The dream of most long-haired nerds in 1990 — well, this one at least — was to shred on guitar and to date Traci Lords. This movie shows you that the only way to that goal is to find a voodoo woman and sell your soul to the Devil. And if you have to kill people along the way to keep what’s yours, that’s the price you have to pay.
Stephen Quadros stars as Angel Martin (although his solos are played by Nitro guitarist Michael Angelo Batio), a kid who wants to go from the pizza shop to the Sunset Strip by any means necessary. Today, Quadros is better known as an MMA announcer for a large variety of groups, but back in the day, his drumming was so good that Gene Simmons tried him out for KISS.
Once tendonitis flared its ugly head, Quadros went into acting, appearing in a veritable barrage of B-movie delights. He fist fought OJ Simpson in CIA Code Name: Alexa. He fought demons with spin kicks in Demon Wind. And he was the fight coordinator for the DMX/Jet Li vehicle — yes, this happened — Cradle 2 the Grave.
His co-star is the aforementioned Nora Louise Kuzma, who rechristened herself Traci Lords after the first name she always wanted and the surname of the star of Hawaii Five-O, Jack Lord. In 1986, video rental stores across the country scrambled to erase her films from their inventory — she was underage for every one of her films except for Traci, I Love You, the one film she owned the rights to. Supposedly, she was offered big money to stay in the adult industry — I kind of doubt that with all the problems she caused, but money leads as they say — and went mainstream. Between a music career — her album “1000 Fires” is underrated — and modeling, Lords has remained acting ever since.
Here, she plays Lindsay Roberts, the manager of Spastic Colon, a band of fitness dudes who hire Angel. Unbeknownst to all but him, he can live forever if he keeps taking souls. And of course, he falls in love with Lindsay. I mean, who wouldn’t? What woman makes a little hat look as fetching as Traci?
Amazingly, this movie was almost made with Linda Blair playing Lindsay’s part. It’s the producers had their pulse on exactly what I look for in films! And what I look for is muddy, near shot on video demonic possession films with sex symbols in them!
Troy Donahue — who played Merle Johnson in The Godfather Part II and would also appear with Traci in John Waters’ Crybaby — is in here and it’s sadly the last film of screen great Aldo Ray. Again — these are filmmakers who may have asked — what do the fat kids of today want to see? They want to see Aldo Ray be belligerent!
Shock ‘Em Dead is never going to be on anyone’s best movies of all time list. But it’s the kind of movie that I’ll sneak on if you’re too drunk to drive home and crashing on my couch. You’ll wake up and say, “What the hell did we watch last night?” And I’ll just laugh, having led one more soul to this movie and getting one step closer to being a guitar wizard thanks to Satan.
The in-between music in this is used to great effect on Acid Witch’s “Midnight Movies” EP. If you love metal-themed films, I suggest you check it out.