Rock 'n' Roll Nightmare (1987)

February 11, 2020

 

If there's ever been anything in the universe that willed itself into existence from nothingness, out of the ether, into the unbearable lightness of being, it's Jon-Mikl Thor. Sure, that could probably be said of most Canadian pseudo-celebrities, but Jon-Mikl is a special case.

 

Born into a working class immigrant family from Vancouver, John Mikl always wanted to be a superhero. He wore a Superman costume under his school clothes and had kids throw bricks at his head to prove his invincibility. Inspired by the likes of Steve Reeves, he entered his first physique championship as a body builder at age 14, later becoming the first Canadian to win both, Mr. Canada and Mr. USA.

Chasing stardom, he moved to Hawaii in the 70's to take part in the live nudie show, What Do You Say to a Naked Waiter? and quickly transitioned into music thereafter. Mikl was deeply influenced by the theatricality of bands such as KISS, Alice Cooper, and Bowie and, thus, branded himself Thor. The newly minted alter ego utilized his ripped bod, elaborate costuming, and fearless showmanship to score an RCA record deal, as well as a brief stint as a British metal sensation. 

 

Unfortunately, Jon-Mikl Thor would never be Mr. Universe or have a hit single in the United States. But that never stopped him or slowed him down. Rising from the ashes of nothing to be the most mediocre something in everything, film acting was, of course, the next, logical step. 

 

When the band starts to rock...heads start to roll!

 

Enter: Rock 'n' Roll Nightmare. With a childhood love of monster B-movies and superheroes, Thor penned a script for a horror film that combined the two passions. He drew from his experiences as a semi-successful musician and set up what's essentially a haunted house story around a rock band attempting to record their next album at an abandoned farm. Thor stars as a version of himself, a buff as hell front man, who--with his band mates and their girlfriends--confronts an ancient evil that begins offing them one by one.

Sounds pretty routine, right? And it kinda is, if you ignore the seemingly endless parade of batshittery that inhabits each scene. 

 

After a rather boss righteous cold open, where a malevolent force sucks a house wife into the oven and cooks her, we go into an eennnndddllleeesss credit sequence--you know the kind that has a different title card for each person who shares a role. And after the oh-God-did-I-forget-to-walk-the-dog-and-go-to-the-bank-I-should-really-get-checked-for-ADHD long-ass credit sequence, we finally fade into the establishing wide with the band's tour van driving along the desolate Canadian roads to the isolated house. And then we continue to have establishing wides of the band's tour van driving along the desolate Canadian roads to the isolated house.

 

This time around, I actually clocked this sequence. From the fade in to the van arriving at the house: three minutes and forty-six seconds! Mind you, the credits are over with! We're just watching the van drive for four minutes. It's The Deer Hunter wedding scene of van driving. 

But I assure you, if you just power onward, the van does arrive. For which then, we're treated to the best on screen defense of the Canadian tax shelter ever, when a band mate asks why they've traveled all the way to Canada to record the album. Thor responds: "Because Toronto is where it's happenin', man. The music, the industry...The arts!"

 

You sold me.

You might intuit from my snarky tone that I don't like this movie. And you'd be right. I fucking love this movie. What the film sacrifices in competence, it makes up for in pure heart. It's 1000% endearing. I mean, who wouldn't love the Evil Dead II ripoff shot, where the camera flies throughout the house, then up the stairs--but halfway up, sorta slows down as if the cameraman got winded? That's filmmaking, my friend.

 

I haven't even gotten to the extended shower sex scene with Thor and his girlfriend--a Melvin van Peebles in Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song-level of sleaziness where the star is just using the film to get some. You just gotta take my word for it: it'll give you more confidence in your own french-kissing skills.

My favorite element of the film, though, is the reliance on practical makeup and creature effects. Yeah, it ain't the end-all-be-all use of latex masks, and the creature puppets are more Stupid Jim Henson than Alien--but it works, somehow. It all adds up to a charming, yet goofy lo-fi 80's sensibility. And if you don't like that, why are you even reading this?

 

In the end, Thor is much better on stage as his larger-than-life persona than acting in film. That's all forgiven, however, when we get to the final climatic battle between him and the demon. I won't give it away, only to say that it's the most meme-able thing ever that's never been memed. 

 

So now, after you've finished reading this, I want to see those Rock 'n' Roll Nightmare memes, baby! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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