Box Office Failures Week: Rocktober Blood 2: Billy’s Revenge (2016)

It could have been the best
If you had it correctly made
But just like all the rest
Of the bogus grey market rips
It wound up in a grave

When you least expect it
Your DVD/Blu, it will arrive
And when it does
You’re screwed

Get ready for a fascinating fiasco for the most expensive film (well, direct-to-video) never made.

In April of 2016 The Screamcast podcast broke the story that an IndieGoGo online campaign was launched to raise funds for a proposed sequel to the 1984 heavy-metal slasher flick Rocktober Blood. There was even a You Tube-posted trailer that featured outtakes from the original film creatively edited with new footage featuring new actors.

And those sequel plans quickly crumbled in the midst of a fan-controversial DVD/Blue-ray reissue of Rocktober Blood.

Through that crowd-funding campaign and a website, rocktoberblood2.com, Panama Films, the film company/reissues arm of the movie’s producers, Ferd and Beverly Sebastian, were offering a $50 Blu-ray (and $30 DVD) restored and remastered from the film’s original 35mm negative. The pack would also include the first ever CD copy of the film’s out-of-print vinyl-only soundtrack. Another perk: Billy Eye Harper himself, actor Trey Loren, aka Tracy Loren Sebastian, the son of the film’s writers and directors Ferd and Beverly, would personally autography the discs.

From their official social media press release:

“Fans of the original cult classic will be able to help with the sequel even before the launch with an “Early Bird Special,” which includes a Special Limited Edition Blu-ray (or DVD) of ROCKTOBER BLOOD! The Blu-ray will be a new master of the 35mm print. In addition, you’ll receive a mini-poster of the original theatrical art, a t-shirt, and the original soundtrack! Your Blu-ray/DVD can either be signed or signed with a personalized message from Billy Eye, himself!”

Needless to say, fans of the video fringe were weary from the start because Panama Films’ (operated by their son Benjamin) previous digital reissues of the Sebastians’s oeuvre, with films such as ‘Gator Bait and Flash and the Firecat, were imported from the 1-inch video tape masters (but really just rips from an old VHS tape; no “masters” were used).

At the time, the Rocktober Blood-reboot had a Facebook page and fans inquired if this new reissue would be legitimate, pressed Blus and DVDs, or are they going to be BD-r and DVD-rs like the old Panama version. The page, run by Tracy Sebastian, said: “They are legitimate Blu-rays!”

Panama Films’ early-2000 DVD-r reissue sold directly through their website.

(Factoid: Legit replicators require a minimum of 1000 copies be pressed before they can take an order. Is there really 1000 fans in the whole world clamoring for Blus or DVDs of such an obscure slasher film?)

Then the Rocktober Blood social media platforms stated that, in honor and recognition of the Sebastians’s filmmaking throughout the years, and to give something back to them, all net proceeds (100%) from the special edition director’s cut DVD and Blu will go to support their charities—the National Greyhound Foundation, a 501 c3 non-profit organization.

Uh, what?

I thought this reissue was intended to fund the production of the sequel Rocktober Blood 2: Billy’s Revenge. How can you fund the movie with the sales if all of the proceeds are going to a non-profit animal rights organization?

Then another statement was issued that the upcoming IndieGoGo campaign will fund the sequel. The advanced “Early Bird” orders through the Rocktober Blood 2 website will all go—100%—to the Greyhound charity. And the few fans that decided to take the plunge were receiving credit card statements with the notation of “lovepettraining.org” and their order confirmation emails were sent from the “The National Greyhound Foundation.”

The original film’s original title and one of it’s many overseas titles.

So, it seemed, the film reissue was going through and processed directly by the charity. And since everything looked on the up-and-up and it was supporting a charity, other rock ‘n’ roll flick and bad horror movies fans took the bait. I mean, who doesn’t want to help unwanted and abused dogs?

And the fans waited. And they waited. Their Blus/DVDs-CD combos never arrived as promised. So fans began requesting credit card and Paypal refunds.

Then another official statement via the Rocktober Blood 2 Facebook page was issued with an apology for the shipping delays and that they (Billy/Panama) were waiting for the discs to be shipped to them. And as soon as those discs are received, they’ll ship out the next day. And the discs did ship out, as fans spoke of their postal tracking indicating that their purchases shipped from Homosassa, Florida (outside of Tampa on Florida’s west coast where Tracy/Billy ran a southern BBQ joint, Smokin’ Ts).

Then their purchase arrived.

Not only were the DVDs and Blus direct-to-disc recordables—they weren’t correlated from a 35mm negative. They weren’t even burned from a 1-inch tape master. They were ripped from an old VHS tape. Adding insult to injury: the CDs were direct-to-disc recordables, ripped from an old vinyl album. More salt in the wound: Yes, the cases were signed “Keep Rockin, Billy” on the plastic dust cover, but not directly on the artwork itself. Once the disc was handled a few times, the signature rubbed off.

So everyone paid $50 bucks—$60 with shipping; overseas fans shelled out $70 because of international shipping fees; in Canada, the final cost was almost $100—for Blus and DVDs (knock off $20 bucks for the DVDs) sourced from a VHS tape and CDs from a vinyl album. Then there were the shipping discrepancies. At $10 domestic shipping in the U.S, the packages could have/should have been sent “Priority.” Instead they were sent “First Class,” which roughly costs $3.00. So, as several rightfully irate U.S fans posted on the Rocktober Blood 2 Facebook page, horror film, and DVD/Blu-ray blogs—and as Paul Zamarelli publically pointed out via his Analog Archivist platform—where did the other $7.00 go?

Johnny J. (R.I.P, my brother), the ex-boyfriend of my ex, ex-girlfriend, who I male-bonded with over our “love” of the same woman, horror films, and all things Saxon (“Crusader!” was our in-joke greeting) bought one. Wow. Holy grammatical errors and typos, Batman! And the CD of the soundtrack, loaded into two CD players, a car deck, two PC’s and a laptop would not play. It was nothing more than a Billy Eye Harper frisbee.

Where’s Arrow Video, Kino Lorber, or Shout Factory when you need ‘em?

Hey, why not? Kiss and Alice had their own frisbees.

Then the question was raised: The original 1984 VHS of Rocktober Blood  was released on Vestron Video. Why didn’t Lionsgate, who did a Vestron Blu-ray line, release it? Answer:  Vestron’s distribution rights expired somewhere between February of 1996 and the April 1998 upon the formation of the Artisan Entertainment imprint and all rights reverted back to the Sebastian family—and they refuse any outside companies to reissue their films (thus their formation of Panama Films and Lunaris Records, which created those VHS-ripped DVD-Rs and vinyl-ripped CDs).

Then the complaints, the request for refunds, and fans filing “charge backs” with their credit card companies ensued. And when Panama Films snapped back at the complaints and disputed the refunds and charge backs, fans started flaming the Rocktober Blood 2, Tracy Sebastian, and Smokin’ T’s Facebook pages.

“Why take a negative to an expensive lab, when I can have it scanned locally at a photo place?” said one of the acidic statements to the fans’ disgust. (Thus admitting the discs were rips and not official presses.)

No more Rocktober Blood 2: Billy’s Revenge.

“Hey, wait a minute. There is no Billy. John, the twin brother of Billy, murdered Billy and pretended to be Billy. No, wait . . . John murdered all those people and framed Billy, right? And Billy was excuted. Then Lynn Starling and Chris dug up Billy’s grave and he was a pile of bones, right? So, uh, wouldn’t ‘John’s Revenge’ be the correct subtitle?”

Yeah, I hear ya, brotherman. That was just one of the many problems with this proposed sequel.

There’s no way of knowing how many of the Blu/DVD CD packs were manufactured, how many were sold and, most importantly, how many refunds were issued. Then there are the printing costs for all of those purported mini-posters and t-shirts sold through the website. All of the social media platforms, the sequel’s website, and the site for Panama Films connected to the project were all shut down shortly after the fiasco came to light. And there was the eBay store used to procure additional film financing that was shut down.

With claims they had a “warehouse full” of the original 1984 theatrical one-sheets and soundtracks, the Sebastians began posting Tracy-as-Billy autographed copies for bid-only. Fair enough. The vintage copies were legit; they weren’t reprints and everyone was satisfied with those purchases. (It wasn’t like when Charles Band sold reprinted Wizard Video big-boxes he purported to be 30-year old ’80s originals; you can watch a two-part Analog Archivist investigation on the Wizard video fiasco here.)

Then the Sebastians started posting other “film memorabilia,” such as “Billy’s actual knife from the film” and “his microphone-sword stand from the film.” Of course, astute horror fans (including myself) compared the posted items to the actual ones from the film and noticed they didn’t resemble each other. And that lead to more complaints and more social media flaming. And, with that, the Ebay store was closed.

To paraphrase Pvt. Hudson from Aliens: “Film over, man! Film over!”

Think fast! Heads Up! Eyes open! Billy Eye Frisbee comin’ at ya!

Upon the learning of the July 31, 2019 death of Nigel Benjamin, B&S About Movies reviewed Nigel’s music career and took a second look at Rocktober Blood. You can also enjoy a more indepth investigation—along with photos—on the production history of Rocktober Blood and Nigel Benjamin’s career with the Medium article, “Billy “Eye” Harper: The Rock ’n’ Roll Frankenstein of Nigel Benjamin and Trey Loren.” You can also watch the back catalog of the Sebastians’s drive-in classics at their Sebastian Films LTD You Tube page.

* The mock Theatrical one-sheet/VHS cover and Frisbee for this review was created by R.D Francis with typefaces courtesy of PicFont.com and image crop of ImageOnline.com. Kiss Frisbee courtesy of Metal Odyssey and Alice Cooper of HeavySpender eBay.

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook.

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