It was the 80s. Clothes were tighter, hair was bigger, and the most important things in life were to kick-ass and just f’n rock, man. The heavy metal way of life leaked into our horror films as well. Trick or Treat, Shock ‘ em Dead, The Gate, and Lone Wolf are prime examples of this strange marriage of metal and monsters. But one of the finest (and cheesiest) films of this lot is Rock’n’Roll Nightmare aka Edge of Hell. So grab your lycra tube top and hairspray. We are taking a trip to the great white north for the ultimate in horror metal.
Aspiring metal group, Tritonz (the “z” made it kick-ass), and their scantily clad girlfriends descend on an isolated farmhouse with the intention of recording some jams in the oddly well-stocked-with-sound-equipment barn. Little does the band know, the house has a history of demonic activity, and the local demons are sitting in on their jam sessions. One-by-one the band members begin turning into demons, but not before they’ve had a chance to have copious amounts of heavy metal sex and play some kick-ass tunes. All this leads up to a finale showdown between lead singer Jon Triton and Beelzebub himself. And to win this battle, it’s going to take the ultimate power ballad…also a thong and overly fluffy hair!
Please know that this movie was never cinematic genius. I feel the need to state this upfront simply because some of the younger generations I have exposed to this movie seemed to believe that this was serious reputable horror film back in 1987. Nope. Shot in just seven days on about $50,000, Rock’n’Roll Nightmare was never a “good” film. But it is a delicious cheeze fest. And like the best cheezes, it’s getting even better with age!
This one is also a prime example of what has become known as Canuxploitation- a series of Canadian based low rent horror films released in the 80’s and 90’s. Leading actor/producer/script-writer Jon Mikl-Thor is the lead vocals and muscle behind this movie. Thor had a lengthy metal history by this point in time, even appearing on the Merv Griffin Show in 1973. He appeared in the Roger Corman metal/horror flick Zombie Nightmare that later became fodder for Mystery Science Theatre 3000. Thor supposedly wrote Rock’n’Roll Nightmare as a way to showcase his musical and acting talents on screen. But the prime reason that this film works so well (even on a cheese level) is how much focus and enthusiasm Thor gives towards his very oiled and bulging performance. He is seriously into everything he is doing. There is not even the slightest nuance that he is not 100% serious about every line, every muscle twitch, hair tousle, and every shirtless moment. Hell, even the DVD liner notes (written by Ian Jane) focus on Thor’s raging fervor and passion. Amidst all the awkward music, bad latex effects, and poor acting, Thor’s passion shines through like a metallic cod-piece (which he coincidentally wears during the third act).
I first saw Rock’n’Roll Nightmare as a young teen wandering aimlessly through my local video store’s shelves on a quest to watch as many horror films as I could convince my parents to rent. Rock’n’Roll Nightmare was one of my frequent rentals. Even as a 14-year-old, I was aware that it was not a good film, but something led me to re-watch it over and over. It was like a comfort food…not necessarily good or good for you…but there is something special there. The film is the perfect blend of bad- the music, campy dialogue, over-the-top clothing, towering hair, and the drummer’s ever-changing accent. Additionally, there is also something truly cuddly about the monsters in this horror film. Seemingly created mostly out of puppetry effects and latex, very few (or none) of the monsters come across as scary. They emerge to “menacingly” watch the band rehearse but seem more like an audience of adorable little trickster imps as they smoke and spit in people’s coffee. Awww. I want one for a pet. I’ll take the smoking one that strangely looks like a modern day David Lynch.
The film ends with a final showdown between good and evil ala metal style, which means there are a lot of bad fireworks and the ultimate metal song, “We Accept the Challenge”. There is also the most severe plot twist in the history of bad 80s metal movies. It comes on pretty awkwardly and creates more plot holes than it fills, but don’t worry- just keep rocking and all will be right in the world!
Synapse released a beautiful DVD edition of Rock’n’Roll Nightmare several years back which is stuffed full of bonus features including interviews, behind-the-scenes featurettes, footage from the set, and more metal than my mortal brain can handle. Rock’n’Roll Nightmare is best viewed with a group so you can all radiate in the power of metal music. So grab some pizza, invite some friends over, and get ready to rock!