Lucio Fulci wanted to make a giallo. But then Flashdance happened and the producers knew Keith Emerson (yes, the Keith Emerson from Emerson Lake and Palmer) and the result was…Murder Rock! Or Murder-Rock: Dancing Death! Or Slashdance! Or The Demon Is Loose!
We start at the Arts for the Living Center in New York, where Candice (Olga Karlatos, the only actress to be in both Zombi 2 and Purple Rain) watches Margie (Geretta Giancarlo from Demons) choreograph dancers for an upcoming talent agent visit. Only three girls will be selected, so they all need more perfection.
That night, Susan, one of the dancers, is murdered in the locker room. First, she is chloroformed. Then, as if Fulci has simply waited too long for something violent to happen, a giant hatpin is inserted into her breast. I imagine Lucio sitting in his director’s chair, saying “Why do I have to show all these pretty girls in leotards when everyone just wants to see me rip out one of their eyeballs?”
Lieutenant Borges (Cosimo Cinieri, The New York Ripper) and Professor Davis (Giuseppe Mannajuolo). show up to investigate, choosing Candice, the head of the academy Dick Gibson (Claudio Cassinelli, What Have They Done to Your Daughters?) and Susan’s boyfriend.
We find Candice at her apartment, where Dick shows up to tell her that he isn’t sleeping with any of the students. Anyone that tells you this is pretty much telling you that they totally sleeping with the students. The studio DJ also calls her to update her on the murder.
Back at the school and everyone is back to their routine, which upsets Dick, who tells the cops of the rivalries between the dancers. Later that night –after we see on stage by herself, showing off for the crowd — he shows up at her place, wanting to talk. She finds a photo of him with Susan, but when she turns to find him, he is gone. Worse, her bird is dead, stabbed by a hairpin. And soon, so is she, as a hairpin is thrust into her heart.
But what of Candice? Well, she’s having nightmares of the killer, who she sees chasing her with the long hairpin. She sees his photo on a billboard and tracks him down. The man is George Webb (Ray Lovelock, The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue), who isn’t the handsome model in the ads any longer. He’s now a mess, so she runs from him, leaving her purse in his room.
What would a giallo — or a Fulci movie — be without a red herring? It comes in the form of Bart, a dancer who confesses to the murders because Susan was crazy and Janice was Hispanic (but in a much more racist way). Borges believes that he isn’t the killer, but when George comes to the Academy to return Candice’s purse, Dick tells the cop that that’s their man.
At lunch, Candice tells George about how her dancing career ended after a hit and run accident with a motorcyclist. Now, she can only be a teacher. And she’s not convinced that George is on the up and up, as she learns from a talent agent that George once had an affair with a younger girl who died.
Oh yeah — and Margie attacks Candice just like the killer, but Dick saves her.
The killing doesn’t stop, though. Jill is killed while Molly, a girl in a wheelchair, takes photos of her. Molly tries to take photos, but the killer escapes. Dick tries to run away, but he’s arrested. But again, the killing doesn’t stop. Gloria is murdered in the locker room with the trademark hairpin.
It all leads to Candice going back to George’s hotel room, where she finds the murder weapon. She runs away and George tries to find her, but she’s at the police station, telling the Lieutenant, who agrees to meet her at the Academy.
Ready for the big reveal? When she gets there, she sees a video of every dancer who has died, leaving her screaming their names. George appears with the murder weapon and asks why she set him up. She responds that she knew he was the hit and run driver who cost her so much and that she killed the girls because of her jealousy of them. They had the life she would never know and had to die…and he has to pay for all he has done to her. She grabs the murder weapon and kills herself with it, pushing the weapon into George’s hand. The police arrive, but they already knew she was the killer, thanks to the buttons on the killer’s jacket being on the left side and Candice knowing details about the murders that they never made public.
That’s the plot, but please imagine that there is a leotard-clad dance-off every ten minutes or so.
Murder Rock was part of a planned trilogy entitled “Trilogia della musica” and would have been followed by Killer Samba and Thrilling Blues, but Fulci became ill for two years and abandoned the project.
This film looks gorgeous! It has some stunning shots of the killer coming at the camera and while there is some blood, it isn’t at the expense of the story. I literally expected nothing and was rewarded with some great fun. Your ability to enjoy flashdancing and 80’s outfits may impact your enjoyment of this film, however!