By: BabyRuth (Six Pack) –
For anyone familiar with my reviews, it’s no secret that I love bad movies. The special bad movies. The ones that are so bizarre, misguided, and absurd that they transcend the realm of “good” and “bad.”
Of all the sub-sub genres of bad movies, one of my absolute favorites is low-budget heavy metal horror movies from the 80s. Titles such as Trick or Treat, Black Roses, and my personal favorite: Rock N’ Roll Nightmare. I recently learned of the existence of yet another addition to this very specific club, a film from 1985 called Hard Rock Zombies. Seems quite self-explanatory and predictable, right? That’s what I thought.
Oh how wrong, how wonderfully wrong, I was!
So there’s a band named… hmmm, well? We never find that out actually. But they are supposedly right on the brink of success as evidenced from the twenty screaming and clapping off-beat extras we see during their first performance.
Oh wait, before that, there’s a hitchhiking blonde babe right out of a Motley Crue video. She gets in a car with two dudes and they proceed to stop off at a lake to go skinny-dipping. She immediately kills them and is joined by two dwarves and a photographer and they laugh as they cut one of the dead motorists’ hands off. More on them in a bit.
So the band with no name is scheduled to play a small town the next day where there will be a big-time record label honcho in attendance. But before they get there, Jesse (E.J. Curse), oh god…
…okay so Jesse is the lead singer and he has a feathered mullet and mustache and looks to be about 42 years old. Jesse meets a young, and I mean YOUNG…like prepubescent, girl (Jennifer Coe) who resembles early 80s Sarah Jessica Parker before she was introduced to tweezers. The young girl, who we later learn is named Cassie, warns Jesse not to go to the next town because “they” don’t want the band there. They are the fuddy-duddy townsfolk right out of Footloose who disapprove of rock n’ roll. (So then, who exactly booked the band to play a concert there?)
Jesse doesn’t listen (Kids, what do they know? ) and the band drive into town. Along the way, they pick up a hitchhiker… Remember that killer hitchhiker from before? Yup, it’s her. She invites the band to stay at her mansion with her parents and the dwarves (her brothers I guess?). They agree. Bad idea.
Up until this point, things seem to be moving along predictably and the story makes sense. This is where all that nonsense stops. I’m not going to reveal any further plot points because this is one of those movies that must be seen to be believed and the less known going into it the better because shit gets bonkers. Really bonkers.
The first half hour is mostly coherent and a whole lot of 80s cheesetastic fun. There’s even a montage of the band skateboarding, dancing, and miming (yes, miming) around the small town, to the chagrin of the local sheriff (who apparently could not get a costume that fit) and various other disapproving adults. It’s ridiculous and stupid and wonderful.
Hey hey, we’re the No-Names and people say we no-name around…
The film has that low-budget Troma feel to it and again, gets so insane and bad tasty that it may as well be (this is a plus). There are some good practical effects courtesy of horror film vet John Carl Buechler, who sadly passed away this month (March 19, 2019).
Thinking back after viewing, there are a couple moments that are legit semi-competently done and I’d even call tiny grains of the beginning of good ideas. Of course, these are few and fleeting. But it’s worth mentioning they are there (pay attention to a scene in the van with a fly).
Early on, we get an idea of just what we are getting into as this, uh, motion picture, breaks pretty much every film-making rule on a technical standpoint. The editing is abrupt and jarring and feels like it was done with a weed wacker (just like one of the murders!). The sound quality is a mess (just try to understand what the bar patrons are saying in an early scene of the band performing). And many scenes are so horribly lit it’s impossible to determine what is happening.
Case in point.
Originally intended as a 20-minute film-within-a-film (American Drive-In), director Krishna Shah decided to expand Hard Rock Zombies and make two feature-length movies instead. It’s very obvious to see where the original mini-movie is meant to wrap up as it comes to a satisfying conclusion right around the 50 minute mark. But Hard Rock Zombies is 1 hour and 38 minutes long, which means that’s only the mid-point folks!
Shah and co-writer David Ball (American Drive-In and this film are his only two credits) take the ah, just throw anything and everything we happen to have or think of approach to pad out the remainder of the running time. The tone changes from scene to scene, sometimes reaching for meta in-humor (“This sounds like a cheap movie!”), sometimes straight gross-out horror. Oh, and there’s an entire music video. Unfortunately the second half is where the film starts to slog along and becomes a bit of an endurance test (but not the video- the video is awesome).
The second half is also where they throw in a bunch of “comedy” and it’s… not good. A lot of it has to do with the townspeople trying to figure out ways to defeat the zombies. It’s silly, but in a grueling way. Like when you’re forced to listen to a family member who thinks they’re hilarious tell jokes at a holiday dinner and you just want to grab a knife off the table and jam it into your skull repeatedly, Uncle Jim.
“Hard rock” zombies is a little misleading as the band’s sound is more yacht rock than hard rock. I mean Richard Marx is heavier than these guys. (Related: For those who don’t follow Richard Marx on Twitter, do it. He’s a treasure.) But damn if those songs aren’t catchy (and surprisingly well-produced!).
The last beer is for the ill-fated and illegal love between Jesse and Cassie. Again, and this cannot be pointed out enough, she looks about twelve and he’s a grown fucking man. The song, cleverly titled “Cassie” (which, I admit, is pretty damn awesome in that 80s power ballad way) contains the lyric “I’m so in love, but you’re so young,” so he’s clearly aware that there’s a problem there. He also calls her “kid” and “little girl.” Besides the icky pedo thing (strangely, it gets less icky when Jesse becomes a zombie), their everlasting love develops in less than 48 hours and is built upon three short meetings. The longest contains this dialogue. Try not to swoon:
No I’m not.
Yeah, you are.
Yeah, you are.
True love! BLEECCCHH.
If you’re a fan of bad movies, especially of the 80s horror variety, Hard Rock Zombies is not to be missed. Again, I specifically left out a lot of the plot points so as not to spoil the insanity of this thing that somehow happened.
It’s extremely easy to find (Hint: rhymes with blue boob). So get a few friends and six-packs together and enjoy!
Hard Rock Zombies (1985) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time “the hand” is shown
Take a Drink: for every mention of heads
Take a Drink: every time there is a cut to one of the three disapproving adults during the “Nah-Nah-Nah-Nah” montage scene (small sips)
Take a Drink: for every rip-off of another movie
Take a Drink: werewolf grandma
Take a Drink: whenever it cuts back to the mutant dwarf eating himself (yes, that happens)
Chug: during every song played in its entirety (Also, the soundtrack is on Spotify. “Cassie” may or may not (may) be on one of my playlists)
Do a Shot: geriatric sex scene!
Do a Shot: geriatric sex scene with dwarves watching and enjoying!
Do a Shot: for the big reveal of who the old man and woman are (You may need more than one shot)
Do a Shot: DANCE BREAK!
Do a Shot: whenever a boom mic is visible