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Ten 80s Horror Movies About Rock Bands

Trick or TreatBy Erin Lashley, MoreHorror.com

In the 80s, rock music and horror movies went together like acid washed jeans and feathered hair. The trouble is, even though many horror movies had awesome rock soundtracks, the movies that specifically featured rock musician characters as heroes or villains varied wildly in quality. Although the rock horror movie has mostly gone the way of the 80s, I’m not sure any other type of music will ever have such a successful love affair with horror. I can’t picture people turning up for a movie called Pop Divas of the Apocalypse, or Death by Dubstep, or even Bloody Pit of Techno Bastards. But what do I know? I’m still stuck in the 80s. Here are 10 of the movies that are stuck with me.

Rocktober Blood
(1984)
Billy (Tray Loren) is a rock star, and also kind of an a-hole, so nobody is real surprised when he goes on a killing spree in the studio one night. Two years later, Billy’s backup singer and sometime girlfriend Lynn (Donna Scoggins) is the new lead singer for Billy’s band, and Billy has been tried and executed for the murders. But wait, who is running around killing people now, looking just like Billy? Has he returned from the grave? Or is Lynn, who is the only person to have seen the “new” killer, simply delusional? Beverly Sebastian’s Rocktober Blood is an early entry into the rock horror cycle of the 80s, and a fan favorite. Best of all, it doesn’t take itself very seriously. Watch for: death by electric guitar!

Hard Rock Zombies (1985)

This Krishna Shah film is that rare example of a purposely bad film that works. Although it began life as the 20 minute movie-within-the-movie for American Drive-In, the producers decided to go ahead and finish Hard Rock Zombies so that they would essentially have a two-for-one special. Jessie (E.J. Curse) and his band are heading to the town of Grand Guignol for a show that is to be their big break when they receive a warning from a young fan. They not only disregard the warning, they also break two of the biggest horror movie rules once they get to town: don’t pick up hitchhikers and don’t spend the night with strangers who invite you over for no good reason. Besides the evil hitchhiker’s even more sinister family, they also have to tangle with moralizing, record album smashing townspeople. Not to worry, though, because soon our heroes are zombies and everyone is running like their heads are on fire. Watch for: a zombie that eats itself.

Dreamaniac
(1986)
This piece of 80s direct-to-video magic was actually made by Wizard Video of the Big Box Videos. Why pay to distribute other people’s crap when you can make your own and get pure, delicious profit? Thomas Bern stars as a rocker who makes a deal with a sorority girl eating succubus (Lily Summers) not for career success, but for a leg up with the ladies. His lovin’ ambition is odd since he’s already dating a pre-porn career Ashlyn Gere, but whatever. This film is everything you’ve come to expect from horror auteur David DeCoteau, including guys in tighty whities. Watch for: a question regarding the whereabouts of one of the succubus’s victims, which is then dismissed with a flippant “how should I know” and followed by no search for the poor dead girl.


Trick Or Treat 
(1986)
Don’t confuse this for the 2007 anthology with a similar name. This movie directed by Charles Martin Smith, who is also one of the great “that guy” character actors, is my absolute favorite on this list. Satanic rocker and kickass dancer Sammi Curr (Tony Fields) is denied the right to play at the Halloween dance at his old high school in life, but in death, his spirit makes damn sure he’s performing at the party. How? Well, his biggest fan, Eddie (Marc Price), plays one of his records backwards, of course. The Fastway soundtrack is pretty darn rockin’, as are the cameos by Gene Simmons as a benevolent D.J. and Ozzy Osbourne as a slobbering televangelist. Also, backmasking never fails to creep me out in a major way. Watch for: a horny teenage girl whose head is melted by a possessed Walkman.

Rock N’ Roll Nightmare
(1987)
This softly rockin’ pic from John Fasano stars Jon Mikl Thor of the MST3K’d Corman film Zombie Nightmare. This time it’s not the band but their house that is evil, and it kills off the members one by one until only Thor is left standing. Although it has a pretty silly plot that I won’t explain further because the twist is so nuts (but original), this one has become a cult classic because it’s so bad it’s awesome. Watch for: evil puppets! Claymation! Male nudity! Or maybe just evil puppets and claymation.

Black Roses
(1988)
Some 80s B-horror fans swear by this one. I initially gave it a bad review on my own site, but later decided I hadn’t been drinking enough Kool-Aid that day. This cult classic, also helmed by John Fasano, has a certain je ne sais quoi for the less exacting 80s fan, and metal fans consider its rare soundtrack one of the better ones of the subgenre. Black Roses follows the exact narrative that the PMRC warned us about in the 80s. The titular band really is made up of demons that possess teenagers and make them commit unspeakable acts. Watch for: Vincent Pastore in an early role, being killed by a stereo speaker.

Slaughterhouse Rock
(1988)
After a rock band fronted by Toni Basil (playing a character named Sammy) is murdered in Alcatraz, a whiny man named Alex (Nicholas Celozzi) starts having dreams about the prison and the deaths. Alex and his friends then visit the prison, where killer demons attack them. Is anyone surprised? With Toni Basil in the lead role and a soundtrack by Devo, this Dimitri Logothetis joint still manages to be kind of meh, although the gore is pretty gnarly in spots. Watch for: Basil enjoying the heck out of her role and her many costume changes, and nude scenes by Hope Marie Carlton.

Heavy Metal Massacre
(1989)
This one stands out for being a straight up slasher rather than a supernatural horror flick. And not much else is notable about it. A killer (director David DeFalco) lures people from a club to his apartment, where he kills them. Watch for: a death scene shown in slo-mo in an attempt to disguise the fact that the sledgehammer is actually made of rubber.

Paganini Horror (1989)
This one is a standout of the rock band horror subgenre for me. It is sometimes criticized for its nonexistent plot, but I happen to really love Italian horror’s patented “what did I just watch” endings, and this movie represents one of the last gasps of their industry. A band films their latest video, for a cover of a song written by the devil dealing violinist Paganini, in an abandoned house that murders everyone who comes to it. Featuring the talents of not only Donald Pleasence but also the awesome giallo vet Daria Nicolodi, this surreal mind twister from director Luigi Cozzi puts aside the puritanical feel of many American rock horror films and sides with the devil. Yep, Satan has a reasonable and perhaps unintentionally humorous explanation for his actions here. Watch for: Pleasence’s barely-hidden amusement.

Scream Dream
(1989)
A satanic singer (Carol Carr) is fired from her band. It turns out she’s not only a pain in the ass to work with; she’s actually a murderess who has already sacrificed 13 guys to Satan. When she dies at the hands of a former band mate (Nikki Riggins, who was totally acting in self-defense, dude), Satan upholds his end of the bargain and allows her to possess the band’s new lead singer (Samurai Cop’s Melissa Moore) so that the carnage can continue.  Filled with topless shots, thick southern accents, and not-so-Satanic music, this SOV rarity from Shark Exorcist’s Donald Farmer is sure to delight the most die-hard fans of SOV rarities. Watch for: a guy who can’t even act dead, whose eyelids keep blinking long after the sawing of a ritual knife at his throat should have rendered him motionless.

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