Rock n’ Roll Horror Show

Right now on my own blog, I’m going through a Halloween horror-thon, where I watch or rewatch horror movies, new and old, and talk about my feelings on and reactions to them. I thought I’d extend it a bit to Story Dam, and tie music, writing and horror all together. There’s no better way to do that than to talk about b-grade 80s rock horror film, Black Roses.

This movie was an attempt by a minor studio to tie the slasher crazy of the decade with then-trendy glam metal. The story is about enough to fill out a music video, but not nearly enough to fill up 90 min. of screen-time. This is a “so bad it’s good, ” movie, the kind you laugh at. Everything about it is out of step, even for the 80s, which had some weird, retro morals going on during the Reagan era: the parents and teachers all think rock is the “devil’s music,” the kids are obsessed with partying, and the rock band is well, demonic. Literally.

First of all, don’t let that amazing VHS box art fool you (And believe me I’d love to have that red Fender Stratocaster). This movie looks like crap. It has some prosthetics, corn syrup blood and of course boobs, but it’s just as bad as every crap-grade 80s b-movie you’ve ever encountered. Continuity lapses, lack of backstory for important-seeming scenes, a plot that deflates when it needs to salvo – it’s all the things incompetently made movies possess.

Black Roses is a popular but mysterious metal band, who has inexplicably gained fame without once playing live. They decide to try out their live show not on say, the stages of Los Angeles or Hollywood (Home to the 80s glam metal movement) but some no-place called Mill Basin. I assume this was done to reduce outdoor shooting expenses. How it serves the film is to allow Black Roses, who are really demons in disguise, to possess and brainwash the town’s kids to disobey and attack their parents, and eventually (I assume) destroy the town.

Okay, problem #1: why not do this through what everyone said heavy metal bands did back then, and use subliminal messages, or rock videos? That’s what the PMRC fought back then anyway, and the 80s hosted the Satanic Panic. Judas Priest was even sued for putting “backward messages” that encouraged suicide (Obviously that lawsuit was dismissed). So right away, you learn this demon band is just freakin’ dumb. The only connection made is the singer, Damian, seems to be a former resident, as the main protagonist appears to know him from back when. Otherwise we’re in the dark as to why a super-famous metal band would play a one-horse town.

Regarding the band’s performance itself, well the movie really shorts us on songs. That’s strange, considering Metal Blade Records put out a whole soundtrack where half the songs were credited as Black Roses tunes. In the movie we don’t see any full performances aside from the opening montage. The “concerts” just feature Damian in bad demon makeup swaying with the audience and chanting. You’d figure that Satan would just win these kids over with some badass drum and guitar solos, but oh no, worshiping the Devil is every bit as boring as Sunday church service. All of this is bizarre considering Vinni freakin’ Appice, legendary rock drummer, plays Black Roses’ drummer on-screen and did all the drum tracks in the studio. Put the dude in some makeup and have him go to town! What a waste.

The film’s story arc is cliche’ and inconsequential: demon band invades town, turns kids against parents, teacher suspects something’s up, teacher unravels plot, big showdown with the evil band ensues. Only none of this is treated as important or exciting. It’s all done rather matter-of-fact, and the monster effects mostly involve the special FX crew waving around something made with plastic and foam. In their demon forms, Black Roses look like Muppets.

Is it worth watching though? If you want to clink some beers and laugh your butt off, then yes it is. The soundtrack has some hidden gems if you’re a classic metal enthusiast (Particularly “Me Against the World,” by Lizzy Borden). Otherwise it’s just trash.

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