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.

 

Suck

The first rule of naming your movie is that if you choose a title like "Blow" or "Filth" or in this case, "Suck", you should make sure it's good enough that it doesn't lend itself to glib, one-sentence reviews. Fortunately, this one's kinda fun.

Small-time band The Winners takes a cross-country tour on their way to CMJ in New York. Their trajectory takes a detour when vampirism becomes part of their act. Iggy Pop, Dave Foley, Alice Cooper and Henry Rollins pop in for some supporting comedy, and Malcolm McDowell plays Eddie Van Helsing, the vampire-hunter who wants to end this rock-n-roll nightmare. I think my favorite thing about this movie is when outspoken vegan Moby plays "Beef" the front-man for rock band "The Secretaries of Steak", whose fans throw raw meat during concerts.

Slumber Party Massacre II

Was there ever a more fun time for the horror genre than the 80s? Only in the 80s could a movie like Slumber Party Massacre II to be made and work well with the audience. Even though the 70s is my favorite time for the horror genre (and film in general) the 80s easily has to rate as the most fun the genre has ever had and most likely ever will. There are still some filmmakers that attempt this kind of off the wall over the top movie and almost all the time it doesn’t work and even when it does work it feels forced. Released in 1987 Slumber Party Massacre II picks up from the original and is set 5-years later (and the movie came out 5-years after the original).

Death Metal Zombies

Unless you are a lover of cheap, cheesy  features like this and prefer the slick look of some of the horror films done in the vein of Vanity Fair Magazine, (like we see so much in the current climate of filmmaking), this film is not going to appeal, and even less so if you are not a fan of this type of music. But as I suspect many of you are,  a lover of the dark, and extreme in music or film then I urge you to check it out. Even if you are not a fan of metal per say but love a bit of thrashy  gore there will be enough here to satisfy you and believe me the musical background is perfectly fitting. For all its obvious foibles there was a distinct fun element contained within. Made by metalheads for metalheads is all I can say, and keeping it ‘True’ all the way! Manowar would be proud. One thing I have always loved about the community of metal heads is their ability to not take themselves too seriously, and there is plenty of that in this movie which provides a perfect parody of the genre I love so much. We have people bursting into impromptu headbanging, spot the cool band poster/shirt, windmilling long hair galore, and one of the opening scenes features shots of a gig which reminded me so much of days gone by in sweaty clubs getting slammed into by a beer soaked adolescent crowd. One scene where a thief returns home with her spoils and headbangs her way through the house on her way to the toilet is just pure comedy. Likewise the zombie transformation moments amused me no end as this rag-tag bunch of moshers gathered in their garage for a spot of  mass in a circle headbanging, taken in by the music of Living Corpse they start to stumble around, demonstrating the evil power of true metal.The plot follows the story of Brad Masters, obsessive metalhead who enters a competition to win an exclusive recording of Living Corpse’s latest tape. On finding out he has won his impatience gets the better of him and unable to wait for his girlfriend to arrive he gives it an airing with his best friend Tony (played by director Cook) , and Kathy (C. Jo Vela). Brad soon discovers to his peril that anyone who listens to the track Zombiefied turns into a zombie. This would be a Death Metal Zombie so normal rules don’t apply here. Firstly they like to headbang, and secondly there is no aim at the head here, blast them with a bit of country music or easy listening though and you are home free. It was these little moments which had me so entertained as there was a heavy dose of metalhead in-jokes and references in here. Controlled by Shengar of the Underworld (Thomas Banta), who incidentally is the lead singer of Living Corpse,  this undead army set about causing carnage in the local area. The story is pretty much easy to follow, apart from the strange subplot including a serial killer in a Richard Nixon mask, which did not matter much as it set the foundations to have plenty of splatter and gore, great stuff! The plot follows on this music of mass destruction theme while Brad’s girlfriend Angel (Lisa Cook) and Tommy (Mike Gebbie) struggle to find a cure to this curse which has fallen their fellow warriors of metal. While the acting is in keeping with the DIY status of this movie one thing that is evident is an obvious enthusiasm for the project for those involved, something which I love to see in a film of this type, and the true heart and soul of the horror genre.

Monster Dog

Alice Cooper is in Monster Dog, but the weird thing about the film is that Cooper didn’t even dub his own voice. Since this is primarily a Spanish film, directed by Claudio Fragasso (who did a lot of work with Bruno Mattei, and even wrote the screenplay for Troll 2!) and starring many actors who didn’t speak Spanish, Monster Dog was dubbed later in English – without Cooper, who is ironically the only reason someone would actually seek Monster Dog out at all.There’s a lot of things that Monster Dog does poorly, so many in fact that it almost turns into a film that, like Troll 2, is so bad that it’s fun to watch. Naming things off the top of my head only, there are two music videos featured in this film, both songs written by Alice Cooper, as well as gunslingers who look like they’ve been transported via time warp from a really bad spaghetti western. There are “vicious” dogs that actually look very nice once you get to know them, and there’s an insane amount of hairspray going on. Monster Dog is an ‘80s film through and through, but it’s also incredibly muddled in its attempts to capture a werewolf-genre film.The characters are all poorly sketched to begin with. Actually, we’re not even really sure who they are besides part of Cooper’s troupe of music video producers. Cooper plays a rock star named Vincent Raven, a flagging one who wants to capture the perfect music video back home at his grandiose mansion. So everyone tags along, and his housekeeper even gets the mansion into proper order by throwing a party, making sandwiches, and then being viciously attacked by wild dogs. Because, you see, Vincent’s home town has a wild dog infestation, apparently a common problem in the area, as we know it is in many places…

Terror On Tour

I love indie horror from this time period; it contains a certain kind of trashiness that has yet to be equaled in our beloved genre. Don Edmonds’s 1980 treat Terror on Tour is a great glimpse into those days of yesteryear.Terror on Tour mainly focuses around a band that is known as The Clowns. The actors who play the band are actually in a real band together known as “The Names” and do have original songs on the soundtrack and during the film you as the viewer are treated to not one or two….but three original songs by the band….all I believed lip synched! It isn’t the musical style of the band (which if you are curious is very bubblegum punk/metal that was popular at the time….think post KISS but pre Poison) isn’t really the main reason to see The Clowns however….it’s the bands stage show. During performances the band stab females that dance on stage with them they also decapitate and dismember female mannequins on stage with them. After their first performance the singer seems to rip the arm off of a struggling young woman then tosses it into the crowd.The band also wear a uniform on stage (each member looks identical) they are all wearing these Freddy Mercury meets Batman tights. They also all sport the same KISS like makeup job, well only on half of their faces since the other half is hidden behind a strange Phantom of the Opera style mask. To top it all off each member also sports an Afro wig…..yes I am being serious. I just spent that whole time telling you about the band because that is pretty much what the film focuses on.It is only after we get to watch the band perform live and meet their stage crew which consist of a nice guy manager, a drug addict and a shy kid who dresses up like a member of the band so that he can pick up chicks at the after party that we are finally given a plot device. A girl who is selling drugs to the drug addict crew member is stabbed to death by a person who is dressed up just like a member of The Clowns. The killer than proceeds to attend the bands after show party and their concert on the next day…..needless to say the local police have quite a few questions for them.Terror on Tour is a great example of trash cinema from this era. The members of The Names really do think they are going to become big stars after the film and all of their wet dreams are played out in the script so yes the cast is really feeling this movie and it pays off big. There are some funny moments placed throughout the film however some of the jokes fall rather flat and at some points do become rather obnoxious.

Slaughterhouse Rock

College student Alex (Nicholas Celozzi) suffers seriously bad dreams in which he is bound captive inside a slimy, rat-ridden, corpse-infested sewer where a hideous monster mauls him to death. At first none of Alex's roommates, including his big brother Richard (Tom Reilly) take his nightmares seriously. Then glamorous parapsychology lecturer Carolyn (Donna Denton) takes an interest after Alex freaks out in class during a particularly vivid hallucination. Later she and Alex's wannabe girlfriend Jan (Tammy Hyler) find him in the midst of a nightmare when his bedroom catches fire. Realising Alex is dreaming about an incident at Alcatraz where members of the heavy metal band Bodybag died in mysterious circumstances, Carolyn convinces him, Richard, Jan, Richard's sexy blonde girlfriend Krista (Playboy Playmate Hope Marie Carlton providing nudity so you know she is going to die – yawn!) and wisecracking buddies Jack (Steven Brian Smith) and Marty (Ty Miller) to visit the now-derelict prison island at night and find out what is going on. Inevitably this proves a terrible idea as the gang inadvertently unleash an ancient evil that embarks on an orgy of rape, violence and terror. However Alex finds an unlikely otherworldly ally in Body bag's deceased lead singer, Sammy Mitchell (Toni Basil) who knows how to send the demon back to hell. Barely released at the time and still pretty obscure to this day, Slaughterhouse Rock combines two popular trends in late Eighties horror: haunted prisons (see also: Prison (1988) and The Chair (1988)) and MTV (witness the hair-metal horror stylings of Trick or Treat (1986), Black Roses (1988) and Rock 'n' Roll Nightmare (1987) while the Nightmare on Elm Street sequels also increasingly resembled music videos at this point). However, for all the heavy metal allusions the film was actually scored by electro-punk pioneers Devo, marking the first of many such soundtrack assignments for composer Mark Mothersbaugh. Five years before this film Devo collaborated with star Toni Basil on her album 'Word of Mouth.' Actor-turned-director Dimitri Logothetis, a mercurial talent circling the mainstream for decades but never quite breaking through, styles the film very much like a music video with flashy editing and floaty camerawork as self-indulgent and meandering as the plot. Nevertheless the goth rock visuals are quite atmospheric thanks to cinematographer Nicholas von Sternberg, son of Hollywood legend Josef von Sternberg, who previously lensed such vivid nightmares as cult horror gem Tourist Trap (1979) and Petey Wheatstraw: The Devil's Son-in-Law (1978), a horror comedy outing for blaxploitation icon Rudy Ray Moore.

Logothetis lifts a lot from A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), specifically the concept of dreams serving as a two-way gateway into the netherworld and the 'rubber reality' effects set-pieces. There are some impressive images (e.g. worms wriggling from a wound on Alex's face) but after an epic build-up the monster disappoints being little more than one possessed character with demon eyes and plastic fangs, strangely resembling Javier Bardem. Logothetis, who conceived the story, and his screenwriters Sandra Willard (who went on to script children's cartoons like Arthur and Curious George), Nora Goodman and Ted Landon also ape a ghoulish gag from An American Werewolf in London (1981) as victims return as decomposing zombies to crack wise with hapless hero Alex. However the team flub their attempt at an emotional core via the brotherly bond between Alex and Richard. A strange and quite off-putting theme of self-preservation runs through the plot. Whiny Alex's self-interest gets most of his friends killed and equally whiny and dull love interest Jan abandons not one but two characters to a grisly fate. Given the ending the film comes close to an allegorical statement justifying an artist sacrificing their friends for the sake of success. Or maybe not. Aside from an unpleasant demonic rape scene it is a goofy teens-versus-monsters scenario, heavy on gloopy gore, light on suspense and actual scares. None of the lead characters are especially engaging (save for the intriguing Carolyn, though it is unclear why her character is here and suffers so much) which makes the early scenes of inane chatter and florid, over-written dialogue kind of a chore. Where Slaughterhouse Rock scores some points is with the stunt casting of pop star Toni Basil, she of worldwide number one hit 'Mickey' ("Hey Mickey, you're so fine, you're so fine you blow my mind. Hey Mickey!") Of course, Toni had been in films before. While she is a long way away from Easy Rider (1969) and Five Easy Pieces (1970) she is a vivacious presence as sassy rock diva Sammi Mitchell, vamping it up in outrageous Eighties attire, teaching Alex how to project his soul from his body via a voodoo dance routine that becomes a rapidly edited MTV style montage. She also snags a priceless line after admitting to dabbling in Satanism: "At least I didn't do drugs. That shit will kill you."

David Maloney