Growing up, two things both saved and damned me: heavy metal and horror movies. They go together like guitar and bass, guns and roses, beer and weed, leather and denim. Off the top of my head, I can name plenty of bands for whom horror movies are a central element: Electric Wizard, Hooded Menace, The Misfits, Acid Witch, Mortician, Uncle Acid . . . seriously, I could name bands all day long.

But what movies meet the metal grade? Which ones would you be able to put on the back of your battle vest? Also — a tip of the horns to Mike “McBeardo” McPadden’s evil and doom filled tome, Heavy Metal Movies.

You probably remember Black Roses more for its garish VHS case than the actual movie. A 3D standout on rental shelves everywhere, it’s a favorite of many 80s horror fans. Believe it or not, I’d never seen the movie until this year. I was inspired by Acid Witch covering the song “Soldiers of the Night” on their Midnight Movies EP and had to look up the film that goes with it.

The small town of Mill Basin is about to become the first place that the band Black Roses will ever play a show. Up until now, they’ve only been a studio band. And parents are concerned because these guys have taken over the hearts and souls of the town’s kids. But do you blame the kids? Mill Basin reminds me of where I grew up — there’s nothing to do but fuck and do recreational drugs. And if you have bad self-esteem issues, you’re gonna just stay in your room reading comic books, playing guitar, drawing pictures of Leatherface and staring at your Traci Lords poster while listening to Among the Living on repeat. Oh wait — I was wallowing in the past.

There’s one teacher that cares — Matthew Moorhouse, who several of the students believe is having an affair with goody two shoes Julie. He’s stuck in a loveless relationship with an ice queen named Priscilla (Carla Ferrigno, yep, Lou’s wife). And the parents remain up in arms about Black Roses until the mayor calms them, reminding them that their parents hated rock and roll, too. The parents decide to be open-minded and go see the concert, which is the lightest, softest hair ballad cheese that you can ever imagine . . . until they leave and the real Black Roses starts playing and zombifying the crowd.

The kids come back at their parents with knives, just like Charley claimed they would, like a patricide by stereo (Vincent Pastore of The Sopranos), a mother killed by a car, another kid shooting his dad in the face and one watching while her best friend humps her father to death (one of these deaths is not like the other). Even virginal Julie goes astray, killing her lecherous stepfather and Moorhouse’s ex-girlfriend before transforming into a creature that I can only describe as a snaggletoothed fetal pig that makes cat noises.

This leads him to the band’s final concert, where lead singer Damian doffs his hair and shows off his demon dome. Moorhouse responds by setting the demon on fire, killing it. Wait a second — a demon that can be killed by fire? That just seems like poor planning.

So often, if you meet me in person, I get evangelical about movies, selling everyone on how amazing they are. I realize I often make bad movies sound way better than they really are. And when people are not ready for the onslaught of offal that I so often enjoy, they wonder, “Is Sam insane?”

Yes, I am. And if I were to be sitting next to you in person, I’d tell you that this movie is awesome because the lead singer turns crowd members into skeletons and purple zombies. That little dinosaur people that sound like kittens come out of speakers to kill fat dads. That my real dad, Carmine Appice, is in this movie, because his band King Kobra did most of the Black Roses music and that his name in this movie is Vinny Apache, which is the best name maybe ever, except for Sheriff Gene Freak. That Julie Adams from The Creature from the Black Lagoon and Dennis Hopper’s insane The Last Movie is in it.

But then you’d watch it and be like, why should I be cheering for the obviously a pedophile teacher with a sweater who is trying to set all the kids on fire with gasoline? Why are the creature effects so fucking weirdly bad? Is the film on the side of the parents or the kids? Why is the biggest band in the world playing such a small town shithole? How did they survive to play Madison Square Garden two weeks later and everyone is like, “Oh well” like it means nothing to them?

I should really start sharing disclaimers when I get all excited about movies. But yeah. Purple zombies. Dinosaur cats. Plenty of nudity. Metal lifers playing ridiculous songs (Carmine Appice was also in the solo bands of Ozzy Osbourne, Paul Stanley, Ted Nugent and Rod Stewart, which has to help you in a trivia contest someday). And you know, kids rising up to kill their parents. You can forgive a bad movie for a lot when it has all of these elements.

You can watch it over at the Internet Archive for free.

Update: This is now playing on Blechbuster Video!

4 thoughts on “NO FALSE METAL MOVIES WEEK: Black Roses (1988)

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