While entertainment executives and apologists smugly deny any causal relationship between heavy metal music and devil-worship, exploitation filmmakers perversely crank out one horror flick after another that confirm every fundamentalist minister's worst suspicions: heavy metal summons
demons, corrupts youth, creates maniacs, subverts Western civilization. There's seldom any real criticism aimed at the music industry or fans in these films; in fact the trappings of pop superstardom are childishly glamorized. This trend would be worthy of study if only the movies, like SHOCK 'EM
DEAD, weren't so utterly shallow and forgettable.
Martin (Stephen Quadros) is a pathetic nerd with a dream: "I wanna be the greatest rock star in the world, and everything that comes with it." After failing an audition for the rising band Spastique Colon, the despairing wannabe seeks a weird voodoo priestess (Tyger Sodipe) who grants the kid's
wish--by helping him sell his soul to Satan. He's quickly transformed into Angel, supercool axmaster guitarist and quasi-vampire, who must kill regularly to survive. He wastes all the competition for the Spastique Colon gig, literally murdering conceited frontman Jonny Crack (Marcus Grupta) and
taking control of the band himself. Angel also desires the group's beautiful manager Lindsay Roberts (Traci Lords), but she's betrothed to musician Greg (Tim Moffet). Greg's jealous prying uncovers Angel's true nature, and ultimately the fiend is destroyed onstage before an approving audience of
metalheads, who think the gore and pyrotechnics are just a spectacular act.
The picture doesn't take itself very seriously, and if SHOCK 'EM DEAD had more and better jokes it might have made amiable camp. The satire improves a notch in the second half, with venerable Hollywood heartthrob Troy Donahue as a talent scout for Casualty Records, who enthuses over Angel: "I
haven't seen anyone like him since ... what's his name bit the bat's head off!" Quadros portrays the hellish headbanger looking like Michael Jackson in an Elvira-Mistress-of-the-dark wig. Former porn star Traci Lords plays the imperiled leading lady straight, and gets a tame onscreen
treatment--nude scenes are mainly apportioned out among a trio of Faustian chicks who comprise Angel's evil entourage. SHOCK 'EM DEAD marked the final screen appearance for the late character actor and B-movie perennial Aldo Ray, typically cast as Angel's grouchy first victim.
The visual effects are chintzy and sparingly used. As for the sound effects, Michael Angelo of the band Nitro gets credited for "guitar wizardry," with additional riffs by David Celentano. (Violence, substance abuse, profanity, sexual situations, nudity.)
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- Released: 1991
- Rating: R
- Review: While entertainment executives and apologists smugly deny any causal relationship between heavy metal music and devil-worship, exploitation filmmakers perversely crank out one horror flick after another that confirm every fundamentalist minister's worst su… (more)