Welcome back to Friday Nightmares Reviews, wherein I give you a look at something you could be enjoying instead of surfing the internet. After you finish reading the review, of course. Don’t worry, this one doesn’t contain a million years worth of my nostalgic explanation for why this exists. No promises on it being shorter though because this film is a prize and a half.
That’s right! Tonight, I’ve got something very special for you all. Back in the grand year of 1987, we as a viewing audience got a direct to video treat that was a little film called Rock & Roll Nightmare. This cinematic masterpiece was directed by John Fasano and was originally given the title The Edge of Hell. The title was changed because distributors were not convinced that it would sell and that’s probably for the best because Rock & Roll Nightmare is far more appropriate, as we shall see. There is an accompanying soundtrack under the original title which you can totally find on iTunes if you were so inclined. In the film’s opening credits, the music is said to be by the band The Tritonz (the band featured in the movie) but in reality, the soundtrack is provided by the band Thor, whose singer, Jon-Mikl Thor, plays the main character. No that’s not a spelling mistake and yes this is a real human being with more than one film credit to his name but I’m getting ahead of myself. His character’s name in the film is John Triton so either this is the world’s strangest Marty Stu moment or Thor was looking to stick close to home for his source material. After all, this magnum opus was written and produced by the Canadian musician and body building champion himself, who also has the titles of actor, songwriter, screenwriter and historian listed on his wikipedia page. If the limited amount of information I could find on the internet is to be believed, this film was shot over a week in the bowels of Ontario for less than it would take to open a fully functional Starbucks and most of the actors are friends of the director. If you’ve ever seen it, all this information is about as shocking to you as finding out that the sky is blue and water is wet. If you’ve never seen it, to say brace yourself for the most 80s-tastic piece of cheese you’ll ever see is an understatement.
To summarize the plot of this film is a bit of a tall order but I shall do my best for you. I’m glossing over a lot because there’s just so fucking much to unpack. Legit, this review could go on for almost ten pages worth of material and I still wouldn’t get to the very necessary groupies moment or the shower scene. Yet again, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? Farmhouse in the middle of nowhere is home to a family preparing breakfast when the plot takes exception to the way the bacon was cooked. Cue family being attacked by ominous music and aside from the one thing that popped out of the oven, it can be presumed from the screaming that everyone is killed through off screen. Opening credits are presented in mouse vision as the camera runs from shadow to shadow and in each of dark corner we keep finding the name Jon-Mikl Thor popping up. And just like how you have to call Candyman several times to get him to finally show up, after we’re done getting a tour of the baseboards of the house, we are finally allowed to see the man behind this epic. With extended, completely necessary shots of a van with Ontario plates over a USA #1 vanity plate driving down the highway, we settle into the awkward pacing that will define the next hour and a half of our lives.
Imagine if you will, a picturesque escape into the wilds of somewhere in Canada that you never wanted to visit. And who’s all here, you might be asking? Enter The Tritonz, a band so famous that you’ve never heard of them but somehow they’re important enough that they could get lost in the Vatican and their manager could accomplish the amazing feat of finding the pope’s personal rest room without getting shot. Instead of that story, we get to watch them pile out and complain as the story introduces us to our hapless victims. There’s Thor playing John Triton, of course, and his girlfriend, Randy, whose name is also doubles as her only personality trait. Seriously, this poor woman spends almost every scene she’s in trying desperately to get Triton to disrobe. Then there’s Roger and his new wife, Mary, who has somehow been convinced to come out into the middle of nowhere right after the two got married. The next couple is drummer Stigg with his groupie girlfriend, Lou Anne, who is given to complain about everything and is only there to fill the role of “the bitchy one”. Rounding out the band is Max and Dee Dee who are currently bandmates but it’s made known from the start that they are all kinds of into each other. Finally, the person who gets shafted the most in this film is their comic relief manager, Phil. No joke, in the copy of the movie that I watched, they actually forgot to credit the actor, Adam Fried, in the role.
Now that we’ve met our cannon fodder, we discover that the band is at this nowhere farm house for what amounts to “reasons”. Seems they need to rehearse with no distractions, and, in a turn of events that I can imagine would give the average sound engineer hives, the barn of this long abandoned property has been converted into a 24 track recording studio. That still totally looks like a fucking barn inside. With a sound stage and lights. Those feature prominently in the film, no I’m not kidding. After a bit of exposition and a few personality highlights from some of the characters (Lou Anne is bitchy, Max and Dee Dee look at each other and blush, Phil provides stupid comic relief, Triton’s girlfriend wants to have sex with him, etc.), we have John explain he’s locking up the van followed by him locking up the van. It’s one of the many very necessary scenes that are littered throughout this film. You know they are paramount to the story because cutting them out wouldn’t affect anything whatsoever. I mean, who wouldn’t want to watch the band eating dinner? Or washing dishes? Or a bunch of girls that you have never met and will never see again get creepily ushered into a basement where you assume they die but they don’t even get slaughtered by off screen wails and shrieks? All entirely necessary to provide the ambiance of the movie. And speaking of that ambiance, let’s move on to the music scenes.
Now if you’ve ever known any musicians or gotten a chance to watch any kind of documentary or anything like that, you know that rehearsals are basically just them practicing what a band needs to work on and making sure they are keeping up their skills. This is super simplified, of course, because every musician is different and what one band might want to do for their rehearsals might be different than another. That said, I’m not sure there’s a band anywhere that says to themselves that in order to rehearse some of their new songs, they are going to get into their best silver leopard print jacket (complete with tails!) and put on their favorite aviators at night to sing a single song. In a barn in the middle of nowhere. If this is an actual thing that a band would do, please do let me know because you will have made my life that much better with this knowledge that dreams do exist. Along with giving the audience a taste of the spandex rock that is Thor, we get the first attack on the group from the insidious evil lurking in the baseboards from the beginning. And it full on looks like a snot monster made out of play dough as it decides that Phil’s time has come. He’s attacked shortly thereafter and disappears, along with the van.
With the means to escape now gone, the countdown is on to see who’s gonna succumb to the evil next. Depending on the horror film, death order can be something of a guessing game that, when one is properly motivated, could even become a drinking game. This film kills off characters in order of inherent necessity to the plot. That is to say, mostly randomly. You don’t actually see most of the deaths and even then some, what little you do see is mostly cut away footage as a rubber hand finds its way on the screen. A rather fun, completely necessary moment, in the kill-a-thon is when Stigg gets his while admiring himself post carnal session. It truly speaks to the level of writing in this movie when a main character is in the middle of talking to himself only to be distracted by a “seductress” with massive breasts (played by Thor’s then wife, Rusty Hamilton), and instead of immediately demanding to know how the fuck this woman got into the house and into his bathroom, our wannabe corpse just reaches out to touch her because boobies! It might be stupid but at least it’s funny. Most of the rest of the deaths aren’t even that interesting and I will say that this is a bit of a negative on the film but that’s not why I’ve seen it multiple times. Again with the getting ahead of myself. If you are under the age of ten, you can already guess where the plot goes from here. Everyone drops dead until no one is left but our final girl, John, and this movie seems to be going exactly where you’d expect right up until the last twenty minutes wherein bat shit insanity happens.
I will provide a small spoiler section on here after this paragraph but I refuse to give too many details away because that whole part has to be seen to be believed. In the meantime, I do want to go into one thing that I have always liked about this film and that’s the relationship that we see between Max and Dee Dee. Like I said, it’s shown right from the beginning that they look at each other and they smile and flirt with one another. Their dialogue is probably the most natural in the film, which is a feat because the rest is just so funny in how awkward it is. (Aside: I will say that some of that is bad acting. Some of what they say sounds somewhat believable but literally everything that comes out of Stigg’s mouth is usually in a horrible accent that sounds like it’s trying to be a cross between Brit and Aussie and fails at both. No dialogue is going to sound good like that ever.) The other thing that’s enjoyable to watch with them is how sincere they behave with each other. It’s actually very cute and I can only guess that either these two were either the only actors who had some experience behind them or they were a real life couple. They played off each other and their interactions with each other seem genuine. It’s actually kind of funny because their love scene is juxtaposed with Triton and Randy’s shower scene where the poor woman finally gets laid. Both scenes go on too long but what’s kind of interesting and a bit baffling is that they would include the two almost happening in tandem because the connection between Max and Dee Dee just goes to amplify how awkward that incredibly long and very very uncomfortably necessary shower scene is.
And now we arrive at the Spoiler Corner! If you are still reading this, it means you have either seen the film or you don’t care and you want to know how it ends. Fair on both points but I’m still glossing over this because no amount of description will make up for the glory and the utter confusion of what you will witness by watching it. You owe it to yourself to see if it you haven’t. As you could probably guess would happen from the first five minutes (after the van finally parked), John Triton is the only one left after the snot monsters and rubber hands take care of the rest of the crew. He is seemingly oblivious to the shitty rubber monsters as he makes his way to the barn to write a new love song. I don’t know why they need one because their song “Energy” is basically all you need in life. As he sits down to write, snot monsters fling themselves at Triton, trying to get to him and fail each time in more strange slapstick ways. When this gets old, Randy enters the room, having recently been evil-ified. She informs a nonchalant John that everyone is dead and that he’s in deep shit now as she turns into a giant bug monster meant to be Satan. If you read the box, none of this is that surprising so far because they just tell you about it. What they don’t tell you about is his reply that he is the Intercessor! He goes on to say that he’s an angel that’s known all along and all the band members were just people he made up to make Satan think he was killing people when he wasn’t. If you go by this logic, apparently Triton has one hell of an imagination and, as one commenter brought up, does this mean that the shower scene was actually just him by himself? Was it just stress relief from waiting for Satan to arrive or was it all playing along and the graphic details of being in the shower with an imaginary person were all to make it more convincing? We will never know. The speech he gives next about putting evil in its place is enough to bring happy tears to your eyes and the outfit… Oh the outfit. I am without adequate words to describe such an outfit. There’s the hair and the cape and the cod piece and the makeup. It’s a silver monstrosity that he adopts to finally defeat the plastic Satan prop and the two duke it out to the epic sounds of the song “Challenge” by Thor. In truth, you could sub out the music for Yakkety Sax and it would also fit perfectly. There’s more with the snot monsters but they hardly matter in light of the spectacle of Thor in a silver spiked cod piece. The fight holds as much tension as watching the “Metal Queen” video by Lee Aaron (who is a Canadian National Treasure and I’ll hear no arguments on that) and eventually Satan is defeated in an epic blaze that looks like it might have been a road flare.
So that is the glory that is Rock & Roll Nightmare and it is legit one of my favorite films ever. I won’t pretend that it isn’t bad because, if you couldn’t tell from the rest of the review, it’s terrible. The acting is as good as friends of the director could be. The dialogue sounds about as natural as running something through google translate a few times and then correcting the grammar. The outfits are hilarious, even for the 80s. The plot doesn’t make any sense at all and that ending is utterly bat shit insane. In some ways, you can’t get too upset with it because the film was operating under a very limited budget and according to wikipedia, the film shoot was cut short due to a death in the family for one of the producers. This seems like the kind of project that someone came up with one night and everyone went along with it as a joke until they realized he was serious and by that point they were roped in. All this said, honestly, this is so much fun to watch, I’m not kidding when I say I’ve seen it probably half a dozen times if not more. It’s charming in its ambition in a way that a bigger film flop isn’t and I come back to it with a kind of fondness that I would for something like Army of Darkness. If you’ve never seen it, do yourself a favor and watch it. And if anyone out there knows how to get a copy of the 2005 sequel The Intercessor: Another Rock & Roll Nightmare, please let me know immediately!
Thanks for joining me again and may you all have a good Friday Nightmare!