Friday, December 11, 2015

Shock 'Em Dead

Shock ‘Em Dead

Mark Freed

Martin (Stephen Quadros) is a no-account loser who works a dead-end job at a pizza joint. He dreams of being a rock star, but he’s unabashedly terrible at playing the guitar. After bombing an audition for the band Spastic Colon, Martin approaches a voodoo priestess who offers him anything he wants in return for his soul. Martin readily agrees, and one magic dagger stabbing latter, is transformed into Angel Martin, rock god. Angel has it all, a modest house filled with beautiful women, amazing guitar skills, and the occasional need to drink a victim’s lifeforce in order to stay alive.

Shock ‘Em Dead is another entry into the subgenre of rock n’ roll horror. These elements usually fit well together (Rob Zombie has basically made a film career out of the fact). Shock ‘Em Dead is a little unusual in that it is light on horror, but manages to pull off a fair number of credible rock scenes. Usually, it’s the other way around, with movies falling down in the music department. Spastic Colon is a stereotypical hair metal band, not my chosen flavor of music, but the it works well enough. The movie even takes steps to show-off some actual fancy guitar playing.

The Jem movie looks better than I expected.
The actual story of Shock ‘Em Dead is rote to the  point where it starts to drag the fun of the movie down a notch. The joy of seeing trashy 80s hair metal and boobs on display can only last so long. The story is never quite funny enough to lose itself in some comedy, and it never dwells very deep into horror either. The end result feels like something aimed specifically at playing on late night cable, and thus ends up watered down. That said, the light touch of the movie does keep things moving at a steady pace, with little time to dwell on the nefarious actions Angel Martin.

Traci Lords is featured prominently in the promotional material, and although she does have a decent amount of screen time, she isn’t given much to do outside of look pretty and get seduced. Stephen Quadros does a great job as Martin the nebbish dork, and then as Angel. His transition from victim to victimizer is rapid, but Quadros makes it work and even manages to keep Angel charming enough that the viewer doesn’t totally turn on him despite the amount murder he engages in. The rest of the cast are fine if unremarkable. Aldo Ray shows up as a surprising scrappy pizza restaurant manager.

"I think I had waaaaay to much Ecto Cooler."
Shock ‘Em Dead looks inexpensive, most of the time it feels overlit and flat barring a few moody moments. The special effects are confined to a few stab wounds and some gross-out make-up.  The apparent cheapness aesthetically enhances the trashy ambiance of late 80s style rock, and the whole thing feels like it could have easily been a long form music video. Shock ‘Em Dead isn’t high art, but it perfectly embodies those sources it draws from.

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