Black Roses (1988)

Alright, guys…  I need to redeem 2017 in a hurry.  Let’s see if enlisting the power of 1980s hair metal rock and roll can get us back on track.

No, really, I mean it.  I kinda feel after a particularly strong showing during Alyssa Milano month in December, I have done nothing but stumble out of the gate here in January.  So, Black Roses, it’s up to you to save my blog.

1980s horror had a few things going for it.  First, it had slashers.  Second, it could always fall back on the old, tried and true supernatural.  Third, there was an onslaught of new rock and roll bands that stood in direct opposition to the resurgence of Evangelical Christianity of the time.  Finally, there was the VHS boom that meant more and more movies could be made cheaply to cash in on those kids who just wanted something easy to watch.

It’s reasons three and four above that brought Black Roses to my attention.  First, that’s a pretty sweet ass Fender there on the cover.  Second, there appears to be some sort of monster shredding that Fender.  Third, the VHS cover literally jumped out at you with a textured cover that made all those roses on the neck of the guitar pop out to be felt by those curious enough to pick the box up off the shelf, turn it over, and learn more.  The art of the VHS box was something these dumb kids these days will never know anything about.

From Midnight Pulp (an online streaming service specializing in a bunch of awesome horror and grindhouse movies, and even some Asian skin flicks), the plot is: “A sleepy little town will get more than it bargained for when satanic heavy metal band “Black Roses” comes through to raise hell… literally! After making a deal with the Devil himself, the band’s diabolical music possesses kids in the audience, turning them into blood-thirsty demons. The blood flows as they start killing their parents and causing chaos at their local high school, culminating in a fiery battle between man and ultimate evil. Features original songs from ‘Lizzie Borden’!”

Guys, I really am feeling pretty good about this movie.  I mean original songs from LIZZIE BORDEN!  I mean multiple decades after hacking her family to bits, she was still more metal than you will ever be.

The movie starts with a rock concert from Black Roses.  Now, I could just be seeing things, but I  may have to dial back a little bit of my hope I just expressed because it seems as though this opening shots of people on the streets of the city is taking place in Toronto.  And if we learned anything from last week’s Killer Party, the Canadians struggle with mid-80s supernatural/demon themed horror flicks.  So…  I might not be getting the saving my blog desperately needs right now.  Yet, the makeup and prosthetic work on the demonic members of the band is pretty solid.  Kudos to whoever worked on that.

Additionally, this sorta music video that starts this movie is about 400% better than the one that opened Killer Party.

Anyway, the kids are going wild, literally, for Black Roses.  When the authorities come to shut down the concert, the kids come spilling out of the auditorium like demons on a rampage.  Okay, so I’m going to go ahead and let a little more hope fly as this opening was pretty solid.  There’s some good makeup.  A demon band of heavy metal rockers.  Music that turns kids into monsters…  So far so good!

In a quiet town, a couple sweet Lamborghinis roll through and some long-haired rockers get out to survey the town.  As kids and families do their morning routines, we see some of the cool kids posting signs for an upcoming concert by Black Roses.  We’re introduced to a few of our main kids who are attending a class where the teacher, Mr. Moorhouse, is discussing Walt Whitman’s idea of evil in his writings.  Johnny, one of the main kids, gets on his soapbox to say he feels the people in the town of Mill Basin are always talking about good but want to shut down the Black Roses concert which the kids all think is the best thing to happen to the town.  What we have here is all that good ol’ “Parents Just Don’t Understand” or “Fight for Your Right (to Party)” sort of thing here.  Parents of this small, conservative town, are worried about the influence of rock and roll on their children.  Believe it or not, this was still a thing in the 80s.  You might have thought this died out in the 50s or 60s, but oh no it did not, dear readers.

Johnny and Hot Girl Whose Name I Don’t Know.

Johnny has a thing for teacher’s pet, Julie.  Johnny’s friend thinks he’s wasting his time because it seems as though Julie is hot for teacher.  The parents meet in a town gathering to discuss and rage against Black Roses’ lyrics.  And as she reads the lyrics about tearing down the walls of hell, letting lust take over, burning down homes…  I guess she’s got a little bit of a point.  The mayor stands up and talks in favor to let the concert continue based around the idea that bands and musicians have come along over the years and were labeled as evil despite not really being so.  However, because this is a horror movie and this is indeed during a time in which the morally “right” were always, well, right, of course they know best.  We also know this because goddammit, we actually saw the fucking monster band at the beginning!

Johnny does score some hangout time with Julie.  He does his little rebellious thing and wants to literally paint the town red.  He gets a bucket of red paint and plans on vandalizing a lot of stuff – you know, basic kids just want to rage sort of stuff.  Julie is not so sure about acting out like this, and if it wasn’t for Mr. Moorhouse hearing them messing about, causing them to run away, it’s likely they would have fucked some shit up.  Off screen, Moorhouse tells Julie he knew they were about to vandalize some stuff, but he doesn’t turn them in because Johnny’s had a rough upbringing.

A mullet that glorious can only be the work of Satan himself!

That night, everyone gathers – even those against – for the Black Roses concert.  They come out onto stage and the main singer, who looks something like the guy from Samurai Cop, sings a pretty standard 80s pop song.  This leads to the mayor and Mr. Moorhouse to be surprised by what they are seeing and hearing after expecting this hard rockin’ alternative style kind of music.  All the kids are pretty into what they are hearing.  Even Julie is grinning and swaying along to the music.  The mayor and the do-gooder society who opposed Black Roses (led by The Creature from the Black Lagoon’s Julie Adams herself) leave the show.  Not before Moorhouse gives Damian, the lead singer of Black Roses, a good once over out of suspicion.

After they all leave, the real Black Roses music begins and throws the kids into a rock and roll fueled fury.  The next morning, all the kids suddenly seem uninterested and are all dressed in more dark and alternative clothes.  Even Julie has gone from her sweet, innocent pastels and pinks to denim, makeup, and teased hair.  What once used to be a classroom full of engaged kids is now a room of disaffected and disinterested youth which irritates Moorhouse.  When he tries to talk sense into the kids, they respond with frustration and back talk.  When class is over, he begs the kids to get some sleep.  Julie tells Moorhouse that she’s going back to the second show happening that night.  Surprised, he seeks advice from his mentor who, almost prophetically, mentions that he shouldn’t be too terribly surprised that they are under the spell of a little rebellion.

Rock-n-Roll Enthralled Julie which kinda seems like a normal girl look from the 80s, but okay, we’ll go with it.

Moorhouse learns that Black Roses has scheduled four shows in Mill Basin from Damian (whose mullet is apparently a wig, so that immediately makes him a total asshole to me).  He explains that they wanted the shows in a small town to help lay the groundwork to expand to bigger cities.  He then invites Moorhouse to return to that night’s concert.  As Moorhouse leaves, Julie comes in showing that she’s a little more caught up in all this than just being a fan.  It’s almost implied that she’s probably blowing this asshole with the fake mullet.  Not only are good girls showing up to blow Damian, but they are also fighting over getting free albums from Black Roses.  Then, to really show that some things are going downhill, one of the parents of the kids gets attacked by some sort of demon bug thing that flew out of the speakers when he tried to shut off the Black Roses record being played in the house.  It’s a silly thing with a silly monster but still kinda effective.  This movie is definitely getting an A for effort.  Eventually, the monster pulls the dad into the speaker and eats him.

While Moorhouse sits at home listening to classical music, all the students attend the second Black Roses concert.  This time, they are chanting Damian’s name before they come out on stage – including Johnny, Julie, and the hot girl from earlier who I still don’t know what her name is (even though it has been mentioned a few times now).  Anyway, the power of Black Roses’ music starts to overwhelm the kids in attendance.  Not only that, but it fucking melts one girl’s face off…

Then these poor sons of bitches too…

If you’d ask me why this is happening, I’d respond by saying, “I dunno… Because it did.”  But I’d also say that I’m real glad it did happen because it’s awesome that kids got their fucking faces melted off by 80s hair metal.

Later that night, Moorhouse hears his car’s window being broken, and goes out to report it.  We learn it’s Johnny who vandalized his car and as he drives through the town he sees kids lingering all over the streets and engaging in drinking, and fighting, and general tomfoolery.  He goes to see the mayor and finds his girlfriend, the mayor’s daughter, there.  So, yeah, he dates the mayor’s daughter – which was sorta eluded to, but not made a big deal.  They end up having a fight over him being a teacher or some such shit.  We don’t know why she’s upset with him.  I do know she’s the real life wife of Lou Ferrigno, and that’s fucking awesome.  Anyway, the mayor was home so his daughter is just a cunt I guess.

JANEY!  That’s the hot blonde’s name.  It’s finally committed to memory.

When Johnny comes home, he goes into his bedroom to listen to some more Black Roses and have a cigarette.  Suddenly, a naked woman with gigantic hair appears and fucks him.  The really young are also being affected because the hot blonde’s little brother is burning his superhero action figures because they are the “bad guys”.  When one parent scolds her kid for staying out late and going to the concert again, he hits her with his car.  When the hot blonde comes home with her friend, she sets up a scenario where her friend is left alone with her dad so he can be tempted by her hot young body.  This gets a little weird because she’s claiming she has no other place to go because she’s locked out of the house, but he’s too nice to put his foot down to call her parents so she can go home.  He goes for the suggestion to play “strip gin” with her and apparently has a heart attack while fucking the teenage girl?  Additionally, Johnny comes downstairs after having sex with the suddenly appearing naked woman and shoots his dad in the head.

At this point, we kind of devolve a bit into Killer Party territory.  There’s a lot of kids doing bad things, which, sure, helps show they’ve been hypnotized or whatever by Black Roses to do the devil’s work and what have you.  However, I’d think it would be better if we’d have seen things earlier setting up how easily the kids are swayed.  This just seems like because they are kids, they like rock ‘n roll music, and they like to rebel, they are dumb and easily controlled.  What if we could see some of the kids, maybe Johnny, fighting it and watching Julie, who was a good girl, succumb and therefore forces Johnny into more of a hero role?  That would have added something more to this movie.  I guess the filmmakers didn’t want to make that kind of movie.

And I guess the Canadians like all of their horror action happen in quickly cut together segments.

Moorhouse calls the mayor and tells him that the music is driving the kids insane and there are now dead people turning up.  The mayor just thinks Moorhouse is jumping off the deep end and sounding like the old bitty who earlier railed against Black Roses.  The mayor tells him to go to the concert, and if it still seems like there’s something wrong, he’ll do something then.  The mayor also thinks his daughter is right and he’s just playing too much of the concerned adult role.

Moorhouse’s mentor (he’s either the principal or a counselor or something) meets with Janey to talk about her father’s death.  She seems pretty nonplussed and a little playful about her dad’s death.  She says she feels like screaming, and he agrees that might help.  He goes to the window and opens it, and Janey pushes him out to his death.

In the library, Moorhouse studies up on the occult to try to learn what’s going on with the kids.  Julie sneaks up on him   He asks if she is feeling well because she doesn’t seem herself.  He notices that Johnny is watching.  He asks if Julie is going to the next concert with Johnny.  She tells him that Johnny means nothing to her.  She starts acting jealous toward Moorhouse’s girlfriend and storms out of the library.

And thou who hast the fakest of mullets cannot be heeded for he is a false prophet.

That night, Damian preaches to the students in a scary demon voice.  He starts to transform slightly before ordering his minions out to create havoc.  One of his minions is a girl who lit a bunch of candles near a mirror with a picture of Damian stuck to it and plays with her bare tits for a little bit.  I think it is meant to be Julie because she then goes downstairs wearing what looks like what the girl playing with her tits was wearing and bludgeons her stepfather to death.

Okay, two things…  First, thanks for the totally awesome boobs.  That’s always appreciated.  I  mean, it’s a bit out of place, but whatever, I like boobs – even if it is a body double for the good girl gone bad.  Second, goddammit movies…  Another “main” girl who has been possessed or turned bad when she really should be the one who survives at the end.  And in a related question, should I even ask if she’s going to survive the movie?

Okay, so Moorhouse wakes up in the library and realizes he’s missed the Black Roses concert.  Concerned for Julie, he rushes to her house where he learns that her stepdad is dead.  Her mom doesn’t know where she’s gone.  She hopes nothing has happened to Julie, but Moorhouse seems pretty hip to what’s gone on.  Julie shows up in the back of Moorhouse’s ex’s car and slits her throat.  Moorhouse tries to find the mayor and his daughter but they aren’t home.  He goes home and gets a call from the mayor who tells Moorhouse that his daughter has died in a car fire.  Julie comes to the door and says she’s brought him a present – herself.  Julie opens up her shirt and comes onto Moorhouse saying she’s taken care of everything and there’s nothing left stop them from being together.

When he fights Julie off, she straight up turns into a monster and attacks him.  He eventually is able to stake her with a piece of wood from a broken piece of furniture.  Yes, again, our main survivor archetype girl who should be the survivor has been possessed, turned into a demon, and killed.  This is a real bummer of a year so far.

Moorhouse gears up and goes to that night’s Black Roses concert.  He plans to blow up the place.  He hears Damian tell his followers that they are all his soldiers of evil and they should worship their master – which I guess is him… Or Satan. It’s probably Satan.

When Moorhouse’s presence is revealed, he orders them get him.  Damian is starting to look pretty erogenous and a lot less scary than he should.  Of course, I’m kinda partial to his original look at the start of the movie with the scary demon face.  He reveals that he is indeed an agent of hell and has a pretty good laugh about all this business.  He does finally start to morph into a monster as do the rest of his followers.  One girl, though seems pretty horrified by it all.  I don’t know who that girl is, but most everyone has either turned into a monster or has the ability to do so.  Why she’s so upset about it beats me.  Also, eventually, Moorhouse makes a specific effort to save her above all others, and I still don’t know who she is.

Moorhouse uses a base drum mallet and his bare fists to beat on demon Damian.  He’s tossed over by his equipment he brought to blow the place up.  He does manage to kick Damian in the balls before using a flare and the gasoline he brought to burn the monster.  This snaps all the children out of the spell Black Roses had them under.  Six months later, life returns to some sense of normality but we learn that Black Roses has sold out seven shows in Madison Square Garden and is reporting as many as a half million people will be in attendance.

Not exactly the scariest agent hell could have sent.

Moral of the story, kids?  Evil hair bands will always win.

While it’s a bit cynical and unfortunate that the one good girl gets killed by her favorite teacher, Black Roses is a fairly decent movie.  It’s far from perfect but does contain a lot of good things.  It’s a fair story about evil corrupting the young and it has some pretty good makeup effects.  Its cult status is earned.  If you saw this as a kid after seeing the box art that practically jumped off the cardboard, and took it home to watch, you weren’t overly disappointed.  The monsters are fairly gross but it’s not so gory you’d have been turned off by it, and what parts did do that were later erased by having some pretty nice naked tits to turn you back on.

I am getting a little burned out on good girls having bad things happen to them and being kept from redemption.  That said, I think it’s time to turn to one of the horror greats to see if he can put an end to that streak.  I’m calling upon the late great Wes Craven to see what he can do to lighten up the start of this year.  So come back next week when we talk about Deadly Friend – which surely will not feature an immensely cute and likable girl be killed and/or perverted into something horrible!

Wait, what’s that you say?  What’s Deadly Friend about?

Oh, son of a bitch!!!

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