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Uncle Jasper reviews: Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare (1987)

Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare (1987)
AKA “The Edge of Hell”

Starring John Mikl Thor, Jillian Peri, Teresa Simpson, Frank Dietz, Lara Daans

Directed By John Fasano

I remember back when I was a springy young kid of about ten my mom would occasionally babysit for some lady she used to go to church with. I don’t remember much about the brother and sister except they were extremely well-mannered, a little creepy, and ultra-religious. Sometimes I would come home from school only to see them sitting up straight on my living room sofa, hands folded softly in their laps, nodding attentively to whatever gibberish my mom happened to be spouting out at the time…. Very well-mannered kids.

It was after mom went to her room, leaving my brother and myself with the fresh-faced siblings, that shit would start to get weird real quick. See, according to them, they were knee-deep on the front lines of an ongoing epic battle of ultimate good vs. the most ultimate of evils. They spun bone-rattling tales of how their house was infested with evil spirits. But that was just the tip of the iceberg, they swore up and down that their mom was a top-secret leading practitioner of white magic. Deceptively paunchy on the surface, she was actually locked in an ongoing battle with Satan himself and his horde of demon minions. I knew it was all true of course, because they had actually laid eyes on these vile creatures of the netherworld firsthand. Their recollections of their mom’s first battle with the devil rattled me to the point of etching tiny crosses onto the wooden posts of my bunk bed for added protection. I had damned well believe in God now, I feared. Because according to these creepy-ass kids, Satan was fighting my mom’s friend in her kitchen on a daily basis and might come after friends of the family next. The real kicker in these eyewitness accounts however, was their odd description of the lord of darkness… this wasn’t your typical red horned, pitchfork wielding Satan. No. According to them he was very skinny and had a body “made out of black sticks”.

Sure, laugh all you want now. But back then I was convinced that this Paradise Lost shit was really going down in my hometown. I was terrified. Over time I came to dismiss their stories as the silly fantasies of a couple of zealous young Jesus freaks and eventually forgot about them all together. It wasn’t until Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare that these bizarre memories reared their heads once again and came bubbling up from my subconscious.

A bit of a background on John Mikl Thor, the leading man of Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare. In the annals of heavy metal music in the 1980s, you are bound to find some of the most ridiculous recorded music known to man. A band like Manowar instantly springs to mind. Those guys were slaves to their wild Nordic barbarian fantasies to the point that they completely forgot that they came from the suburbs of Auburn, New York… recording an entire album titled “Hail to England” and writing absurd songs about valiant knights riding comets across the starry skies before vanquishing their enemies in thick castle moats. With that said, the silly stuff that John Mikl Thor recorded (under the abbreviated name of “Thor”) makes the lyrics of Manowar look like Leo fucking Tolstoy. His concerts were outrageous spectacles even more bizarre than his music… between songs and melodic guitar riffs “Thor” would perform “superhuman” feats in order to wow his audience. These would include bending iron bars with his bare teeth, smashing cinderblocks over his chest, or taking a hit from the business end of a sledgehammer. Yes sir as far as Canadian heavy metal singers / bodybuilders go, they didn’t come much wilder than John Mikl Thor.

With a personality like that on your hands, you’d better make damn sure that his first starring vehicle is the stuff of cinematic magic. And let me tell you, Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare does not disappoint. Easily one of the most entertaining films I have ever seen, it is the deceptively simple tale of a heavy metal band heading to the Vancouver wilderness to record their latest masterpiece. Amidst the endless cycles of late night recording sessions and pasty-skinned cabin sex, the group manages to awaken the guardians of hell and eventually Satan himself.

Yeah, as long as you have a high tolerance for lyrics about how Rock ‘n’ Roll reduced the Soviet Union to rubble, the music is actually pretty awesome. The sex on the other hand is pretty disgusting, the catty leading ladies look like rejects from the “before” photos of a Proactiv infomercial. At times the film looks more like a training video for budding dermatologists than anything resembling a horror movie. Luckily there are more than enough moments peppered throughout the movie’s slim 83 minute running time to keep nearly anybody with pragmatic sensibilities entertained. Within the first five minutes a housewife is baked alive in an oven by Satan until she is nothing more than a bloody skeleton, and it only gets better from there. A tiny scrotum puppet “vomits” into a cup, transforming a female lead into a razor-toothed demon, which proceeds to take a chunk out of the band manager’s shoulder. The obnoxious douchebag drummer woos his girlfriend into some lakeside lovemaking, only to reveal a demonic hand, which bursts out of his chest and madly gropes at the shirtless woman’s breast.

Ultimately it’s the climactic finale that catapults this film into those uncharted, mythic realms of greatness however. Thor sits down to write love songs while enjoying a crisp Coca-Cola Classic when his girlfriend enters and transforms herself into Satan! Thor is not the least bit surprised however and vanishes into a fog-machine induced haze, emerging from the mist wearing nothing more than a spiked codpiece with matching gauntlets. He declares himself “The Intercessor, Triton the Archangel” then babbles on about how the band members were merely shadows of his creation, before dropping the epic bombshell “I knew if I pissed you off enough you’d come out into the open.”  The rocking soundtrack proceeds to crank itself to eleven while the two lock arms and scream into each other’s faces for about three minutes. Satanic starfish and mascara fly through the air until the song fades out and Satan spontaneously explodes like a Roman Candle.

Game over. Do not even bother to top that. There is a reason why Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare is considered the Citizen Kane of homoerotic heavy metal horror films.  However, one nagging facet remains. There was something kind of off-putting about Satan’s appearance in the film… it’s almost as if…

black sticks!!

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