HARD ROCK ZOMBIES **** USA 1985 Dir: Krishna Shah. 98 mins
The opening sets the tone : a naked blonde kills two skinny-dipping men while a psycho and a dwarf look on, singing “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” as she cuts off their mitts. Subsequently, our rock band heroes are playing their catchy ditties at the “Grand Guignol” club in a peculiar small town, routinely signing groupies’ asses (“Jessie, sign these luscious, tender, nubile, underage tits!”) and hanging around backstage in very brief briefs.
A hot sluttily dressed blonde hitches a lift with them and offers that they can stay at her home, where they find a bizarre assortment of characters, including a Mom werewolf, aforementioned dwarf, an axe wielding bald dude and a horny Hitler (Jack Bliesener) with Eva Braun. The band proves short-lived in this company but death doesn’t get in the way of their rock. This only-in-the-80’s rock / horror mash-up may be pushing it with its running time, but is so much fun you will barely notice. Horror homages proliferate (PSYCHO, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, et al), alongside rock montages incorporating disapproving locals and the kind of piss-take of 80’s conservative paranoia over metal that was at the core of the later, inferior TRICK OR TREAT (“Rock n roll music causes sex – and worse than that, pre-marital sex!”). Visual and verbal gags keep the inspired lunacy going at a pleasing pace and, although you’ve seen a guy feel up a corpse before and an old-timer warning “You are all doomed!”, it is unlikely that you will have witnessed a zombie Nazi dwarf munching on a live cow, and zombies fended off with giant headshot posters of modern icons like Lennon, Monroe, Elvis, Hendrix and John Wayne. The gas chamber finale is also pretty unique in the zombie movie pantheon, and it’s as good natured as it is knowingly goofy. Much of the dialogue is laugh-out-loud funny, from the self-conscious (“This whole day has been like a cheap movie!”) to the pithy: “Where’d they find a virgin in Los Angeles?” – “It was 1890!”.
Review by Steven West