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Synapse Films presents

Rock 'n' Roll Nightmare (1987)

John: You're wasting my time, bub.
Satan: This is incredible. It is almost a waste of my time to kill one so stupid, that does not know who it is who slays him. You are in my domain, and I will kill you, as I have killed your pitiful friends.
John: Ah, you've killed no one, bub.
Satan: What?
John: Or is it less familiar to call you Beelzebub? Or do you prefer Abaddon? Or as the Hindus called you, Shaitan? Or as you were known to answer to Eremon? Belial, Appolyon, Asmodeus? So as you see, I do know you.
- The Prince of Darkness, Jon-Mikl Thor

Stars: Jon-Mikl Thor, Teresa Simpson, Jesse D'Angelo, Dave Lane, Rusty Hamilton
Director: John Fasano

MPAA Rating: RRun Time: 01h:23m:10s
Release Date: 2006-06-27
Genre: cult

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
D+ D+A-B+ B+


DVD Review

There are bad movies, and then there are bad movies. A movie can be bad enough that it simply isn't enjoyable; the infamous Manos, the Hands of Fate is one of these, a film so mindnumbingly stupid it shaves points off your IQ, all the while boring you senseless. Then you have movies like Rock 'n' Roll Nightmare (aka Edge of Hell), a movie so bad it's good, possessing that certain alchemy of awful elements that results in a highly enjoyable experience. Needless to say, it's all subjective; there are plenty of people who would surely find this movie excruciating in the extreme. Fortunately, I'm not one of them. I saw it for the first time on a Japanese videotape, where it left the room in awe, not to mention plenty of laughter. The movie is amateurish in many ways, but it's not calculated, or at least doesn't seem that way. The movie is clearly tongue-in-cheek, but taken seriously on the surface, resulting in a good time for those tuned in to its wavelength. I never imagined I would see a DVD of it, much less a special edition, but such is the wondrous age we live in, where such things come to pass.

The plot is simple enough: the Tritonz, a (somehow) well-known band, have decamped, with their significant others, to a Canadian farmhouse to rehearse and record material for their new record. But the house was the scene of horrible events 10 years previous, and the band starts falling prey to the evil that lurks within, but not before each couple gets busy between the sheets. Cue a final showdown between the unlikeliest of heavenly soldiers and the most evil of opponents, for stakes that are never really clear, not that it matters.

I don't even know where to begin after that. The acting, such as it is, is risible, with Jim Cirile's Stig, godawful fake accent and all, being a good start. The band's manager, Phil (actor unknown) is similarly awful, with an eye-rollingly bad wardrobe to match. His Archie Andrews comic strip jacket has to be seen to be believed. Truly, the character is living the rock lifestyle to the hilt. The rest of the cast are varying levels of bad but watchable, but they aren't helped by Thor's script, which puts some truly ridiculous dialogue in their mouths. Director Fasano often fails to pace and stage the film smoothly, which results in some awkward scenes that could have been cut better. He also starts the proceedings with an endless (in movie terms) series of shots of the band's van traveling to the farmhouse, shots that add nothing to the story or the characters, but only kill time and the audience's good will toward the picture. The reasoning behind this is at least revealed in the commentary, not that it makes it any more fun to watch.

Thor and the band tear it up in a couple musical numbers, which essentially function as music videos. The music played by the "band" is typical '80s pop metal, and as such fairly enjoyable, I guess; the film is also saddled with some abysmal synth music underscoring that attempts to provoke suspense and fear but fails in every way. You can only cue up the "ah"s from the chorus setting on your synth so many times before it grows old.

Having said all that, why see this? Well, Thor himself is pretty funny to watch, and the final showdown sequence is a classic. Thor's outfit in that sequence is...interesting, and his duel with Satan (yes, it's a spoiler, but so what) involves flinging rubber starfish and some hand to hand combat. You'll thrill to the sight of Thor punching out the Devil, all while the best song of the lot, Accept the Challenge, plays heroically. Love those bass lines! If that doesn't grab you, there is flesh on display, some of it Thor's, which may or may not thrill you. There is blatant product placement for Coke that is handled in a not so subtle fashion. There are eight-inch high rubber demon puppets that spit and smoke and carry switchblades. But, in the end, you get to see characters act in startlingly unrealistic fashions, all the while spouting complete nonsense and having sex before getting murdered. I can't imagine what else needs to be said. If you like this type of thing, it rarely gets better. If you don't like it, you're dead to me. Do you hear? DEAD. Seriously though, if you have a high cheese quotient, this is the DVD for you. Enough said.

Rating for Style: D+
Rating for Substance: D+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The high-def transfer was taken from the original 35mm camera negative, so this looks about as good as it can. There are the odd shots that look worse than others, most notably the final scene, which looks exceedingly grainy compared to the rest of the film. Otherwise, this looks very good.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The original Dolby 2.0 track is here, as is a brand new Dolby 5.1 track. I watched the new 5.1 track, and it sounded very good. The songs rock harder, and the Devil sounds just as evil.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+ 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues
2 Documentaries
1 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Director John Fasano and Star/screenwriter/producer Jon-Mikl Thor
Packaging: unmarked keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Liner notes by Ian Jane
  2. Music videos for "Energy" and "We Live to Rock"
  3. Introduction and Afterword by Jon-Mikl Thor
Extras Review: Synpase has compiled some interesting stuff here. First is a commentary track with Thor and Fasano; the pair seem to be having a good time, and they produce a very funny track, noting that one actor had "Canadian body odor" (Can he sue us for that? Fasano asks), in addition to other amusing anecdotes and jokes. Almost more fun than the movie itself, to be honest. Three segments look at the movie and its star; in Revelations of a Rock 'n' Roll Warrior (15m:37s), we get the scoop on Thor himself, with vintage footage and new interview material. That's followed by two segments on the film itself, Creating a Child Wolf (13m:21s) and Rock 'n' Shock Memories (21m:04s). The former sees Jesse D'Angelo, Fasano's stepson, being made up as the demon wolf child from the film. The latter features footage shot on set from multiple scenes. Not as interesting as the Thor featurette, but worth a look. Two videos, for the songs Energy and We Live to Rock tie up the on-disc extras. The former is taken from movie footage, while the latter is a mix of movie footage and new material shot during a Thor visit to Detroit, allowing viewers to check out his act these days. Finally, the insert includes an essay by DVD reviewer Ian Jane that covers the stories of Thor and Fasano. All in all, more than you'd expect for a little film like this.

Extras Grade: B+

Final Comments

Hysterical and bad in the best way, Rock 'n' Roll Nightmare is one of those movies that connossieurs of trash cinema understand as a classic of the breed. Synapse have done it justice with an excellent disc, featuring a very nice transfer, coupled with some amusing extras. This is one disc I'll watch again, Old Scratch.

Jeff Wilson 2006-06-26