SHUDDER EXCLUSIVE: This is Gwar (2021)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This movie was originally on the site on September 25, 2021 as part of FantasticFest. It’s now playing on Shudder.

17 year old me discovered Gwar and life finally made sense. What other band outright claimed that they were going to murder you when you saw them in concert? Coming from space, destroying the ozone layer, that had game shows on stage that gave the people what they want — “the senseless slaughter of the gutter-slime that litters this nation for cash and prizes” — and could somehow turn lyrics like “you know I snuffed a million planets, but I still find time to cry” into a tender ballad?

Gwar went on Joan Rivers and made fun of everything thrown at them. And in a world that didn’t make much sense, they made sense. It was a badge of honor to see them in concert. Sure, the band has changed — I haven’t kept up honestly since Oderus went on to the next world because it just doesn’t feel the same — but I’m glad they’re still out there.

Director Scott Barber has put together the interviews and stories that form the real story of Gwar and by and large, it’s intriguing stuff, punctuated by stories by celebrity fans like Weird Al, Thomas Lennon, Bam Margera, Alex Winter and Ethan Embry.

As an art collective with a 35-year history, there’s plenty to learn here about how some art school punks went from playing small shows to becoming an industry. Of course, personalities clashed, egos grew and the band may not have lived up to what some members wanted it to be. By the end of the first sixty minutes, the doc starts to grind a bit, as various members feel the urge to tell you exactly how much they contributed even if they weren’t onstage. I understand, as this may be their one opportunity to do so.

A major oversight — in my eyes — is that no mention at all was given to new singer Vulvatron, played by Kim Dylla, who was in the band from 2014 to 2016, leaving under not the best of terms. Perhaps by the end of the film, everyone was tired of the constant drama that was getting dredged up. But for a band with previously only two female members, this felt like a glaring omission.

Even if Gwar’s music isn’t for you, you can hopefully appreciate their sense of humor and the fact that they took their art beyond expectations. They still do.

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