Directed by John Fasano. Starring Jon Mikl Thor ("John Triton"), Jillian Peri ("Lou Anne"), Frank Dietz ("Roger Eburt"), and David Lane ("Max"). Rated R.
Source: Region 1 DVD (Synapse)
Running time: 01:23:10
I'm sure most of you have either seen the Heavy Metal Horror classic that is ROCK N' ROLL NIGHTMARE, or are at least familiar with images of singer/actor/body-builder Jon Mikl Thor wearing nothing but a studded cod piece, hairspray, and body oil, but this was one of the first movies that came to mind when putting together a list of films to cover for this music-themed month on The Death Rattle.
ROCK N' ROLL NIGHTMARE opens with a scene that shows a tragic event taking place in a house (to be more specific, a little boy witnesses his parents being killed by a monster that comes out of the oven). Fast forward however many years later, and our group of central charcters naturally arrive at the very house that was established as having a dark history. Instead of just a bunch of random teenagers, however, the characters in the film are a band who rented out the aforementioned house for a couple of weeks so they can rehearse and work on some new material. Leading the way is their vocalist John Triton (Thor), who looks like a member of Manowar who got lost and was rescued and domesticated by Canadians. They also have an annoying manager who basically babysits them and does all the bitch work, as well as your usual entourage of poofy-haired 80's girlfriends.
A few of the many highlights of the film are the rehearsal scenes, which are basically full-blown performances that showcase the music of Jon Mikl Thor. They really go all-out on their rehearsals, and instead of just the band playing through their songs, it's as if they're performing for an audience of hundreds - fancy lighting, showboating, etc. The rehearsals all take place in a makeshift studio in a barn located next to the house where the film takes place; I can't recall ever seeing a barn with an "EXIT" sign, but you can bet your sweet ass the barn in this film has one. Unsurprisingly, the actors' playing of the instruments doesn't match up with the music, but I'm sure they had to sacrifice accurate musicianship for the sake of casting such fine actors in the film.
Getting back to the plot, supernatural forces gradually make their presence known and either kill or possess members of the band and their entourage, until only Jon Mikl Thor is left to don a studded cod piece and vanquish whatever demon or evil presence haunts the house. There's really no rhyme or reason behind the supernatural activity, which is then later explained through the film's climax, when pretty much everything that had been shown up to that point is thrown out the window and a twist is revealed in regards to Thor's character. It's almost like they didn't know how to end the movie, so they just threw in a completely ridiculous twist to make up for it. Normally I'd be annoyed by this, but in this case it actually makes the movie a hundred times better, and if you don't have a huge smile on your face during the film's ludicrous climax in which Super Triton battles Beelzebub and demonic starfish, something's wrong with you.
Aside from the ending, the key to victory with this film is the music. Thor's songs in the film are fun 80's Metal, and the actual score is honest-to-goodness atmospheric and Goblin-esque at times. My favorite tune in the film by far is "We Live to Rock", which is the song that the band plays during the first rehearsal, with "We Accept the Challenge" as the runner up (this is the song that plays during the climax). Speaking of challenges, the main obstacle of this film is all of the boring shit in the first and second acts, but you'll be rewarded with Heavy Metal awesomeness if you can get through it. On a side note, the characters in the film are easily the most boring rock band I've ever seen. We get scenes of obligatory sex and nudity, but instead of banging bus-loads of groupies and snorting coke out of their buttholes, the band members are getting it on with their wives and girlfriends. How boring. Not only that, but they actually do the dishes after every meal, and dance excitedly while doing so. I guess being a rock star isn't all it's cracked up to be.
It would be easy to shit all over this movie if one were to look at it through critical eyes, but for a "bad movie" ROCK N' ROLL NIGHTMARE has a lot of charm. For example, the lackluster demon puppets and not-so-special effects can be seen as major flaws, but to me (and I'm sure most people who appreciate cheesy horror movies like this) they're part of what makes this movie special, and in a way the bad special effects are almost encouraging in that they show you can aim low and still make a fun little horror movie, and that it's fine to not take yourself so seriously.