Here’s hoping everyone had a wonderful Easter weekend. I’m pretty sure my foot is broken, but I’m hoping to see an orthopedist this week. I’m also borrowing an orthopedic boot from my mom, who had foot surgery back in January. The boot works pretty well, and makes me feel like a cyborg—a low-rent, non-threatening RoboCop (1987). I’ll keep y’all updated, but I think I am going to be fine.
Speaking of mild tragedies, my #9 pick for my list of my Top Ten Worst Films is 1984’s Rocktober Blood, a visually low-quality, goofy film with great songs.
This film is one of those “Satanic panic” flicks, in which the wicked influence of 80s hair metal corrupts the people involved, resulting in murder and insanity. I don’t mind that genre—it’s an interesting historical relic, but also makes for some interesting plots (“this time, they really are Satanists!)—but it’s rarely well-executed. Rocktober Blood proves the rule, unfortunately.
Rocktober Blood features some of the most awkward, stilted performances I’ve ever seen. Given that hard rock band Sorcery performed some of the roles partially explains why: their music is great, but their acting chops are the pits.
They say that every actor wants to be a musician, and every musician wants to be an actor. Indeed, most live musicians make supreme actors—in concerts. That’s a different kind of acting, though, than film acting, or even theatrical acting. Some musicians successfully make the leap to celluloid, but most don’t. Sorcery’s attempted leap fell harder than Mario on World 8.
In their defense, though, they’re just the band, both on the soundtrack and on the on-stage screen. The rest of the actors—presumably people who just focus on that trade—are awful. I’m not even sure how to describe it; the only word I think of is stilted, but even that doesn’t really do it justice.
The plot is also ridiculous. During a late night recording session, lead singer Billy “Eye” Harper inexplicably goes on a killing spring after an enigmatic statement that he wants his music to get a message out to the world. I seem to recall a section where the music was played backwards, but that might be because I was looking for it. The sole survivor is Lynn Starling Billy’s girlfriend.
One moment that was ridiculous: Lynn attempts to lay down some tracks (before the killing spree) on the chorus of a song, “Rainbow Eyes.” Billy apparently wrote it for and about Lynn, but took away lead vocal work and had her sing harmonies instead. She does two takes of Bonnie Tyler-esque harmonies that are perfect, and the engineer says, “Can you do it any better”? After two abortive attempts of sheer excellence, Lynn proclaims she is retiring to the hot tub, and the engineer—in the most stilted way possible—propositions her. She is completely unphased, and just says, “No, I’ll go alone.” The guy doesn’t even sound sleazy hitting on the lead singer’s girlfriend—it’s like asking to hang out in the hot tub with his sister.
Anyway, the film advances a couple of years, and Lynn is headlining a new band, Headmistress, playing Billy’s old songs (“Rainbow Eyes,” which is super catchy, gets a ton of play in this flick). Then Lynn begins seeing Billy all over the place. She starts going so crazy, she randomly attacks people she thinks are Billy.
This part of the film completely falls apart narratively, and I think part of it is just because of the extremely poor video quality. The sound (except the music) is terrible, making the dialogue impossible to hear at points. It looks like a movie recorded on a camcorder.
Normally, that stuff wouldn’t bother me, but it affects the narrative. The narrative itself is incomprehensible, too, but the poor quality really detracts from the ability to decipher what is going on. I’m still not sure who some of the characters are, even after consulting the film’s Wikipedia entry. There’s a guy—the band manager?—who is constantly looking after Lynn, saying she has to be protected at all cost (she is the talent after all). But how did she just take over this band? What is her appeal? Granted, her voice is good, but there’s nothing about her that screams “rock star.”
So, Billy keeps appearing, and Lynn keeps having meltdowns. Wherever the band goes, Billy shows up, and people start getting killed. Lynn insists that Billy’s grave be exhumed, but that does not put her fears to rest.
Finally, at a massive concert, Billy confronts Lynn directly, explaining that he is actually Billy’s twin brother, John, the quintessential “evil” twin (Billy was a scumbag, but he probably wasn’t evil). “Billy” takes the stage with Lynn trapped in a prop coffin, and fans go wild to see their deceased rock ‘n’ roll hero back on stage (and singing the song “I’m Back”).
Somehow, the band manager realizes Billy is trying to kill Lynn—I don’t know how—and sends roadies out to stop the slaying before it can happen (at some point, Billy handcuffs Lynn to himself during his final number, and I never figured out why she was in the coffin in the first place).
The film closes with Billy/John singing, “I’m Back!” into the camera as the credits roll.
I really wanted to like this movie. I did like the music. But it was such a pain to follow. Rocktober Blood is riddled with technical problems, and bad acting plagues a poorly-constructed script.
Skip the flick, get the soundtrack.