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.

Highway To Hell

Highway to Hell seems to falter at every turn in its attempt to mix the comic elements with those of action and horror. None of this manages to come together in a way that pays off. The script was written by a young Brian Helgeland, whose main credit at the time was writing A Nightmare on Elm Street 4 (1988). Anyone who believed he had a future as a distinguished scriptwriter and an Oscar winner had to be psychic. Helgeland’s script is neither smart nor witty and tries to cover its lack of creativity and originality by placing in random elements from better movies that preceded it.Highway to Hell is directed by Ate de Jong, a Dutch filmmaker apparently well respected in his native land. In the US his greatest achievement is the all-but forgotten Beetlejuice rip-off Drop Dead Fred (1991) starring Phoebe Cates. I am unfamiliar with his Dutch movies, but judging from his two American films, it seems he is not one of the greater visionaries to come out of Europe. De Jong’s vision of hell isn’t very interesting, it looks like a scarcely populated post-apocalyptic world. The lack of imagination may be due to budgetary restraint, but he may have accidentally created one of the more optimistic views of hell as it appears to not have many inhabitants.

KISS Meets The Phantom

KISS is constantly portrayed as beings with magical powers, and those powers are derived from the cosmic talismans. From what I can tell, KISS does not require physical possession of the talismans to use their powers. So long as the talismans exist and are unimpeded by an opposing force, KISS can shoot lasers, breathe fire, and teleport. Why KISS takes the talismans with them on tour is a mystery. They should lock them up in a safe place, like a bank vault or inside the Temple of Elemental Evil.
After inventing a ray gun that can neutralize the cosmic force field, Devereaux sends Sam after the talismans once more. KISS follows the thief, but runs afoul of numerous creations that the evil scientist created to defeat them. First there is a whole pack of alien werewolf androids climbing all over the roller coaster. Those are easily defeated, but not easily forgotten. It's an awesome scene. See it and weep, miss it and miss a piece of human history. Following the werewolves, Star Child and his cosmic brothers run into an army of kung fu warriors and samurai. They teleport out of that fight since it is taking too much time. It's not until KISS follows Sam into the Chamber of Horrors that they get into trouble. Devereaux starts zapping the talismans with his ray gun, causing the artifacts to temporarily lose their magic powers. Our painted protagonists are defeated and imprisoned in a cage with laser bars. As the real members of KISS struggle to figure out a way to escape from their glittering cage, the robot replicas put on a concert intended to incite a riot that will destroy the amusement park. Demon, StarChild, Space Ace, and CatMan combine their powers to telekinetically retrieve their talismans from where Devereaux left them, and then destroy the artificial imposters on stage as the crowd watches. Devereaux is defeated and lapses into a state of catatonia. He would have gotten away with it, if it wasn't for that meddling rock band and their magic talismans! I couldn't help but laugh every time KISS used their magic powers to do anything. The "Star Wars" influence is very apparent, with lots of laser blasts, sparks, and zap sounds. Gene Simmons' constant waggling of his tongue is equally amusing, especially when parodying it to someone else while making lots of dramatic "Leh! Leh! Leh,leh,leh,leh!" sounds but man is it ever funny. When the movie is awesome, it is really awesome. Unfortunately, the opposite also holds true. When the movie is not awesome, it is really not awesome. Some of the scenes were just a bridge too far.

The Devil's Rejects

Zombie's film is both depraved and brutal, he takes sadistic glee in letting Spaulding's gang dismember and slaughter their victims. As a gore-fest, The Devil's Rejects is a serious success. The characters are bizarre, and it's impossible to turn away. The blood is copious, creative, and free flowing. The film is sick, twisted, and just plain wrong. In this case, that's exactly what Rob was going for. The script has a strong narrative structure too; it's not just random scenes of violence that string it together, but an actual story for audiences to latch onto. If there's a problem, it's that there's simply absolutely no one here to root for. There are no winners, there are no heroes. Are we supposed to root for the mentally ill killers? Gore hounds will love it, this is the genre at the top of its game, but there's not much here for the rest of us.

Pledge Night

The movie is basically a group of horrible fraternity punks putting pledges through disgusting tasks.  It’s boring and the characters are really bland yet the acting is pretty decent.  Sadly, the script is what is really poor.  I definitely don’t mind movies that have a slow build as long as the payoff is worth it, but here it just isn’t.  Worse is that the great band Anthrax not only did the music (which was still great) but the band was actually in this below par film.It does have a few highlights and humorous moments, but the plot is a confused contrived mess that mixes a wannabe Freddy Krueger demonic villain and elements of a standard slasher.  At times, it reminded me of the much better Killer Party where the sorority rather than the fraternity was the focus.  Unlike the admittedly jumbled Killer Party, there is zero fear factor or atmospheric moments within the production.

Queen Of The Damned

Queen of the Damned has a few good sequences, but the film's disjointed narrative makes it near impossible to ever become completely engrossed. The first half of the movie is relatively stable - with Lestat's rise to fame as a rock 'n roll god - but the remaining portion careens wildly between Lestat's story, an intrepid paranormal investigator, and the vampires looking to stop Lestat. This lack of consistency prevents the movie from becoming anything more than a slick, instantly forgettable (not to mention loud) vampire movie.

Demons

I like gore, don’t get me wrong. And “Demons” certainly provides a lot of gore. It’s just that I would like some reason for the gore. The demons appear pretty much for no apparent reason and runs around biting and infecting moviegoers. The film spends its entire run with a large group of characters trying make their way out of the theater, but unfortunately the doors have all been blocked by concrete walls. Don’t even ask where the concrete walls come from.If you like mindless bloodletting and well done gore, you’ll love “Demons”. The film has zero scares and its killings are done in a silly, even humorous, manner. The acting is, not surprisingly, sub par.“Demons” is not for everyone. It’s good in that it does what it does well, but it’s bad in that it does everything else, well, badly.

David Maloney