- Wide Release
- Director: John Fasano
- Written by: Cindy Cirile
- Running Time: 90 minutes
- Language: English
- MPAA Rating: R - Restricted
- Cast: John Martin, Carla Ferrigno, Vincent Pastore, Ken Swofford, Sal Viviano, Julie Adams, Carmine Appice, Margaret Groome, Peter Bontje, Frank Dietz, Jesse D'Angelo, Paul Kelman, Jason Logan, Glenn Deveau, Jason Harris, Michael Gruma, Heather LaPointe, Ron Mazza, Keith Miller, Chester Nakelski, Debbie Noonan, Paul Phenomenon, Karen Planden, James Rocchi, Tony Bua, Robin Stewart, Dave Roberts, Skip Shelgrove, Pat Streliioff, James Slade, Frank Thompson, Dennis Woods, John Fasano
Following on the heels of his moderately successful "Rock 'n' Roll Nightmare", director John Fasano felt another rock and roll-fuelled cinema-spasm was in order, served up on a platter with all the usual 80's chestnuts; big hair, mom jeans, high-pitched hairspray-soaked rock gods and god fearing backward record-playing hypocrites. Yes, "Black Roses" is hilariously dated and silly, but at the same time, it remains the kind of charming over-the-top suck-daddy-into-the-stereo cinematic-concerto that could have only emerged out of that self-indulgent timeframe. This possibly explains why it has garnered a degree of cult fandom since it's release, the fact that it never really takes itself too seriously and it has balls enough to take a satirical jab at those looking to hinder free expression. The notion of a heavy metal band turning kids into bloodthirsty Satanists with nothing but lyrics and attitude is about as perposterous and flimsy as the argument used by those groups looking to censor such expression.
For what it's worth, the film appears to have provided Diablo Cody with the brain-spark for her underrated "Jennifer's Body" script; although updated to incorporate modern day nuances. To be kind, originality doesn't appear to be these filmmakers strong suit either. Cindy Cirile, the film's writer, seems herself to have been inspired by Michael Laughlin's "Dead Kids", an Aussie thriller that only a few diehard film geeks have ever seen. Replace medical experiments with Satanic rock band and you have essentially the same movie. Well, the same movie but far less cool and with a lot more cheese.
When it is announced that the hugely popular glam metal band Black Roses (a questionably clever and completely un-original Black Sabbath/Guns and Roses hybrid, of course) are going to play their first ever concert (?) in the small border town of Mill Basin, the glum high school kiddies are uncharacteristically jubilant. "It's the most important thing that has ever happened to this town," one of the youngsters declares, letting us know right up front that Mill Basin ain't exactly the most happening spot on the map. Far from jazzed about the sudden news though are the parents, apparently all church-goin' types, who launch an all-out campaign to halt the show before it starts. Somebody's has to protect the kids, you know, from all that hip-shaking evilness going-on.
Matt Morehouse (John Martin), one of those affable teachers who only exists in the movies, seems to sympathize with his students' sudden angst that their prized ceremony might be halted before it even gets going. Granted, he has his own reservations regarding the event, especially after coming face to face with the band's mullet-haired lead singer, Damian (Sal Viviano). Yeah, his name is Damian, you know, like in "The Omen". More of that originality I mentioned. Ug. Well, Damian is nice, intelligent and says all the right things, but it's pretty clear there's something more sinister at play there. He isn't just strange, he's downright creepy, and Matt latches on to that right away. Hey, what can I say, Matt's an intuitive cat... kinda... not really.
Regardless of all the PTA commotion, the four-night concert goes ahead as scheduled, and Damian is able to put the ol' biddies minds at ease by belting out one of those cringe-inducing love ballads that so many rockers liked to perform back in the day. They like it and after some huffing and puffing, the old gals agree to skedaddle, leaving the kids alone in their uforia. That's when the real show begins, something made obvious when Damian starts tearing off layers -- as if to say, "let's get down to business up in dis bitch." Matt elects to follow the other "grown-ups" out of the school gymnasium, but isn't so quick to let his guard down. On his way out, he stops and notices that Damian is staring him down ominously from the stage. So sinister. So awesome. The next day, after the concert, Matt begins to sense that there's something wrong with his students; more than just depressed or glum, these kids seem to be almost zombie-like... but with a dash of violent and uber-horny thrown in. Oh, and with a new found inclination towards all-black clothing.
Within days, Matt's intuitiveness begins to work itself out in the most horrific of ways, as the Black Roses attendees embark on a murderous rampage that promises to swallow up their sleepy town. After many trips to the local library (oh, I wish I was kidding), Matt begins to unravelthe demonic origins of the Black Roses band and just what kind of hold they have on the town's youth. Will he be able to conjure up a plan to stop Damian and save his beloved town? My guess is... er... Oh, and with all that already on his plate, Matt must also deal with a bizarre and tempestuous love triangle he's found himself caught up in -- one that involves himself, Priscilla Farnsworth (Carla Ferrigno -- wife of Lou Ferrigno), his ex and the daughter of the town's mayor, and Julie Windham (Karen Planden), his star student who can't stop making googly eyes at him, for obvious reasons. The guy's sporting the most bad ass moustache one is likely to see this side of a Sam Elliot-flick. Anyway, there's all that to contend with too.
"Black Roses" has plenty of things a bad film connoisseur will adore, from the absurdity of 30-year olds playing teenagers, to the poorly designed puppets/FX on display to the bargain basement-Shakespearean dialogue, "Black Roses" makes for a fun watch. The filmmakers were clearly having a ball on this American/Canadian co-production, and the fact that some scenes seem to emerge without context or reason only adds to the film's cult-popularity. I'm thinking of an opening scene (a concert) which doesn't jive with the story of the film, considering that Mil Basin was supposedly their first ever concert. How exactly would a band become so hugely popular without entertaining at least one live show, anyway? I'm also thinking of the "Sopranos" Vincent Pastore (2008's "Return to Sleepaway Camp"), in his first film, as one unlucky dad who gets sucked up into a stereo speaker (an obvious nod to Videodrome) by a tentacle-flailing demon. The scene is the height of un-originality; as well it sets a new bar for special effects preposterousness, and the fact that Pastore's character is almost never mentioned again by any of the film's participants, speaks to how out-of-place his death feels within the film. [According the DVD commentary, the scene with Pastore was actually filmed very very late in the production to appease the money-guys behind the film. Apparently they demanded more carnage, because, you know, decapitations, disembowelments, shootings, a hit n' run, a man getting raped to death and a "teenager" impaled on a stool leg, wasn't gonna cut it.]
Soap star turned mainstream movie actor John Martin (1983's "Silkwood") proved himself a competent straight-man to all the craziness going on around him; bringing just the right amount of macho intensity to his lead role. Torn between wanting to get back with his bitchy ex and wanting to do the 10 to 15 with his 17 year-old student, provided his character with some realistic depth. As well, it wasn't that much of a stretch to buy him either as a sympathetic teacher or an gas-can wielding bad ass ready to burn the whole fucker down. Too bad he wasn't able to make more out of his once promising acting career. Another guy whose performance I really enjoyed was long-time TV actor Ken Swofford (1987's "The Stepford Children") as Mayor Farnsworth, a supremely likeable town mayor (a first for horror films, apparently) whose laid-back live-and-let-live attitude runs counter to the local PTA, and likely voter-base. While he understands the financial windfall the event will bring to the town, he also understands that the community's children really need this kind of artistic boost. In his clever bid to sell it to the PTA members, he calls forth their own childhood and how their parents once tried to stop Elvis and The Beatles, utilizing the same rubbish logic they were now citing. Granted, those bands had catchier tunes but the message is clear.
Certainly not a great movie by anyones standards, "Black Roses" remains a fun reminder the hyper-paranoia of the heavy metal 80s; a time of facepaint, backwards song lyrics and crazed religious groups intent on imposing their draconian views on everyone else. Imagine if they'd spent that time going after pedophile-Priests instead. For the loons, this film will be a re-enforcement of their already delusional ideas regarding music-as-a-catalyst-for-evil, but for the normals, this is just some damn fine satire. This film definitely gets 8 out of 10 Ronnie James Dio (RIP) devil-horn hand signs from me.
Black Roses @ imdb.com