Monday, July 28, 2014

Rock 'n' Roll Nightmare (Review)


(aka. The Edge of Hell)

review by AARON ALLEN

Directed by John Fasano
Written by Jon Mikl Thor
Starring: Jon Mikl Thor, Jillian Peri, Frank Dietz

You can't really consider yourself a red-blooded Canadian fan of exploitation and trash cinema until you've put down your hockey stick, set aside that Tim Horton's, and popped in a copy of the ridiculously bizarre Rock 'n' Roll Nightmare starring Canadian god of glam metal: Jon Mikl Thor. 

Sadly, John Fasano -- the director of this and several other little oddities of Canadiana -- passed away last week at the age of 52. I point this out because in my original review of Rock 'n' Roll Nightmare I called his directing "inept to the point of self-satire but ... nevertheless fun as hell." Is that disrespectful in the wake of his passing? Look, I respect Fasano even if his work here is not the best. Independent film-making is a hard road to travel, and it's easy for audiences on the sidelines to criticize after the fact. Fasano's early directorial output might not win any awards here, but films like Rock 'n' Roll Nightmare and Black Roses (which was filmed in Hamilton) endure in the hearts and minds of cult film fans exactly because of Fasano's quirky interest in these weirdo flicks. As we reflect on Fasano's passing, let's take a look back at one of his first films to explore just what exactly makes Rock 'n' Roll Nightmare a charming trash treasure.

Electric perm? Check. Muscle oil? Check.  Let's go!
Rock 'n' Roll Nightmare is the film version of every nerdy metal fan's adolescent wet dream inspired by comic books and images of rock warriors airbrushed on the sides of vans -- but shot with a less-than-epic budget. It's an amazing gem of trash and cult cinema, and it's all set in Toronto. It begins when metal band Triton rents out a farm house in rural Ontario so that they can practice their sets and get their fuck on! Lead singer John Triton (Jon Mikl Thor), a beefy blond metal machine who loves Canada for the arts, has a hell of a time getting his band to focus on their music. Between sneaking off to fuck their boyfriends and girlfriends, the band is being tormented by evil demons in the shape of silly latex puppets and Halloween props. The band is picked off, one-by-one, by an evil presence until only Triton remains. Then, the film takes a spectacularly out-of-nowhere twist that concludes in one of the most mind-boggling and cheer-worthy final battles ever filmed between good and evil.

Was it good for you, baby?
Rock 'N' Roll Nightmare might give new meaning to the word "silly." Obviously, the film is not meant to be truly scary, otherwise it wouldn't be populated by one-eyed puppets that smoke, people in ill-fitting leotards and metal rock costumes, and unforgivably bad monster masks. Yet, it's precisely this haunted house of cheap tricks and completely random host of demons and goblins that gives Rock 'N' Roll nightmare its indelible charm.

Aside from the silly effects, actor Jon Mikl Thor brings the movie to a whole new level of endearing ridiculousness with his portrayal of Triton, an impossibly earnest metal band front-man. Thor is simply so clearly into his role despite the bad script and bad direction that his commitment to this bizarre movie should put a grin on your face. Watch him rock that mic in a red vest and belt out complex lyrics such as, "Energy takes me where I want to be. And you're where I want to be. Girl, you give me (give me) energy!"

I experience the energy of Jon Mikl Thor's hammer at SHOCK STOCK 2011
where Thor was an honoured guest.
After teaming up with Thor in Zombie Nightmare, Jon Mikl Thor re-teams with John Fasano to demonstrate that they still don't quite have a handle on this whole movie-making thing. Case in point: I REALLY hope you like to watch a van driving...for 10 minutes.

Someone needed to give the film editor a hand on this picture
What Rock 'N' Roll Nightmare lacks in quality, story, and genuine scares, it makes up for in shamelessly gratuitous female nudity. Almost every woman gets nude in this movie, there's plenty of bouncing busts, and even the chiseled Thor gets into the buff for an awkward shower sex scene. There's no time to get bored with a movie that has this much bare flesh on screen!

The always classic Handbra
Peek a Boob!
Oh yeah. That's steamy.
Rock 'N' Roll Nightmare would be just another cheap Canuxploitation film if not for its balls-to-the-wall ending. As the devil appears to claim Triton, Triton reveals that he's been the only one in the house the whole time. All the other band members, even the one he awkwardly tonged in the shower, have been illusions created by Triton, for Triton is no mere mortal. In fact, he is THE INTERCESSOR: a warrior angel.

He-Man: The Rock Opera
The Intercessor looks like Dolph Lundgren from Masters of the Universe crossed with a heavy metal runway model. We learn that the Intercessor's imaginary friends were just a ploy to trick the devil (played by a rigid rod puppet) out into the open so that the Intercessor could lay a WWE beat down on him.

Arrrrgh! Cyclops starfish attacking!
Seriously, as the battle between the Devil and the Intercessor gets underway, it consists of Thor grimacing like a wrestler and putting wrestling locks on a cheap rod puppet.

No Sympathy for the Devil
Does any of this make sense? Not one bit. But it's a surreal and completely left-turn from demon possession horror into superhero pseudo-fantasy. And I love it. Rock 'N' Roll Nightmare is not a good movie -- that's why we call it trash cinema -- but it's a crusty Canadian gem that provides a guilty pleasure for fans of horror and glam metal. Jon Mikl Thor is admirable for keeping a straight face as Triton (aka. The Intercessor). He's the heart of the film. Without him and the insane Intercessor twist, Rock 'N' Roll Nightmare would be little more than a dusty old VHS sitting in someone's basement. As it turns out, the film has enough kooky qualities and a cult fan base to support it that Synapse Films put out a very nice DVD full of extra features. More than you ever thought you wanted to know about Rock 'N' Roll Nightmare courtesy of an audio commentary with the late but not forgotten John Fasano.

RIP John Fasano. Thanks for the laughs!

A version of this review originally appeared on

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