Hard Rock Zombies (1985), or Even Death Can’t Stop Their Rocking!!!

26 10 2009

What a concept! Hard Rock Zombies has to at least be in the running for one of the kookiest and most enjoyable B-movie plots I’ve ever heard. This was a movie I picked up in a compilation of about 30 or so others, and normally when I do that, I end up with about 2 movies and 28 coasters. But this was definitely a highlight that should be regarded with the likes of Street Trash and Dead Alive as one of the forerunners of gross-out horror flicks and a testament to the awful, awful taste of the 1980s.

So, we’re following the exploits of possibly the greatest band ever, called, um, let’s just call them The Group. The Group tours the country with their manager playing “hard rock” that sounds more like Journey than anything approaching hard. They’re playing some town in Who Cares?, USA, when they’re warned by a shy girl named Cassie not to go on the next scheduled gig of their tour, in the hilariously-named town of Grand Guignol. The Group appreciates the advice, especially dreamy frontman Jessie, who has a bit of a crush on Cassie, but they HAVE to go; there’s a major talent scout that happens to be there in the armpit of nowhere (CONVENIENT!). So they go, blissfully unaware that the town is just pulsing with hatred towards them and their loud, “hard-rock” music, including the sheriff, most of the townsfolk, and Hitler’s deranged, deformed family (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!). That’s right; ADOLF HITLER lives in Grand Guignol, and he has plans to kill The Group (for some reason)! It’s a dastardly plan that ends up killing The Group member by member, but what Hitler doesn’t know is that Jessie, in his studies of the occult, has perfected a bass line that can bring the dead back to life (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) and in the event of his death will be played at his funeral so he can be revived as a zombie to wreak havoc on those that wronged him and to protect his living loved ones.  So get ready Adolf, because this Journey knock-off group doesn’t take shit from anyone, dead or alive!

Can you believe that? Adolf Hitler? Bass line of zombification? Journey considered “hard rock”? This is crazy stuff!!! I found myself slack-jawed and wide-eyed all 85 minutes of Hard Rock Zombies. It’s so insane and so ridiculous that you’ll find yourself wondering just what the hell is going on from time to time. Director, producer, writer, and probably caterer Krishna Shah must have had a field day making this low-budget fun-gasm. I really feel like I’m having a good time when I’m watching this film, which is what the hell I’m watching movies for in the first place, isn’t it? The Group even bursts into song a few times on their misadventures, music video-style, so even though the songs kinda suck (the “Na-Na-Na” video above is pretty bad) I still can’t help but get swept away in the happy-go-lucky feeling.

Have you ever seen a guy eat himself? How about Eva Braun turning into a werewolf? If the effects team for Hard Rock Zombies can be congratulated for anything, it’s being original. The gore effects and off-the-wall creatures for this movie are surprisingly original and effective. To a certain extent; I’m not saying this is the next coming of 80s Weta, but there was some neat stuff going on here. The death scenes for The Group were well thought out, the zombies look a little above average, and while it wasn’t a bloodbath, everyone got a little bloody, and that’s what we’re looking for in a movie like this. And keep an eye out for the eccentric set design for Hitler’s house; it’s Nazi-tastic, and it answers unequivocally that age-old question; did Hitler perform his own experiments instead of just having them commissioned by top Nazi scientists?

Actor E.J. Curio plays Jessie, the leader of the band. He’s an 80s heartthrob if ever I saw one, and it’s a shame that he never went on to do much else as an actor (besides some Playgirl spreads; seriously NSFW). He’s young, he’s a singer in a band, and I really get the feeling that he thought this would be a big break for him. That’s no slam against him; on the contrary, this really adds to the fun element to the movie. He puts a lot into it, they all do, and I really appreciate how much fun they made this. And just as a bonus for picking me up out of the funk I was in after seeing An American Haunting yesterday, I’ll even put up a link to his new band’s Myspace page. His band’s called Silent Rage, and it’s not very good, but if you like cheesy 80s, um, one reviewer calls it “melodic hard rock” , then take a stab at it HERE.

Hard Rock Zombies was made with the idea of laughing in mind. I firmly believe that you can’t make a movie like this without having some sort of cognizance that what you’re doing is fucking nuts. The problem is if you start to either take it too seriously or not enough. They knew what they were doing, and I think they did a good job of it altogether. It’s kitschy Halloween fun that will leave you in stitches from all the HUH? moments thrown at you and all the Dead Alive-esque splatter horror-comedy elements involved. I give Hard Rock Zombies 7 “hard rock” ballads out of 10.

Tomorrow we get serious with a scary movie from the 60s called Carnival of Souls! Until then!