Not that long ago the video store was a mundane and sometimes obnoxious part of life; driving over to some lonesome strip mall with your friends or family to comb through the all-too-often disorganized shelves of your local shop, argue over a selection, and then be stuck with it, for good or ill. Yet, it was also sublime. And for those who lived during the true video boom, video stores also equate to another bygone commodity: VHS. When JVC’s Video Home System won the early-80’s format war, the motion picture market changed forever. The genre and B-movies that had previously filled drive-ins across the country now often went straight to VHS. Then DVD took the world by storm in the late-90’s. It was a brave new world, and sadly, many films never made the leap, trapped now on a dead format. These often aren’t “good” films, but goddammit, they were what made video stores great. For we here at CHUD are the kind of people who tended to skip over the main stream titles, our eyes settling on some bizarre, tantalizing cover for a film we’d never even heard of, entranced. These films are what VHS was all about.
Some people are still keeping the VHS flame burning. People like me, whose Facebook page Collecting VHS is a showcase for the lost charms of VHS box artwork. With this column it is my intention to highlight these “lost” films and the only rule I have for myself is that they cannot be available on DVD.
Title: Hard Rock Zombies
Genre: Heavy Metal Horror/Zombie
Tagline: You can’t keep a good band down!
Released by: Vestron Video
Director: Krishna Shah
Plot: The hard rocking band Holy Moses is all set to play a gig in a remote hick town when they encounter an evil and wealthy family comprised of sexual perverts, demented dwarves, a granny that turns into a werewolf, and Hitler. After the crazed Nazi clan satisfies their sexual perversions by murdering the band, a beautiful local girl named Cassie resurrects the group from their graves to save the town… and possibly the world!
Thoughts: I believe that films should be seen on the big screen with an audience. That is where I watch the vast majority of all the movies that I see. This includes the old stuff, only because I’m fortunate enough to live in a city where I have many excellent repertory choices to choose from.
All that being said, sometimes I feel like there are a few movies out there that were meant to be discovered on home video. Not so much anymore. I can’t remember the last time I’ve been to a video shop and I don’t have Netflix. Now I collect new and old movies that I want to own on Blu-ray or DVD, as well as the really rare ones that are only on VHS.
I miss the feeling of walking down the aisles and freaking out over an insanely awesome piece of cover art for some bat-shit crazy sounding movie I’ve never seen before. It’s how I first discovered Sorority Babes in the Slime Ball Bowl-A-Rama, Slumber Party Massacre and this week’s pick – Hard Rock Zombies. It’s a blood-soaked nostalgia-bomb of goodness!
Two legendary logos appear before this film that immediately inform the right people as to what type of entertainment they have in store for themselves. The logos are for Vestron Video and the Cannon Group – two names in exploitation that rarely disappoint.
Holy Moses is a hot, young rock band on the verge of super-stardom. Yet for some reason they have traveled via awesome tour-van to the isolated Northern California town of Grand Guignol, where they are all set to play a gig. The boys immediately attract the attention of all the local females with their metal fashions and feathered mullets.
The lead singer Jessie (E.J. Curcio) falls for an attractive town girl named Cassie, who tells him to get out while he can, but he ignores the warning and writes a metal-ballad for her called, “Cassie” instead.
The ignorant law enforcement and town rubes hold a council meeting where they cancel the concert by declaring all rock n’ roll illegal within city limits. The boys have no choice but to accept an invitation to stay at a wealthy German family’s posh estate. But good hospitality is not without its price! The boys discover the hard way that their kind hosts are actually a clan of sadistic Nazis whom dabble in witchcraft, as each is murdered in a bizarre style.
One is butchered by a hot blonde temptress while making love to her in the shower. Two others are violently attacked and killed when the sweet old granny turns into a vicious werewolf (WTF?!) armed with dual switchblades. Finally, Jessie is chased and killed by a bald Nazi armed with a buzz saw. Two devious dwarves and a pervert who takes photographs of everything assist the murders. The family’s patriarch is revealed to be none other than Adolph Hitler himself, who has stayed alive and hasn’t aged a day due to his use of dark magic. Oh… the family keeps a living severed hand captive in a jar on a mantle in their home, too. Boom.
Cassie calls upon the spirits of the netherworld to bring the rockers back from the dead. Holy Moses rises as zombies, looking and walking like they’re all extras from Michael Jackson’s Thriller video. They seek bloody vengeance upon the Hitler’s in their home, attacking and killing them all. But the movie’s not over… it’s just begun!
While Jessie and the band performs a final farewell performance to a solo audience of Cassie, the Hitler’s all turn into zombies and attack the townsfolk who have formed a posse led by the band’s manager and a nerd. Before you know it, Grand Guignol has got itself a zombie epidemic, although for some reason they are referred to as “ghouls” throughout the film. A whole lot of madness ensues, including a Nazi-dwarf-zombie attacking and biting a real cow, while another Nazi-dwarf-zombie eats itself for dinner. Yes it does.
Meanwhile, a loud, arrogant record mogul shows up for the big Holy Moses concert unaware of the recent supernatural events. He rocks out to the “Cassie” ballad and decides to sign the undead band before being attacked by a swarm of flesh-eaters. The music is all sublime 80’s pop-metal awesomeness! I wish I had the soundtrack.
Then the writers drop a nuclear plot-bomb on the audience: the only way to get the zombies to return to their graves is to let them all screw the living daylights out of a virgin, sacrificed during a full moon night. Not. Fucking. Kidding. And Cassie is the only virgin in California. Boom and boom.
Eternal love intervenes and Jessie and his band mates trick the living dead townsfolk into a trap, saving Cassie and proving that rock ‘n roll will never die! It could possibly bite off your face, though.
This movie is like getting kicked in the head with fun! Your soul will virtually erupt with joy while watching it. You will see things you can’t believe are actually happening, but they are! It’s a total 80’s camp fest in every way, but it’s also very aware that it is. It’s a cheap low budget B-movie that not only knows it, it rejoices in it! Hard Rock Zombies has got laughs, scares, boobs, gore, zombies, Nazis, Hitler, werewolves, dwarves and heavy metal… what else do you WANT?!
Okay, so here’s some awesome trivia: this film was originally supposed to be only twenty minutes long and solely used as the feature played during the movie American Drive-In, that was also directed by Krishna Shah. Apparently, at some point during production it was decided that by investing a little more money they could get two feature length exploitation films instead of just one. How great is that?
CHECK OUT THIS RARE AUSTRALIAN VIDEO RELEASE PROMO:
Note: a “company” calling itself Vintage Home Entertainment has released this movie as a bootleg DVD. I do not own, nor have I seen this disc that was released in 2004. I have done some checking and after reading many reviews of the release I have come to the conclusion that the company seems to have used either a VHS dub or a non-digital transfer of some kind of inferior quality print, or a combination of both. Almost every review states that the picture and sound quality are terrible and one claims that it contains scenes that are not in the original video release, making it possibly a work print. Regardless, the film has not yet received the digital remaster it would need to officially consider it a DVD release therefore making it eligible for review under my one rule. Besides, the VHS cover is soooooo much cooler then the DVD bootleg, which looks like something you’d pick up at a gas station for a buck.