It has long been claimed that popular music – particularly rock music – has been responsible for many of the ills in modern society, not least for the high suicide rate of teenage longhairs, but in the Troma-esque airhead quickie Hard Rock Zombies it appears to have the opposite effect; whenever a simple three-chord tune is played, legions (one or two, anyway) of spandex-clad barber-dodgers are spat forth from beyond the grave! A god-awful soft-rock group – Hard Rock Zombies – find themselves slaughtered by Adolf Hitler’s family of bloodthirsty freaks working in cahoots with the conservative Grand Guignol town council who are on a God-given mission to banish rock music from their shitty little redneck town. Quickly given a Christian burial, a cassette recording of their final raised them from the dead, going on a blood-soaked rampage in between playing a gig.
So, what’s wrong with Hard Rock Zombies? Like you need to ask! For one, it’s a musical, and it plays like one huge rock video, disjointed images of the band running around and riding skateboards whilst knocking out hits in the middle of the desert. Now that’s sad. The resurrected band even manage to take time out from their living dead capering to play a live set – the evil chick who caused this mess prances around erotically like she’s writhing for England in a Maltloaf – sorry, Meatloaf –video.
And then there’s the fact that it’s also a comedy. A horror comedy. A lame, piss-poor, unfunny horror comedy. In fact, one gets the impression that HRZ’s wackiness and zaniness – two words that spell trouble – is just a crude device to disguise the movie’s many gaping plot-holes (or to build occasional islands of comprehensibility in the huge, empty abyss that doubles as its plot) and hide its general unintelligibility. This laboured weirdness is so patronising that it becomes highly annoying; the matriarch of the spooky mansion, for example, is – for no good reason – a werewolf, a fact that has no bearing on the plot, and is barely alluded to. And the biggest “jokes” to be found are merely dated references to other horror films, the most obvious one being a ridiculous shot-for-shot tribute to Psycho’s shower scene. Sad or what?
Hard Rock Zombies is obviously aimed at a teenage audience, so it’s brimming with tasteless, juvenile jokes that should be funny – but it ain’t. It doesn’t take a genius to get a laugh out of bestiality, wanking, and the like, but these folks have And the most inane affront to decency is the ludicrous addition of Hitler to the plot – complete with hidden gas-chamber in his secret underground bunker, he should have caused outrage amongst any “decent folks” who happened to come across this movie, but it actually isn’t offensive in any way. In fact, it seems rather twee, boring, but a riotous laugh to those who see the Holocaust as little more than a comedy moustache stuck on the losing side of the 1966 World Cup and a serious embarrassment to those genuine sickos who like their humour downright obscene.
While I’m laying into Hard Rock Zombies, I may as well hammer away at a couple of John Beuchler’s super-shit special effects. I mean, he deserves it, if only for being associated with this shit. Take that dismembered hand, for example. You don’t need bottle-bottom specs to see its owner’s hand wriggling away beneath the carpet behind it. As for that midget eating himself – well… I thought he was actually tucking into a bowl of spaghetti.
If there is one thing of interest about Hard Rock Zombies though, - and believe me, I’m clutching at straws here! - then it is its representation of American hostility towards rock music. Back when the movie was made, the Parents’ Music Resource Centre (or PMRC) was just gaining prominence as a major force in censorship, and HRZ is a pretty early representation of that phenomenon. Chances are though, director Krishna Shah had little interest in this and was merely playing on conservative hysteria – the link between heavy metal and the occult is just as blatant (yet still falling miles short of its potential) here as Shah’s depiction of narrow-minded rednecks. As mentioned above, the inclusion of Hitler is here more of a poor attempt to shock than as a metaphor for totalitarianism.
Finally, when viewed on The Horror Channel (what? You think I fucking BOUGHT it?), the picture has a sort-of corrupted, digitised look about it that makes it look as though it’s being viewed on a long obsolete PC. Very, very annoying, Then again, one advantage on viewing this on THC is that you get to see the awesome V-Slicer advert (“Have you ever seen an onion sliced as good as that?”) during the commercial break. Now THAT’S what I call REAL entertainment!
I thought this film was great and is an excellent representation of 80's punk. I would consider this to be a perfect example of an 80's B classic. I am thrilled that this is one of the true gems in my personal collection.