Hard Rock Zombies (1985) – By Danny Runion

 Traveling down the road with a rockin’ theme. 2 guys pull their convertible over to pick up the sexy hitchhiker chick. As the hitcher girl who resembles a skanky Traci Lords is stripping to go skinny dipping, one of the guys joins her. However she drowns him until a puddle of blood oozes up. The Midgets are watching this with great joy. Apparently, the second guy didn’t notice his friend getting killed. Well, pseudo-Traci takes care of him, too. She and the midgets cut up the bodies.

Elsewhere, a rock band playing generic Hair Rok drives the crowd wild with songs that make Poison’s “Unskinny Bop” far more thought provoking and profound. Backstage, Ron, their manager, wants to get some photos showing how wild they are by signing various body parts of their female fans. Jesse, the singer, is a serious musician and doesn’t really care about the big time. As a flock of backstage trollops swarm the band, one girl warns Jesse not to play the show at Grand Guignol.

On the road, Jesse is working on a new riff. The song is from a book about reviving the dead from Middle Ages. The song may be resurrecting a mosquito that is bothering the driver. They spot the skanky pseudo Traci Lords chick and give her a lift, non-sexually, of course. She offers to let the band stay at her family’s place. They arrive. Mickey the eye patched midget gives a guy from the band a severed hand. Body parts non-withstanding, the howling from the mansion is passed off as some sort of therapy. The band believes it.

In the scenic town of Grand Guignol, the band frolics. More generic hair rok ensues. The teens of the town love the band. Their parents watch with undisguised disgust. More random music video homage to the Monkees ensues. Jesse spots the girl that warned him about coming to town. Her dad walks up sends her home and cusses Jesse out a blue streak about leaving. Rednecks and sheriff throw the band in jail for some reason. Ron is worried. The record executive will be coming to their show. Warning girl passes the band 30 bucks for bail. Jesse is trying to flirt with her more until dear dad runs her home once more.

Blondie is getting her sprokken deuteched by a German guy. The midgets surround the bed. German guy will let them stay and watch but no touching. If that isn’t creepy enough, the chick claims he’s in good shape for being her 90 year old grandfather….

Jesse and the band are bailed out by pseudo-Traci. The rednecks don’t want the show to go on. Jesse talks with Warning chick again. She tries to warn him about trust pseudo-Traci. Jesse gives her a cheap ring and tells her he wrote a song about her. He needs to know her name to put it in the song. She finally reveals it: Cassie

The band is setting up at the mansion. Even with as creepy as the people at the mansion are, they still rehearse. More 80s GeneriROK ensues. We get the power ballad: Cassie. Pseudo-Traci and rest of the freaks watch. Mickey the eye patched midget electrocutes the band. However, not fatally, it was a good attempt Mickey…

Jesse is working on the reanimation song. It seems to be bringing back the dead tarantula. Pseudo-Traci Lords is showering when Chuck, the long haired drummer, joins her in the shower. She seems to not mind at first but quickly changes her mind by stabbing him to death as Mickey photographs his death. Why do I sense a lame rip-off of the Psycho shower scene?

Suddenly, various things happen simultaneously. Old woman in a wheelchair transforms into a switch-blade wielding werewolf who kills 2 other guys in the band. Cassie is able to warn Jesse about the mob (who doesn’t know about the rest of the band being killed.) They run into the woods to escape one of the freaks: bald guy with a chainsaw who loses it and is replaced with a weed whacker… It is too dark to see anything. Jesse gives her a tape of the reanimation song to play if things go wrong and split up. The bald guy kills Jesse with a weed whacker.

At the mansion, the family is having a meal to mourn the passing of the band. German grandfather is against rock and roll. He offers Ron, the band manager, a new job. Grandfather unmasks…IT’S HITLER!!! He starts off on a rant about conquering the world starting with California.

Cassie is at Jesse’s grave. She keeps crying but plays the tape. The ground bursts open much like in Creepshow. The band crawls out of their graves and look much tougher now. A flashback is interposed with band jerkily walking to an instrumental tune that makes Axle F seem like Tubular Bells from the Exorcist. Zombie Jesse frees Ron and easily dispatches bald guy. The other band members take care of the other freaks like werewolf-granny. Flashing back to their own deaths, the band takes care of the midgets. Hitler finds the bodies and resumes ranting but is killed by the band. The zombie band takes off in their van to the concert.

Ron tries to warn the town about Hitler and the zombies. Some old guy reveals that Hitler and Eva Braun hid in the town for decades. Even worse, they are all freaks. When they die, they will become ghouls. The old guy seeming dies several times to reveal a little more information before finally dying. Some folks head to the mansion to investigate. More folks search the mansion and are killed by the ghouls. Sheriff and his deputy are in their car when Pseudo-Traci Lords reanimates and kills them.

Don Matson, the big record exec, arrives for the concert. The zombie band is warming up. Cassie seems suitably disturbed by them. During the warm up, Don thinks the makeup is part of their act. The Cassie song starts again. When you’d rather hear Steve Perry than something is a good indication of how bad things are. The band footage is inter-cut with a white dressed Cassie romantically running in slo-motion to the white and ascot clad Jesse. They hold hands and spin in circles like in many a cheezy videos. Jesse’s band is still rocking. Don is suitably impressed with what he thinks is the greatest rock find ever? Jesse keeps rocking. Pseudo-Traci Lords is on stage with Jesse’s band. She is crawling on them like Tawny Kitaen on Whitesnake’s car. More zombies show up at the concert.

The surviving townsfolk learn that allowing the zombies to bone a virgin will put them to sleep for 100 years. Where to find a virgin? Something happens in the dark. Cassie finds them. The light bulb flashes over the collective head of the townsfolk. As they drag her away, Ron gets the ring Jesse gave Cassie and runs off. The townsfolk drag Cassie with them.

Ron finds the band has returned to their graves. He tells them what will happen to Cassie. They crawl out of their graves like in Creepshow. It is too dark to see anything. Cassie is screaming as the zombies approach her. When rock music starts, Jesse is playing the reanimation song. The evil zombies follow the band which head into the gas chamber. Ron and Cassie lock them in and start the gas. Gassed zombies ensue. The band members are the last to die and the most dignified, too.

Cassie and Ron are at the cemetery when he leaves. Cassie will remember and love Jesse forever. A hand shoots out of the ground to give her the ring. The Cassie song plays once more.

Midget movies are this month’s roundtable. At first, I could only think of Chopper Chicks in Zombietown with one of the few heroic midgets. However, I had already reviewed it. Well, I got a suggestion about a strange movie that has Zombie rockers battling Hitler. Well, the snaggle-toothed cruel Fate smiled at me. After DVD dumpster diving at a store, I had another DVD was heading to the register. I spotted a strange cover: a DVD with a flip cover and a hole over a hologram: a hologram covered DVD case for Hard Rock Zombies with Night of the Living Dead on the same disc. Dude, I am so buying this…

I can’t think of any group in a movie that was so perfectly defined by the glory of the 80s and true "Generik-ROK." The first song seemed a bit like combining David Lee Roth with Sammy Hagar and sucking all the talent away. The Cassie song seems like a light rip-off of Steve Perry’s "Oh, Sherry." Somehow, the Cassie song makes "Oh, Sherry" sound like Slayer.

Phil Fondacaro isn’t as famous as say Warwick Davis or Billy Barty. Sure Phil was in Return of the Jedi as an Ewok. Some of his other roles were uncredited like the hooded dwarf in Phantasm 2. He is probably best known for Troll, Ghoulies 2, Garbage Pail Kids, or Mini-Me’s stunt double in Austin Powers: Goldmember.

A lot of movies will have unfriendly townsfolk and the sheriff as a guy who thinks a tin star allows him to rule like some sort of tin god. Grand Guignol takes the proverbial cake for being hateful to visitors. These people didn’t seem too bright on how to escape from a swarm of zombies.

After the band returns as zombies, they look more like an 80s rock band than before: the pale makeup. Though, I’m not sure why one guy was buried in a Sgt Pepper’s uniform. The zombies walk more jerkily than Romero’s zombies or even Chinese hopping vampires.

The Hitler fathering a clan of ghouls is definitely one of the most incredibly insane movie surprises to spring up. Remember some of the old Looney Toons cartoons from World War 2? Any German soldier or even the few that had Hitler had far more realistic German accents that what is heard in this movie.

Second only to a movie being boring in a truly bad movie. Several scenes are so dark as to not be able to tell a thing of what is happening. The editing when the band is killed makes no sense: werewolf grandmother, interpretive dancing chick, and voyeuristic midgets. The scenes that are inter-cut are virtually impossible to follow. They jump from Jesse playing his riff, Pseudo-Traci Lords showering and murdering Chuck the long haired drummer, the switchblade wielding werewolf-granny, midgets photographing the murders, and a clothed Pseudo-Traci Lords doing a very bad interpretive dancing.

I will be the first to admit it is stupid and cheap. The "so-bad-it’s-good" camp of b-movie fans wouldn’t think much of Hard Rock Zombies either. This movie has midgets, lame music video segments that look like they were stolen off episodes of the Monkees, and a zombie rock battle battling Hitler. That isn’t descriptive enough a zombie rock band must battle the Ghoul Hitler and his resurrected family of freaks.


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