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: Rocktober Blood
Genre: Slasher/Heavy Metal Horror
Tagline: Billy’s back from the dead… with a message from Hell!.
Released by: Vestron Video
Director: Beverly Sebastian
Plot: Billy “Eye” Harper is an arrogant rock star that totally loses his mind one evening and murders his colleagues at a recording studio after completing a session for his latest album. His ex-girlfriend Lynn Starling, an up-and-coming singer, fingers Billy for the slayings. He is tried, found guilty and executed. Several years later Billy’s old flame has replaced him as lead singer of his former band Rocktober Blood and they’re poised to perform a big concert that will be taped live by MVTV. But the terror returns when someone who looks a lot like Billy starts to terrorize her and kill all of her friends. Is Billy back?
Thoughts: The cinematic fusion of the horror genre and heavy metal music was a pairing about as perfect as peanut butter and jelly. Metal always dabbled in satanic imagery and appealed to an alienated, predominantly male audience. And so does horror. Boom! The eighties gave us such head-banging classics as Black Roses, Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare, Slaughterhouse Rock and the seminal Trick or Treat.
Rocktober Blood is a slasher film that happens to take place in the crazy metal scene of nineteen eighties Los Angeles. It begins with a narcissistic rock singer named Billy Eye lying down an incredibly Rob Halford-ish high octave vocal track for his latest record. He smokes some dope, tells his girlfriend Lynn Starling he’s going to bang a groupie, and splits. But for some inexplicable reason Billy returns and kills all of the workers and sound technicians in the building. He stalks Lynn, but is captured off-screen and we awkwardly cut to two years later and learn via narrative text that Billy was executed for his killing of over twenty-five rockers.
Lynn Starling has replaced Billy as lead singer of the band Rocktober Blood, who is primed to begin their new tour. She starts seeing Billy everywhere, so her pompous British manager sends her to relax before the big MVTV concert at a remote home located in the middle of the woods. Billy shows up and strangles one of her friends in a jaccuzi. He kills another with a hot iron. Lynn heads back to the city pronto.
The show simply must go on, so Billy abducts Lynn and sticks her in a coffin on stage, while he performs his reunion concert wearing a terrifying lizard mask. He uses a mic stand fashioned with a sharp sword on the bottom to slice up the various dancing girls scattered around the stage and toss their organs and one unlucky young ladies’ head into the crowd. Now that’s metal! Finally, Billy releases Lynn from the coffin and hand cuffs her to him while the drummer leads them in a rendition of their old song, “I’m Back!” During the performance a roadie smashes Billy over the head with an electric guitar causing his eyes to bleed as he hits the trademark high note of his classic jam!
The rock music is pretty great and this is due to the fact that the legendary band Sorcery, whom Ozploitation nerds know from the mind-roastingly awesome concert/stunt movie Stunt Rock, performed it. The soundtrack was released on vinyl back in ’84 and is now a very rare collector’s item that I really wish I owned. The songs “Rainbow Eyes”, “Killer on the Loose”, “Watching You” and “I’m Back” are some pretty sweet tunes.
This is by no means a great film at all, but I do like it a lot. It’s the All About Eve of heavy metal slasher films. The acting is across the boards terrible. The plot is filled with holes, including a twist at the end where we discover that Billy had a twin brother, whom he framed for the earlier murders, but seriously, who cares? It concludes with a brain-smashing still frame shot that suggests this story could continue. It didn’t. It’s a cheesy 80’s slasher mind-snack that’s all about partying hard, rocking out and killing as many superfluous characters as it can. Lots of good cheap gore, tons of nudity, heavy metal music, casual cocaine use and hot chicks doing aerobics. What else could you possibly ask for?
CHECK OUT THIS INSANE CLIP OF THE BAND SORCERY PERFORMING “KILLER ON THE LOOSE” FROM THE FILM: