Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Rock N' Roll Nightmare - Review

Rock N' Roll Nightmare
Director John Fasano

“I knew if I pissed you off long enough you’d make a personal appearance.”

Rock n' Roll Nightmare is one of those films you run across every so often that is a truly surreal experience. It's a true product of the eighties with an ending that features one of the greatest WTF moments of cinema history - I defy anyone to honestly say they saw it coming. If they do they’re a liar! Before we go further, in order to properly appreciate this film it's important you know a bit about the star of Rock n' Roll Nightmare, Jon Mikl Thor...

Jon Mikl Thor, or Thor for short, is a Canadian musician who originally got his start as a body builder. He had a successful career and eventually won the titles of both Mr. Canada and Mr. USA. He is also the front man of Thor, a metal band that has been rockin' since the 1970s. Thor dresses in warrior costumes, carries props and weapons onstage, and incorporates feats of strength into his act such as bending steel bars and mic stands, breaking concrete blocks, and battling mutants and monsters. In 1987 he wrote, produced and starred in the film I'm reviewing tonight - Rock N' Roll Nightmare, aka The Edge of Hell.

Rock n' Roll Nightmare tells the story of a band called The Tritonz that is headed to a remote farmhouse in Toronto to record their new album. Why there? Because "Toronto's where it's happening man!"

It opens with a scene from ten years prior - a family (in the very same house the band is headed to) was brutally murdered there by some type of creatures, demons. This is about the only explanation you get, and it ultimately isn't important. What is important is the van that is currently headed toward the house carrying the Tritonz.

We get a good bit of padding here of the van, a white full-sized beauty, driving down various roads. When they finally arrive we meet the band - lead singer John Triton (Thor), his girlfriend Randy (Teresa Simpson), bassist Roger Eburt (Frank Dietz), his wife Mary (Liane Abel), drummer Stig (Jim Cirile, who speaks in one of the worst Austrailian accents ever put on film), guitarist Max (David Lane), his girlfriend Lou Anne (Jillian Peri), and keyboardist Dee Dee (Denise Dicandia). Along with them is their manager, Phil.

 Quick aside on actor Frank Dietz, who plays bassist Roger Eburt (Being Canadian I'm not sure if Thor was familiar with the American film critic Roger Ebert, when he wrote this, or if the name was just coincidence - but it is kind of unintentionally funny). Frank had appeared with Thor the year before (1986) in the film Zombie Nightmare, and would appear the following year in another Rock n' Roll horror classic, Black Roses. Frank met the actress who plays his wife in the film, Liane Abel, on the set of RNR Nightmare, and the two actually got married in real life.

The band gets settled in, eat some dinner then head out to the barn where there is a full sized 24 track recording studio once used by Alice Cooper. It's time to rock! Thor tells the guys, “Let’s tune our weapons!” Awesome. The band gets completely decked out in stage attire for this rehearsal. Thor sports a shiny silver leopard print jacket with tails, spandex pants, and a hairdo that must have took a whole can of hairspray. The band plays WE LIVE TO ROCK, one of the best songs in the movie and one Thor still plays regularly at live shows to this day.

This is where we first get a look at one of the demons haunting the premises, a flesh colored one-eyed monster that spits up some kind of slimy goo into Phil's drink when he isn’t looking. No I didn't just make that up. Phil takes a sip of the drink, notices it tastes a little strange, shrugs and gulps it down anyway. Growing boy needs his protein!

 At the end of the song Stig breaks a drum stick so Phil heads down to the basement to get some spare sticks. While down there Lou Anne appears behind him. She says she wants him, and seduces him with a flash of boob. As they're making out she transforms into a snarling demon and takes a huge bite out of his shoulder. The band hears his scream and runs downstairs but the basement is empty. They look outside and the van is gone, so they figure he probably couldn't find the drumsticks and went into town to pick some up. Thor isn't so sure and suspects something is up...

Cut to the evening and all the couples are getting it on (except for Thor who is preoccupied writing lyrics). Stig proves to be a real one minute wonder, leaving Lou Anne unsatisfied to say the least. He gets up to go to the bathroom, to “drain the dragon” and while he’s admiring himself in the mirror in walks some random sexy woman he’s never seen before. Not one to ask questions, Stig, in true rock and roll fashion, reaches for mystery woman’s boob – lots of boob action in this film - and she suddenly turns into a green skinned slimy monster frothing blood from the mouth. She reaches out and grabs Stig’s face…

Cut back to the bedroom where Stig, now possessed by whatever evil lurks in the house, slowly approaches Lou Anne. He jumps on top of her and they start getting it on. Lou Anne is suddenly enjoying Stig’s new found sexual prowess – the man’s a machine! Guess that’s one perk to demon possession they don’t teach you about in Sunday School!

One by one the band members fall to the dark forces inhabiting the house. Roger and Mary are next, done in while doing dishes – that’s what they get for performing such non-metal domestic chores! Meanwhile the band is ready to rehearse their next song - but, refusing to let Roger’s absence hold them back, they decide to “Rock on for the newlyweds” without him. It’s a mid-tempo rocker called “ENERGY” and we once again get the whole song here. Not a bad song but not as catchy as WE LIVE TO ROCK or the one played at the finale of the film, my personal favorite, ACCEPT THE CHALLENGE.

Practice goes over so well that the couples head their own separate way to celebrate. You know, I’m sensing a theme here – sex, rock, sex, rock – a formula all the classics follow! Lou Anne, anxious to see if Stig still has some of that magic he displayed the night before, takes a walk with him down by the pond. As they undress he pulls his shirt open and a clawed demon hand tears through his chest and grabs her – you guessed it - by the boob! Dee Dee and Max have hooked up and are lying naked in bed when they hear Lou Anne’s screams. “Sounds like Stig is giving her what she deserves!”

If you thought the shower scene in Psycho was scary, you ain’t seen nothing yet! Thor and Randy hit the shower and get it on… and on, and on, and on! Grand bit of padding here but turns out it was necessary. During filming one of the cameramen forgot to change the film reels and they wound up missing scenes they thought were in the can. The solution – cut the film so it met feature length with that time honored tradition of padding.

Eventually the band is all picked off by the demons and the only people left are Thor and his girlfriend. And this is where the movie takes a turn into the bizarre. I won’t spoil the ending - it’s one of those you have to see to believe. Trust me, I wouldn’t spoil it for you and anyone who does is an asshole!


Rock n’ Roll Nightmare is directed by John Fasano, who also directed the rock n’ roll classics ZOMBIE NIGHTMARE and BLACK ROSES. Fasano wound up casting several of his friends in key roles, including childhood friend Frank Dietz and brother in law Jim Cirile.

In case you can’t tell, I love this movie. Rock n’ Roll Nightmare is a fun 80’s flick that never takes itself too seriously. The film seems to embrace the schlockiness of the subject matter, thriving because of it rather than struggling from it. Rubber puppet monsters coexist side by side with 80s hair metal – what could be better than that? The script is written by Thor, who also wrote all the music in RNRN. Ultimately though it is the ending that makes this film stand out above its rock n’ roll brethren. Thor has played Nashville several times and I’ve set up several shows for him here myself. We even screened RNR Nightmare before he played one year, with Thor and I doing a running commentary during the movie. Rock n Roll Nightmare is one film that kicks some serious ass – highly recommended!

1 comment:

  1. I remember watching this about two years after is was released... one of my favorite movies of all times... I went about 15 years before I got my hands on a copy again and it was still just as kick ass as the first time I watched it!