Reviewed by Johnny Butane
Starring Jon Mikl Thor and a bunch of other people you don’t care about.
Directed by John Fasano
Released by Synapse Films
I knew it would be bad. Just take a glance at the cover and you know what lies inside is not a piece of cinematic brilliance. Still, I held out some hope that perhaps Rock ‘N Roll Nightmare or, as it’s called in the title sequence on this disc, The Edge of Hell, would at least be fun. How very, very wrong I was.
A bit of history; growing up, this is one of those films I’d stop and stare at every time I went to my local video store to find the latest hidden treasure (it was a mom ‘n pop store with a better than average selection), but I never bothered to actually check it out. If I had, perhaps I would have been able to enjoy it more since I was younger and less jaded about things like plot, story, characters, realistic special effects, etc. I did mange to check out director John Fasano’s other metal/horror hybrid, Black Roses, which had a profound effect on me as a youngster because of a certain scene with a girl in front of a mirror (those who have seen it know what I mean).
The plot of Rock ‘N Roll Nightmare is one we’ve seen thousands of time before and since; a metal band called The Tritons, led by the mighty Thor, take up residence in a secluded farmhouse for five weeks of rehearsals so they can come up with 10 minutes of new material. Seriously, ten minutes is all they need, five weeks is what it’s going to take to get there. Things start going wrong pretty much right away as the band’s Harry Anderson circa “Night Court” wanna be manager is done away with by a vicious looking demon. Slowly all the band members perish in one form or another, though usually off-camera and hardly ever with any actual blood shed. Of course, they all take the time to rock out once or twice before being dispatched, forcing the viewer to sit through (or, as was the case with me, fast forward through) not one but two songs done by The Tritons, such as “We Live to Rock”.
Of course, the boys in the band aren’t there alone, they also brought their extremely ugly and unsexy girlfriends/wives with them, which is just more food for the evil entity that has it out for them all. It also allows said rock stars to “get busy” and get in situations which the viewer does not want to see because, as stated earlier, none of these girls are pretty. Well, maybe one of them… but her unnatural hairstyle detracts from whatever natural beauty she possesses.
But wait, there’s a twist! If you really don’t want to know what it is, skip the rest of this paragraph. If you don’t care because you’ll (hopefully) never bother to watch it anyway, here you go; Thor is actually The Intercessor; an archangel come to Earth to stop the demon who is feeding on the souls of humans. All his friends and badnmates? Merely figments of The Intercessor’s imagination, conjured from horror movies he’s seen and used as fodder to draw the beast out. Once this shocking revelation is had, Thor and the most incredibly crappy looking demon I’ve seen since The Golden Child proceed to lock arms for a seemingly endless… struggle. I wouldn’t call it a battle by any means, as all the two really do is grasp one another and make faces while yet another crappy Triton (aka Thor) song plays over the “action”. Eventually good prevails over evil, and the final shot of the movie is…well, it’s a nondescript house in the suburbs for no reason whatsoever. Roll credits (and another Thor song).
So the movie is shite, but I will give points to Synapse for polishing this turd as best they could; it looks really damn good, print wise. If only someone could have gone back and made the movie itself unshitty, this might be worth a watch. Sadly, such technology is still being worked on. The sound is great, as well, which unfortunately serves as a detriment in this case because all it does is make Thor’s crappy music that much louder and clearer.
On the features side of things, we have the mini-doc “Revelations of a Rock ‘N Roll Warrior”, which I guess is referring to Thor since he is the featurette’s subject matter, but I’ll be damned if I can figure out where they get the “warrior” title from. Essentially it’s a history of Thor’s beginnings, how he got involved in our genre, and just how sad his career is now. Sure, that may be harsh, but some of the modern “backstage” footage shown is quite clearly shot in a really grungy bathroom in what I can only assume is a dive bar. Still, the featurette manages to make Thor seem slightly less delusional than I’ve heard he actually is, though that could just be good editing.
Both “Creating a Child-Wolf” and “Rock N’ Shock Memories” are just behind-the-scenes footage shot during the making of the film, the first focusing on one of the better makeup jobs of the movie, the second an overall look at just how hellish it was to film Rock ‘N Roll Nightmare. Both go on for too long and don’t do anything to really add to your overall enjoyment of the film, save to point out that the filmmakers were at least having some fun while it was being made. Too bad the same can’t be said for the audience who watches it now.
Finally, we have the absolute best part of this entire DVD; the commentary track. This is one of those very rare examples of commentary track that actually makes the movie better, and gives me a good reason to sit through the entire thing again. Why? Not because of John Mikl Thor, who is still somehow taking himself too seriously, but because of director John Fasano. I think, almost 20 years after making the movie, he’s realized what garbage Rock ‘N Roll Nightmare is and has no qualms self-deprecating until the cows come home, pointing out flubs and technical issues I didn’t even notice the first time through. I knew it was going to be worth a listen when he immediately addressed the first thing that really pissed me off about the movie; the 10 minute scene of a van driving and driving and driving some more, intercut with footage of the farmhouse, which is essentially what opens the film. We know the van is headed to the farmhouse, but have no idea why it’s taking so long to get there. Fasano explains this in a sly and sarcastic tone that he keeps in place for pretty much the entire commentary, and damn if it didn’t help me appreciate the movie just a bit more knowing how ridiculous even the director thinks it is today.
Would you call that a reason to get the disc? That’s really up to you, I guess, I’m just here to give you my take on it. I wouldn’t spend any money on it myself, but I know that this film has inexplicably got legions of fans that have been dying for a decent DVD release, and this is definitely more than just decent, so if you’re one of them I suggest you get on this baby stat. If you’re like me and avoided this movie for most of your life, now might not be the best time to discover it; there are just way too many problems with Rock ‘N Roll Nightmare to really be able to enjoy it.
Commentary by Jon Mikl Thor & John Fasano
“Revelations of Rock N’ Roll Warrior”
“Creating a Child-Wolf” featurette
“Rock N’ Shock Memories” featurette
1/2 out of 5
3 out of 5
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The Dollmaker Short Film Review – Welcome to Heebie Jeebie City!
Starring Perri Lauren, Sean Meehan, Dan Berkey
Directed by Alan Lougher
The loss of a young child drives a mother to take a set of unusual measures to preserve his memory, and all it takes is one call to The Dollmaker.
When the short film by Alan Lougher opens up, we see a rather disturbing image of a little boy inside a casket, and the sound of a grieving mom speaking with an unidentified man in the background – he’s requesting something personal of the child to help “finish” his product, and it’s not before long that mom has her little boy back…well, kind of. What remains of the child is the representation of his former self, although it’s contained within the frame of a not-so-attractive doll, and the boy’s father isn’t a believer in this type of hocus-pocus (or the price to have this constructed, either). The doll comes with a specific set of instructions, but most importantly, you cannot spend more than one hour a day with the doll, or else you’ll go mad thinking that the soul inside of it is actually the person that you lost – sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?
Well this is just too good to be true for Mommy, and as the short film progresses, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens to her mind – it’s ultimately a depressing scenario, but Lougher gives it that creepy feel, almost like visiting a relative’s home and seeing their dearly departed pet stuffed and staring at you over the fireplace – HEEBIE-JEEBIE CITY, if you ask me. All in all, the quickie is gloomy, but ultimately chilling in nature, and is most definitely worth a watch, and if I might use a quote from one of my favorite films to apply to this subject matter: “Sometimes…dead is better.”
Ultimately chilling in nature!
DIS Review – Not for the Faint of Heart!
Starring Bill Oberst, Jr., Lori Jo Hendrix, Peter Gonzales Falcon
Directed by Adrian Corona
I’ve made this claim many a time on this website before, and in the company of film friends as well: Bill Oberst Jr. is one of those actors that can literally be thrust into ANY role, and deliver a performance with so much harnessed electricity that you couldn’t believe that it was possible. I was the lucky recipient chosen to get a look at his latest project, titled DIS, and I think that I can honestly say – this is the stuff that nightmares are constructed of.
Directed by Adrian Corona, this 60-minute dive into the black depths of hell, and in actuality DIS is located between circles # 6 and 9 in Dante’s Divine Comedy, and trust me when I tell you – there’s not a shred of comedic relief in this demented presentation. Oberst Jr plays an ex-soldier named Ariel, and his seemingly harmless jaunt through the woods will become anything but that, and judging from the film’s opening scenes, you are meant to feel as uncomfortable about this watch as any you might have checked out in recent memory.
Perversion is the norm here, and lord help you if you’re caught where you shouldn’t be…my skin’s crawling just thinking about what I saw. Ariel’s travels are basically dialogue-free, but it only adds to the infinite levels of creepiness – you can tell he’s being stalked, and the distance between he and the horrors that await are closing in rather quickly.
Visually by itself, this hour-long chiller can sell tickets without any assistance – hollowed-out buildings and long sweeping shots of a silent forest give the movie that look of complete desolation. Sliced up into three acts, the film wastes no time in setting up the story of a killer needing fresh blood to appease his Mandrake garden – seriously guys, I can’t type as much flashy stuff as there needs to be in order to describe this innately disturbing production.
If you’re one of those types who tends to shy away from the graphic side of things, then I’d HIGHLY advise you to keep your TV tuned to the Hallmark Channel for some holiday entertainment, because this one registers high on the “I can’t believe someone thought of this” meter. So the quick recap is this: Oberst Jr in a standout performance, visual excellence, and an unshakable sense of debasement on a cellular level – keep the kiddies out of the living room with this one. Corona should be lauded (or locked up – just kidding) for his work on this one – HIGHLY recommended, and one that I’ll throw down as a top 5 for me in 2017.
Director Corona should be lauded (or locked up – just kidding) for his work on this one – HIGHLY recommended!
Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End Review – A Heavy Metal Massacre In Cartoon Form
Starring Alex House, Bill Turnbull, Maggie Castle, Melanie Leishman, Chris Leavins, Jason Mewes
Directed by Richard Duhaney and Craig David Wallace
“Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil” – Canadian television’s greatest blend of Evil Dead, Superbad and Deathgasm? Yes. That answer is yes. For two face-melting seasons, Todd “protected” Crowley High from episodic villains who were bested by metal riffs, stoner logic and hormonal companionship. Musical interruptions showcased stage theatrics like Sondheim meets pubescent Steel Panther and high school tropes manifested into vile, teen-hungry beasts. It was like a coming-of-age story got stuck between Fangoria pages – all the awkwardness with 100x more guts.
That – for worse – was until Todd fell to a premature cancellation after Season 2’s clone-club cliffhanger. Indiegogo became the show’s only way to deliver a feature-length finale, except to reduce costs and ensure completion, the project would have to be in cartoon form. Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End suggests an animated curtain call for this otherwise live-action production, and from a fan’s perspective, familiar maturation follies befall our favorite bloodsoaked friend group. But for new viewers? Start with the far-superior original show – you’ll be lost, underwhelmed and baffled otherwise.
Alex House retains his characterization of Todd Smith (in voice only). At this point, Todd has thwarted the book’s apocalyptic plan, Hannah (Melanie Leishman) has died, longtime crush Jenny (Maggie Castle) isn’t as horny for Todd anymore, and best friend Curtis (Bill Turnbull) has sworn Todd’s name to Hell (since Hannah was his girlfriend). Guidance Counselor Atticus Murphy Jr. (Chris Leavins) is now Janitor Atticus Murphy Jr. because Janitor Jimmy (Jason Mewes) is now Counselor Jimmy, yet Crowley High finds itself plagued by the same satanic uprisings despite these new changes. Why is evil still thriving! How is Hannah back in class! Who is the new “Pure Evil One” now that Todd has denied the book! Welcome to the end, friends – or is it a new beginning?
At just north of 80 minutes, structure runs a bit jagged. We’re used to Todd battling one baddie over a half-hour block – backstory given time to breathe – but in The End Of The End, two mini-boss cretins play
second fifth-fiddle to the film’s big-bad monster (well, monsters – but you’ll see). A double-dose of high school killers followed by a larger, more important battle with the gang’s fate hanging in the balance. Not a problem, it’s just that more length is spent singing songs about Todd’s non-functioning schlong and salvaging relationships from the S2 finale. Exposition (what little there is) chews into necessary aggression time – fans left ravenous for more versatile carnage, underwhelmed by the umpteenth cartoon erection gag. Did I mention there’s a lot of boner material, yet?
These two mini “chapters” – “No Vest For The Wicked” (yarn demon)/”Zits Alors” (acid acne) – never come close to rivaling Hannah Williams’ doppelganger bombshell (“Songs About Boners”/”This Is The End Of The End Of the End”). Hannah [X]. Williams waking up in a room full of other Hannahs, emerging from some sleep-pod chamber; Todd’s gang facing off against this new “chosen one” in a way that erases “Sack Boy” and “Pizza Face” from memory. The End Of The End dashes dildoes-swinging into the show’s biggest mystery while dropping call-backs and bodies with equal speed – maybe too hastily for some.
Now, about the whole pivot to animation – a smooth rendering of Crowley High and all its mayhem, but never representative of Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil‘s very Ash Vs. Evil Dead vibe. All the practical death effects (gigantic man-eating cakes, zombie rockstars) are lost to one-dimensional drawings, notable chemistry between cast members replaced by edited recordings lacking signature wits. This isn’t Metalocalypse, where dismemberment and bloodshed are gruesome on levels that outshine even live-action horror flicks. There’s no denying some of the magic is missing without Chris Leavins’ “creepy uncle” overacting (a Will Forte breed) or the book’s living incarnations of evil. Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End plays hooded minion to Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil’s dark ruler – less powerful, a bit duncier, but still part of the coolest cult around. Just try not to think about how much radness is missing inside hand-traced Crowley High?
It’s hard not to strike comparisons between “reality” and ‘toon, because as noted above, live actors are sorely missed in a plethora of situations. Be they musical numbers, heretic slayings, Todd and Curtis’ constant references to wanking, wangs or other pelvic nods (no, for real, like every other sentence) – human reactions no longer temper such aggressive, self-gratifying cocksmanship. It doesn’t help that songs never reach the memorable level of “Horny Like The Devil,” but the likes of House, Leishman, Turnbull and Castle were masters of selling schlock, shock and Satan’s asshole of situations. Instead, lines now land flat like – for example – Leavins’ lessened ability to turn pervy, stalkerish quips into hilarious underage stranger-dangers. Again, it’s not Metalocalypse – and without that kind of designer depth, a wall prevents inter-dimensional immersion into Todd’s extracurricular madness.
If this review sounds over-negative, fret not – it’s merely wishes of what could have been. None of this is to say Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End should be skipped. When you’re already known for masterstrokes of ballbusting immaturity, metal-horned malevolence and vicious teen-angst creature vanquishing, expectations are going to be sky high. Directors Richard Duhaney and Craig David Wallace successfully service fans with a smile, ensuring that rivers of red scribbled blood spurt from decapitated school children just like we’re used to. It’s just, I mean – ugh, sorry, I just have to say it one more time. BY DIMEBAG’S BEARD, this would have been an epic live-action flick. As is? Still one fine-with-a-capital-F-YEAH return to Crowley High for the faithful who’ve been waiting some 5-or-so years in a Todd-less purgatory.
Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End brings closure to hungry fans in all the ways they’d hope – albeit turned down a notch through animation. Over-the-top kills and headbanging metal riffs still reign supreme, they’re just drawn by hand instead of oozing practical effects this time.
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