Welcome to Youtube Film Club! Because the film is available for free, we leave you the link and suggest you watch it beforehand. Our review will be slightly more spoiler filled (“than usual?” Shut up) so you can mock along with us. Or praise, in this weird instance. I watched “Hard Rock Zombies” years ago and my abiding memory was that it wasn’t all that good. But, I decided to give it another go and I’m incredibly glad I did!
You would definitely be forgiven for watching the first five minutes and thinking this is garbage. A couple of guys pick up a woman who doesn’t appear to be hitch-hiking on a desert road; her reaction would lead you to believe they know each other. She takes them skinny-dipping in a filthy creek somewhere and the guys are killed by her friends, a bunch of weirdos – a couple of dwarves, one of whom appears to also be a hideously deformed mutant; a guy who “likes to watch”; and a strange looking old couple.
But before we’ve got time to spend any time with this fun-looking gang, we get to meet the band, Silent Rage! If you’re counting, we’re about five minutes in and there have already been two things that look a hell of a lot like music videos. The band are absolutely dreadful, like every set of awful 80s glam rockers, and we get a lot of their music throughout, so be prepared to fast-forward a bit.
Backstage after the show, the band are walking round in their underwear when their manager brings in loads of groupies for some publicity photos; but they’re all about the music, man. The groupies don’t interest them! Their next show is in a couple of days in a town called Grand Guignol, because of course, so they decide that rather than have sex with these ladies, they’ll set off a few days early for no good reason.
Okay, up to this point nothing too strange has happened, and it’s a normal, albeit sort-of bad, horror film. Then, they’re in the van, the lead singer strumming a little tune on his bass and chanting, while the van driver keeps killing mosquitos which are feeding on his neck. As casually as discussing a new pair of shoes, the band discovers that the lead singer can resurrect the dead, and that’s what he’s been doing to the one mosquito in the van with them (by accident, it would seem). And then they just drive on. YES!
The first half of the film is like a “Footloose” or something of that ilk, as the band incur the wrath of the conservative locals just by their very existence, while staying with the family we saw at the beginning of the film in their crazy mansion. Another rock video (filmed in front of a bunch of happy Hispanic kids), and one of the best scenes in the movie, a town council meeting where, because they’re so stupid, they accidentally ban all music in the town, forever. The weird family try and kill the band too, and when they succeed at around the 40 minute mark you’re thinking “that was a pretty action packed 40 minutes” and “where the hell is this film going?”
Never let it be said subtlety was this film’s strong suit, though. A nice musical montage and a segment with the lead singer giving a tape with his magic chant on it to his sole fan in Grand Guignol with the instructions to play it at their grave, should they die, later, and…actually, I’m getting ahead of myself a little. The weird family makes it 100% for films we’ve reviewed this week where midgets are treated like children (take a bow, “Clash Of The Empires”), and when they’ve killed the band the patriarch of the clan decides he’s waited in secrecy too long and tears off his mask to reveal…ADOLF HITLER! He’s been hanging out in a small California town for the last 40 years with his werewolf wife (oh yes, Eva Braun is a werewolf) They broadcast their message to…who exactly is never revealed, but we don’t have a lot of time to get used to the potential Fourth Reich.
One loyal fan with a tape player later, and SILENT RAGE RISE FROM THE GRAVE HOLY CRAP THIS FILM IS GETTING AMAZING! For some reason, they all have facepaint like a cheap Kiss rip-off band now, and march like toy soldiers back to the scene of their murders to exact their grizzly revenge. And revenge they get – heads get twisted off, midgets get their faces shoved into muddy puddles til they drown, someone’s impaled through the neck and as the camera pans over the scene of the slaughter, the band are seen driving away.
Here’s where you see the join, I think. “Hard Rock Zombies” was originally intended to be a 20-minute segment in another film, “American Drive-In” (which sounds pretty damn strange, the lead singer from this film turns up in that to critique his own performance). At some point during the filming, they decided that if they raised a little more money they could have two films, and I think this moment is perhaps the original ending before the expansion. And it’s a doozie, but they’re not done yet!
The Hitler clan have been turned into zombies by the band! And now they’re ready to wipe out the town of Grand Guignol! The funeral apparently took place hours after the killings, because the bands’ families didn’t turn up and the manager is still in town, but they don’t try and actually fight the zombies at any point, they just try and run away or trick them. So, on one side, you’ve the zombie Hitlers vs. the townspeople, and on the other…holy hell, this film is amazing…the band go and perform the gig they were booked for!
It’s not just that the zombies go to play their gig, but the way they perform as if they were zombies – no movement, blank expressions. And when they’ve finished the show, where do they go but back to their grave? They know they’re dead and don’t want to hassle anyone else. However, the Hitlers have turned a bunch more people into zombies and they have to come out of “retirement” for one more town-saving performance.
A lot of the reviews of this film seem to miss the point in some way, thinking it’s either too silly, or not a good zombie movie, or not very funny. I’d say it’s a terrible zombie movie (bit of grey paint and a shuffle to indicate your undead-ness) but it’s both completely over the top and hilarious. When Hitler reveals himself to the world, all bets are off, and the way it’s essentially two films in one (1 – crazy locals kill the band, band kills crazy locals; 2 – band saves town from zombies) is a really interesting way of structuring it. Okay, there’s filler – 4 music video-length interludes? – but there’s also a heck of a lot of fun. When two of the zombies offer the guy pretending to be a zombie a spot round the corpse they’re eating; the amazing ending; the orgy of LP destruction; the attempt to ward off the zombies by holding giant cardboard heads; there are plenty more. Look past the murky lighting and the wooden performances from the band, and you’ll have a hell of a good time watching this.
Lastly, the director manages to spell his own name wrong in the credits. He’s “Krishna Shah” as director, but “Kirshna Shah” as writer. If you had to pick a name for the director of your all-white rock n roll zombies vs. Hitler movie, how far would “Krishna Shah” be down the list? He certainly did this one proud, though. Good work Mr Shah!
Rating: thumbs up