like “Dude, that is totally awesome!” and he means them. He hacks in to the airplane’s feed to watch Mr. Craven’s concert at the very moment an FBI agent tries to arrest him, AND at the very moment that terrorists, including someone who appears to be Mr. Craven, hijack the airplane. Naturally, Sheffer’s Nick is the only character in this NASHVILLE-of-terrible-movies capable of fixing things. So he totally hacks in to computers and totally helps to land the plane using a computer flight simulator. And no, I totally didn't  make that up.

In case you’re wondering, the pervasive dumbness doesn't stop with the airplane concert idea, which takes place in a magical impossible place between first class and coach which I dubbed “The Impossible Zone.” In the film’s funniest goof, Craven wakes up bound in a storage closet somewhere on the plane. The only problem is the floor of this “closet” is clearly made out of concrete, which is a building material engineers tend to avoid when designing airplanes.

Until I read that message board post, I was unaware that TURBULENCE, starring Ray Liotta and Lauren Holly, had a single sequel. Apparently, the title was merely used as a way of getting what few people saw and enjoyed that movie to buy or rent an otherwise unrelated movie about a hijacked plane. Confusingly, Sheffer also stars in TURBULENCE 2: FEAR OF FLYER, as a completely different character. Made just two years ago, TURBULENCE 3 shows that the flag of of ugly films still waves proudly in the twenty-first century. You just have to know where to look for them.

Rock and Roll Nightmare

The plot is all over the place (especially when it comes to the big twist toward the end that just comes out of nowhere and is just plain bad in every possible way) and overall this movie is on the same level of horrible as films such as Troll 2 and The Room. With that being said there is just something about it that I have always liked for some reason that I don’t think I will ever understand. Despite how bad it really is I think that it is a fun movie (partially due to just how ridiculous it is) and I always make sure to watch it when the opportunity presents itself. I have shown it to people who either hated it or fell asleep halfway into it because they were that disinterested in it but in all honesty I think that every horror fan-especially those who like cheesy heavy metal-themed ones-should watch it just so they can say that they have seen it. Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare is one of those movies that takes a lot more shit than it probably should. Yes, it is quite bad and unintentionally funny at times due to the fact that it looks like it was shot for around $12.00 (and believe me I am being very generous here as I don’t think that the people behind it even spent that much) and the acting is nothing short of atrocious (it is so bad it makes the acting in your typical episode of Saved by the Bell look awesome in comparison.

 

David Maloney