Rock'n'Roll Nightmare has a beloved spot in b-movie sites throughout the Web; the combination of a classic ballyhoo title and the charisma of self-aggrandizing frontman Jon-Mikl Thor work to embue the movie with a sort of perverse magnetic field. That it is also unquestionably one of the worst horror movies ever made is the cake that supports such dubiously delicious icing. I had managed to avoid it for years, but when Synapse Films put out one of their predictably fine discs, I felt I had to finally take the Thor Challenge.
Rock group The Tritonz take up a five-week residence in an isolated farm house in Ontario to come up with their new album ("They built a 24-track recording studio in the barn!"). Naturally, no one bothers to tell the Tritonz that supernatural murderers wiped out the previous owners, so the band members and their significant others fall prey to the demons haunting the house, one by one, after the mandatory R-rated sex.
The monsters run the gamut from killer hand puppets to people wearing makeup so flatly lit as to emphasize the rubbery nature of their menace. The script is tepid, the acting ranges from dreadful to self-conscious to adequate, and the pacing is fairly sedentary. The best things that can be pointed out are that Thor (who shares producer and scriptwriter presence) actually possesses a very easy naturalism on screen, and his rock music - yes, he wrote the songs too - are pretty damned good. What assures this movie its place in many people's hearts is the finale, which truly must be seen to be believed. If you have not seen it (and therefore do not believe) I will not spoil it for you.
Shot in 10 days on a $50,000 budget - on 35mm film, no less! - the movie stands as more of a tribute to director John Fasano's ingenuity (and ability to talk his friends into working for nothing) and Thor's determination to get his story told than anything else.
This is a truly astonishing print, bright and startlingly clean. The only wear and tear happens toward the very end, is confined to only one corner, and is quite fleeting. The print is, in fact of such quality that I only mention this sole blot to point out how extraordinary it seems. It's quite likely struck from an original print, as it bears the original title, The Edge of Hell - only America and Canada saw it as the more marketable Rock'n'Roll Nightmare.
There is an audio commentary track featuring director Fasano and Thor; of the two, Fasano seems to have a more realistic view of his movie's shortcomings than Thor, who seems determined to hold on to Nightmare's cult status as a mark of quality. It is an engaging, funny track, full of stories from the set and some dirt-diggin'.
Revelations of a Rock 'n' Roll Warrior is an interview with Thor before a concert in a "50 city tour" intercut with clips from his other movies, like the little-seen Recruits, a guest shot on the Merv Griffin Show, and Zombie Nightmare, which appeared on Mystery Science Theater 3000, as Fasano is quick to point out in the commentary.
Fasano kept a running video record of Nightmare's making, and two more features are culled from that: Creating a Child Wolf, detailing the steps that went into the creation and shooting of one of the makeup effects (this one featuring a child with an amazing amount of patience for his age), and Rock'n'Shock Memories, a collection of behind-the-scenes footage.
There are also two music videos utilizing footage from the movie and some shots from the aforementioned present-day concert.
That is a whole lot of Thor to digest, but somehow I find myself wanting to dig out that old VHS tape of the Zombie Nightmare episode of MST3K. In spite of myself, it seems I find myself actually liking Jon-Mikl Thor. Rock on, warrior, wherever you may be.
Dr. Freex, 03/31/2007