Raging Angels (1995)

“Between the worlds and music, something evil was tearing them apart.”
— Vidmark’s alternate, copywriter hornswogglin’

As the televangelist-inspiring carnival barkers of old once said, “Step right up! You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”

So, if you are keeping track of your rock ‘n’ roll flicks, and we know you are, you know that Michael Paré (Moon 44) and Sean Patrick Flanery (Boondock Saints, forever!) each made two of them: Sean Patrick Flanery made this, and the even more obscure grunge chronicle, Girl (2000), while Michael Paré made this, and Eddie and the Cruisers.

In Girl, Flanery was an ersatz-Cobain who becomes the love interest of a wayward, college-bound high school girl. In Eddie and the Cruisers, Paré was an ersatz-Jim Morrison who faked his death.

Here, Flanery’s aspiring, oh-so-not-metal rocker (which a film of this genre needs: metal) runs afoul of Paré’s, well, faux-Tom Cruise — if his Stacee Jaxx from the abysmal Rock of Ages was running Scientology and brainwashing teens into hard rock zombies, like Damian in Black Roses. Oh, only if this film were as cool as that last sentence. . . . If this film was as cool as American Satan.

Of the many foreign and domestic VHS and DVD sleeves issued. The original, disembodied floating-head design trope, wins . . . at least this time.

I just don’t know how to describe Raging Angels . . . this political sci-fi rock n’ roll heavy metal horror romantic musical (Phew!). I don’t know how to assume the “Christian” intent of the film, if any . . . what was its spiritual inspiration? And with five screenwriters (well, two on “story” and three scribes) — and with our fair director taking an “Alan Smithee” credit (plot spoiler: It’s Asian actress Hisako Tsukuba aka’ing on the writing front as Chako van Leeuwen; this is a “Chako Film International Production,” after all) — there’s no way to know whom is wholly responsible for this biblical-plot plethora pathos of analog schadenfreude. (One of the scribes taking a pass on it was Kevin Rock, who worked on sequels to The Howling, Warlock, and The Philadelphia Experiment, as well as Roger Corman’s rights-holding tax shelter, The Fantastic Four.)

Imagine Menahem Golan’s biblical tale of the Book of Genesis‘ Adam and Eve colliding with Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust in The Apple, with its subplot regarding the power of love and music . . . and you thought producer Richard Zanuck greenlighting Russ Meyer, an independent X-rated filmmmaker, and Roger Ebert, a first time, inexperienced screenwriter, for a 20th Century Fox “sequel” with Beyond the Valley of the Dolls was a weird picture, with its cautionary tale of innocent hopefuls chewed up and shat out by the Tinseltown music industry.

I just don’t know. . . .

No matter how you pack it . . . see what we mean?

Did the tape of Jon Mikl Thor’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare end up inside the VHS sleeve of Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead on Hisako Tsukuba’s personal home video shelf? Perhaps, after watching Keanu Reeves in The Devil’s Advocate — and taking into consideration his work as a metal head and musician River’s Edge and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure — Tsukuba decided to re-imagine Al Pacino’s Lucifer-as-a-lawyer as a cult-leading rock star? Perhaps it was one too many spins of the likes of ’80s Christian (aka “White Metal”) bands Stryper, Believer, Deliverance, Holy Solider, Messiah Prophet, Whitecross, Trouble (okay, settle, they’re “Doom Metal”), and X-Sinner? (If only I just rattled off the soundtrack listing with that sentence, but alas, I have not.)

Oh, the majesty of it all, with this film’s pinches from Brian De Palma’s Phantom of the Paradise (Gramercy’s concert hall headquarters; the concert assassination), They Live (recruiting the wayward homeless to boost their ranks), and John Frankenheimer’s The Manchurian Candidate (conspiracy, subversion, and government overthrow).

The beauty of Raging Angels is that it is inherently meta: The filmmakers (well, again, Asian actress Hisako Tsukuba, who co-produced Joe Dante’s Piranha, as well as ALL of its sequel/remakes) are using film to push what is best described as a (Tsukuba’s) socialism viewpoint; that a united, one-world welfare state under a supreme leader is the only way for the world to succeed in perpetual peace — which is the very message pushed by the film’s rock star-cum-celebrity spokesperson, Tom Cruise, er, Colin Gramercy (Paré). Ah, it turns out, Gramercy (in a plot twist), isn’t Satan-as-a rocker; he’s been brainwashed by Satan (a George Soros-styled billionaire philanthropist) as the chief advocate for a dopey, 501 c3 tax-evading pseudo-religion masquerading as a “self-help” book and tape-schilling amalgamate.

Like Daddy Rich pimpin’ his prosperity theology says: “There’s a good place in this world for money, and it’s right here in my pocket.”

Yes, praise Green Jesus, by watching this film . . . you will see the light! For watching Raging Angels will quell the “raging angels” within. This film will lead to your spiritual enlightenment . . . as you will learn how to be “your own god.” Yes you can! Just like “prosperity gospel” (i.e., “money gospel”) megachurch overseers Joel Olsteen and Creflo Dollar, whom “God tells” to pick the pockets of the flock to buy the Houston Astrodome and private 747s (fitted in real gold-plated fixtures, natch) to spread the good word. Hey, God can’t live or fly in junk, dear flockster. Forget that utility bill and tithe to Gramercy, for “God” will provide the water, light, and curb-side pick-ups. The Coalition for World Unity will provide the room and board and you’ll never have to work again . . . as long as you “obey” the word.

Eh, sorry, Ol’ Scratch, for I’ve stopped believing. Your attempt to brainwash me into socialism via a bad movie . . . you created a recruitment video for atheism. Besides, your film doesn’t even have backmasking? How can you make a movie with this subject matter and not have someone playing records backwards!

Anyway . . . our not-so-metal-warrior, Chris D’Amico (Flanery), is an arrogant, temperamental rocker on the way up who believes in his hype; and with his alcohol abuse out of control, his band sacks him. And the band he fronts is . . . none other that the aforementioned Holy Solider — ripping through Ronnie James Dio-era Rainbow with “Gates of Babylon” (on screen), which is this film’s lone high mark (on the soundtrack we also hear their original, “The Pain Inside of Me“). And Chris ends up like Pete Best and Chad Channing (know your Nirvana heritage), as Holy Soldier nets a deal and achieves great success . . . as a metal band . . . during the height of the grunge era (put a pin in that, for more, later).

So, our now penniless rocker, who has beat the bottle and stowed the cockiness, needs a gig. He and his musician-girlfriend, Lila Ridgeway (ex-daytime TV actress Monet H. Mazur, in her feature film debut), audition for gigs in Colin Gramercy’s new, worldwide satellite-cable concert (Paré, unlike in his star-making turn as Eddie, actually sings here, with “The Hunger”). And Colin wants Lila as a back up singer, who quickly falls under the cult-rocker leader’s spell (for all good televangelists have that enclave of chicks to help work through those sermons), but not Chris.

Uh, oh . . . but Lila is changing. She’s not the same girl, anymore. And the drinking didn’t make Chris wreck his car, it was Satan (literally; a ghostly image appears in the windshield). But Lila ain’t buying the excuses, anymore. She dumps him on Gramercy’s word.

Cue Chris’s Grandma Ruth (Shelley Winters!), who, thanks to her horrific dreams and visions (that screws up his new band’s audition), starts with the nagging warnings that “Chris is in danger.” Well, the demons won’t have any of that. Let the demon attack begin. But not before our dead Grandma recruits the eccentric, religious-psychic-preacher Sister Kate (Diane Ladd!) to save Chris and Lila’s souls from eternal damnation. The demeaning of Jesus Christ down to evil-warding, biblical-verse spells and religious trinkets, ensues.

Eh, on the upside: everyone is trying. Grandma Shelly and Aunt Diane are going at it with gusto, and Sean Patrick and Paré always sell the drama — no matter how awful it usually is, as is the case with most of their films.

Finally!

Yes, the final good vs. evil showdown we’ve been waiting for at Colin’s global, subliminal worldwide satellite concert, is here — the concert that will transform the citizens of Earth to the Coalition for World Unity way-of-life once and for all! Well . . . I think it’s best you watch the clip of the final battle, for the rest of the story.

See what we mean?

Where’s Jon Mikl Thor when we need his bare-chested, bad-ass metal warrior self? Where’s Billy Eye Harper, Lynn Starling and Headmistress with the epic concert show closer? Ah, now I see why the CWU needs to subliminal message their concert: because the concert, with their screeching Christian symphonic rocker signing, Mozart (“One World”), and Colin Gramercy’s “life changing” epic, “The Hunger,” is — as is any Christian “rock concert” held in a church’s chapel-cum-gymcafeditorium that I’ve been too — absolutely, utterly awful (and when you realize the music sucks, they “kidnap” you by blocking the door and will not let you leave before the show’s over . . . and not even then. Screw you, One Bad Pig. Your Red Hot Chilli Peppers-for-Jesus schtick, sucked. At least Ronnie James Dio didn’t abduct me and force me to listen and indoctrinate me).

And that is what is ultimately missing from Raging Angels, the one thing that would have taken this Satan-steals-souls-with-rock-music mess over the top: a soundtrack on the level of the “No False Metal” classic Black Roses. For Raging Angels needs the likes of Lillian Axe, Lizzy Borden, and Carmine Appice’s King Kobra masquerading as the faux bands of the film. This film needed Metal Blade Records’ Brian Slagel as its music consultant to transcend it as the “No False Metal” classic it so wants to be . . . and utterly fails to be.

Granted, Sean Patrick Flanery impresses here (yes that is him singing, with “Come In My Mind“; in fact, here he is belting “One Step Forward” in Girl), but for as much as I enjoy any film with the ‘Flan, his character and the related songs are a bit too — through no fault of his own — douchy to pull off the demonic side of the proceedings. The rest of the soundtrack’s mostly B-Side castoffs — faux-Led Zeppelin’ers Kingdom Come (“What Love Can Be”), Golden Earring (?) (“Twilight Zone”), Boston (“Livin’ for You”), The Mission U.K (“Wasteland”), and well, what do you know, the aforementioned Stryper (“To Hell with the Devil”), and Sweden’s “dance rockers” Army of Lovers (“Supernatural”) (a big deal in Europe, but not in the U.S.) — just aren’t lathing the grooves on my vinyl. And, yes, shockingly, that snippet of “Arrow” by a band called Candlebox is the very same, we-relocated-the-band-to-Seattle-to-be-a-grunge-band, Candlebox. (Odette Springer, who scored Cirio H. Santiago’s Mad Max-rips Dune Warriors and Raiders of the Sun, scores here, as well as co-writing, with Hisako Tsukuba, Monet Mazur’s character’s vocal showcase, “I’m Crying Out for You.”)

And if the lack of metal in this Satanic music flick ain’t cuttin’ it, then, chances are, neither are the not-so-special effects.

When was this made? Well, based on the dated-soundtrack, certainly not during the post-1990 grunge-era. Raging Angels reeks as a film shot at some point during the hair metal ’80s — courtesy of its à la Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare, practical-sfx rubbery monsters (taking into account that film’s epic “Plan 9 from Outer Space” Satan vs. Angel battle) and burgeoning-technology CGI. Yeah, the dank n’ moldy aromas of years-languishing on the shelf — as most “Alan Smithee” films do — to then be thou looseth on the shelves of oneth’s local Blockbuster Video, permeates.

In the end, what we ultimately have in the frames of Raging Angels isn’t a errant, “No False Metal” heavy-metal horror film: we have an evangelical Christian Cinema precursor to the rash of low-budget, direct-to-video evangelical Revelation/Apocalypse films triggered by Christian author Tim LaHaye’s mid-’90s end-of-the-world Left Behind novel series. Those best-sellers were, of course, produced into a tetraology franchise by Canadian’s Paul and Peter LaLonde Christian-based Cloud Ten Pictures, which specializes in end-times films.

So, forget about the Black Roses and Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare analogies. The true spiritual cousins to Raging Angels are those proselytizing flicks starring past-their prime actors, such as the Apocalypse tetraology (1998 – 2001) with Gary Busey, Corbin Bernsen, Jeff Fahey, Margot Kidder, Mr. T, and Nick Mancuso, Six: The Mark Unleashed (2004), with Eric Roberts and Stephen Baldwin, David A.R White’s dopey Rapture-flicks, such as The Moment After (which rip off Schwarzenegger’s End of Days to lesser-and-lesser effect), and the biggie of the bunch: The Omega Code starring Casper Van Dien and Michael York. Raging Angels is all of those premillennialist flicks — only with a Satan-recruits-with-music plot device, and worse production values.

Eh, whatever, ye leaders of the CWU. If douchy music from tapered haircut and scruffy soul-patched dudes is the way to global peace, then give thee chaos. At least Satan has better music to-be-brainwash-by. At least I learned that the way to rock is to sling my axe behind my back and wear glittery tank tops.

The VHS tapes are out there, but watch out for those DVDs, they’re grey DVD-r rips. And while they look really good, I am still not jammin’ on those Euro Region 2 copies, either. Emptor the caveats and know your regions before you go hard digital, kids.

In all of my years coveting this film for the VHS collection, I never found a copy. Sure, I could easily buy a copy online these days, but, well . . . it’s just not the same as discovering a copy in a video store’s cut out bin — or at today’s library book drives or second hand stores, is it? For the joy is the thrill of the analog chase and the celluloid discovery . . . and then having your expectations deflated as you struggle to get through the movie, and then apologize to your VCR.

Eh, I’ll just free-with-ads stream it on Tubi with ya’ll.

Hey, Scorpion Releasing! You need to do for Raging Angels what you did for The Apple and get this out on Blu-ray. Do it. Do it. Do it. Do it. . . .

Coming the first week of December. . .

We’re reviewing a week of classic — and heavy-handed — early ’70s Christian Cinema with our upcoming, our “Exploring: Christian Cinema of the ’70s” featurette. So, join us on Wednesday, December 1 through the Sunday, December 5 . . . “join us . . . join us. . . .”

Don’t fear Satan! Hail Sammy Curr! No False Metal!

There’s more fake rockers of the Chris D’Amico and Colin Gramercy variety to be discovered with our “Ten Bands Made Up for Movies (and a whole lot more)” featurette. You want more, real band cameos? Well, check our out “Ten Band Cameos in Movies” featurette.

All of the Italian and Spanish “Satanic Panic” movies you can handle.

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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