Horror Movies and Heavy Metal: Hard Rock Zombies
Horror may be the only film genre where bad movies are just as beloved as the good ones.
Oh sure, there’s a few terrible Sci-Fi movies out there that are loved (thanks to Mystery Science Theater 3000), but not on the same level as horror. Genres like romance, western, war, thriller and the like don’t have the same affinity for terrible movies. Why horror? I suppose if you like the genre, you already have a bit of a warped sense of humor as compared to the mainstream. Of course, it’s important to know the difference between “it’s so bad, it’s good” and “it’s so bad I want to pull my eyeballs out with an ice cream scoop”.
Hard Rock Zombies is a 1985 zombie movie E.J. Curse (Bones, Rules of Engagement) as Jessie, the lead singer of an up-and-coming hair metal band. The band travels to the small coastal town of Grand Guignol to play a concert for a record producer. Along the way, they pick up a beautiful hitchhiker named Elsa (Eyes of the Serpent, Molested) who invites them to stay at her family’s mansion. The family consists of Elsa, her elderly grandparents, her brother (it’s not clear), a groundskeeper, and two “little people”, one with an eye patch and one suffering some sort of unexplained deformity. Unbeknownst to the band, Elsa recently drowned two men while her family members watched with glee. While in town, the band’s antics, which includes skateboarding and miming (seriously), raises the ire of the locals. Enraged by these events, the town bans the band from playing. Meanwhile, Jessie starts to fall for a young girl of indeterminate age from town named Cassie (Jennifer Coe) who had originally warned him not to come to Grand Guignol. Instead of playing in town, the band performs at the mansion for the sadistic family. The band is electrocuted mid-set, but survives. Later that night, the family murders each member of the band, leaving only their manager alive who was in town trying to secure a venue for the band. When he returns, the grandfather reveals himself to actually be Hitler (yes, really) who is still bent on world destruction. Cassie resurrects the band, turning them into the living dead, who quickly gain revenge on the murderous Nazi family. Unfortunately, the family is also turned into zombies who begin to wreak havoc on the townspeople. How will the hard rock zombies be able to stop the zombie Nazis and what will happen when the record producer comes to see their show?
Does that sound like a good movie to you? No. Of course not. Does it sound like a movie “so bad, it’s good”. Don’t say “yes” because it wasn’t. The entire film is a comedy of errors. From a technical standpoint, many scenes are too dark, the music is occasionally so loud that it drowns out dialogue, mics creep into shots, the inexplicable scenes of the band cavorting around town like extras from a Dexys Midnight Runners video and the even more inexplicable scenes of Elsa dancing. The exclamation point comes when writer/director Krishna Shah’s (American Drive-In, Shalimar) name is spelled incorrectly in the credits.
Of course, the technical errors can’t even compare to this viral outbreak of story. I wasn’t trying to be lazy or vague in my rundown of the movie above. I genuinely couldn’t remember characters names or even the name of the band. It doesn’t really matter. It’s not like it had much of an impact on the story.
Speaking of story, I have eight words: who, where, when, why, and what the fuck? With bad horror movies, you can usually see a kernel of a good idea hidden beneath the layers of garbage. I couldn’t find that kernel in Hard Rock Zombies. It’s as if someone had an idea board and threw three darts that happened to land on “zombies” “music” and “Hitler”. And to make things worse, all three of those things are executed poorly.
When the band becomes zombies, the do this herky-jerky walk-dance that looks like a cross between The Robot and rigor mortis setting in. And they can still do normal everyday things like drive and play their instruments. Sure. Why not? In terms of music, “hard rock” is a huge misnomer. The band’s songs are the musical equivalent of marshmallows. Yeah, it’s catchy, but so is the flu. And Hitler? This came from out of nowhere and managed to make a story about musician zombies even stupider. And why did he reveal himself? And what’s the deal with the deformed little person? And is Eva Braun a werewolf or does she just wear a werewolf mask? Nothing is particularly clear and just when you think things get weirder, things get weirder. All of this makes me want to curl up in a ball under the kitchen table, eating nothing but sugar packets until my arteries caramelize.
One would think that the basis of the movie would be the band gaining revenge on the family. That makes sense, right? Well, making sense took a vacation with this movie. The family is killed in less than ten minutes of the bands’ demise. Why not have that be the rest of the film? Maybe you think I’m being too hard on this movie, but you didn’t have to sit through it. I’m definitely stupider for having done so. If it was supposed to be a straight horror film, it failed. If it was supposed to be a comedy film, it failed.
People that like this movie dress up their kids as Ash from Army of Darkness. People that like this movie then tweet those pictures to Bruce Campbell for his approval. People that like this movie see nothing wrong with the insanity of the “ghost rape” storyline in American Horror Story. People that like this movie invite dates over to watch Human Centipede. People that like this movie get hot dogs at the movie theater. People that like this movie use the bathroom stall next to you even though there’s a bunch open. People that like this movie own a “Keep Calm” shirt. People that like this movie take a full shopping cart to the self-checkout line. People that like this movie use Uber just because it’s raining. People that like this movie really want you to read Ron Paul’s books. People that like this movie get lunch from Dunkin Donuts every day.
(If any of that offended you, please leave lots of rage comments and post a link to this review everywhere. We get more hits that way.)
The story is bad, the acting is bad, the humor is bad, and the music is bad. What I’m really trying to say is that Hard Rock Zombies is bad and now I feel bad for having watched it. It’s not bad in a good way. It’s just plain bad.
Hard Rock Zombies is available in it’s entirety on Youtube (but you shouldn’t watch it).