Hard rock and heavy metal have always been about excess, and the over-the-top nature of the types of bands within those genres would seem like a natural fit for horror films. Since the 1980s was a golden age for both terrible horror films and heavy metal, there were quite a few attempts at combining the two. In a lot of cases, the plots involved fake bands or real musicians playing a fictional version of themselves; almost all of these are both awful and unintentionally hilarious.
10. KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park (1978)
By 1978, Kiss was at the peak of their commercial fame, and plans to extend their empire beyond music were hatched, leading to both a Marvel comic book and plans for a movie. Since they'd been marketed to younger kids than was typical for most hard-rock bands, with their likenesses plastered on everything from toy cars to a set of dolls, perhaps it's not surprising that Hanna-Barbera produced a live-action movie with KISS playing pseudo-superhero versions of themselves as the result. KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park pits the band members (who couldn't act to save their lives) against robot doppelgangers of themselves, against the backdrop of an amusement park where the band is playing a concert. The movie feels a lot more Hanna-Barbera than KISS; unsurprisingly, about the only people who love this film are diehard fans who saw it as kids when it showed on NBC. This is probably the earliest example of a film featuring hard rock or metal bands in a fantasy setting. While it's not scary at all, and is more science fiction than horror, it's a glimpse of what other efforts would bring to the following decade.
9. Terror On Tour (1980)
Wow. This "classic" was one of those films that always seemed to show up on independent video-rental store shelves back in the days of big hair and Nagel paintings. After avoiding this one for years, I finally took a chance on it, and it's exactly what I expected — a terrible slasher film about a band loosely modeled after KISS, made on a tiny budget. The band in question is named "The Clowns," and they're something to behold. Wearing leotards, full face makeup and Afro wigs, these guys mean business. The Clowns are getting popular behind their live show, which features faked onstage violence, but problems arise when real corpses start appearing at their shows. Terror on Tour is trash, but it's fun trash for the most part, as long as the viewer has an appreciation for shitty early-'80s slasher films and second-rate rock and roll.
8. The Dungeonmaster (1984)
This film exploited the early-'80s interest in science fiction, fantasy and computers, nabbing its title from Dungeons and Dragons. It's an anthology starring Night Court alum Richard Moll as an evil sorcerer. The protagonist is a computer programmer that Moll's character transports into various awful scenarios, including one where the craptacular heavy-metal band W.A.S.P. is playing a show. The Dungeonmaster isn't notable for much of anything except the band's cameo, but it's a fun look back at low-budget '80s exploitation clichés.
7. Rock and Roll Nightmare (1987)
Whoa... This one is pretty special. Starring B-Team metal singer Jon Mikl Thor and released directly to video, Rock and Roll Nightmare was always sitting on video-store shelves waiting for someone to slip up and rent it. The plot concerns the band "Triton," who decide to hole up in a remote cabin to record their album; of course, they begin to turn into homicidal demons along the way. The film culminates in what has to be the dumbest showdown between the forces of good and evil ever captured on film. Terrible special effects and a ludicrous plot make this one rife with unintentional humor, but not much else.
6. New Year's Evil (1980)
This is another early slasher film, and most of the action takes place at a New Year's Eve countdown concert hosted by an MTV-style television host named Blaze. The killer calls Blaze to tell her he'll murder a woman when the clock strikes 12 in each time zone, and the proceedings are pretty standard for slasher films of the time period. What makes this film appropriate for this list is the amount of footage of the punk bands Blaze has lined up at her televised concert. This film is not great, but it's not awful. It's one of those that are fun to watch in the background if you happen upon them late at night.
5. Black Roses (1988)
A heavy-metal band named "Black Roses" is playing around a small town, and turning the local kids into hardcore rock fans. Unfortunately, it's also turning them into monstrous demons, so that's a problem. This film was released at the height of hair metal and the tail end of the '80s satanic panic, so the idea of metal music turning kids into demons probably resonated with some people. The sound track has cuts from King Kobra, Lizzy Borden and of course Black Roses, whose music was performed by most of the guys in King Kobra. Both the film and its soundtrack have a cult following.
4. Monster Dog (1984)
A Spanish production starring shock-rock pioneer Alice Cooper as "Vince Raven," Monster Dog tells the tale of the star trying to film a music video for his new song. Without getting into super-spoiler territory, this is a crappy werewolf film. How Cooper got involved is a mystery, but it's the only thing notable about the film. Monster Dog ranks high on the "terrible, possibly humorous" scale, and is worth tracking down to see Alice Cooper slumming in a bad horror film.
3. Hard Rock Zombies (1984)
All right. In a European town named Grand Guignol, evil dwarves and Adolf Hitler welcome the band "Holy Moses," and much weirdness ensues. If this sounds interesting to you, then it might be your new favorite film. If this sounds like garbage, then you probably don't need to be warned to skip Hard Rock Zombies.
2. Rocktober Blood (1988)
Singer Billy "Eye" Harper freaks out after a recording session, and murders a couple of people. He is executed for the crime, leaving the door open for all sorts of supernatural shenanigans. I don't want to spoil Rocktober Blood, but it's one of the great metalsploitation horror films, as long as the viewer digs the normal baggage that goes with crappy, low-budget films like these. The action culminates at a concert at the end, and is glorious in its awesome badness.
1. Trick or Treat ( 1986)
Heavy-metal teen outcast Eddie Weinbauer is shocked to hear that his idol, a superstar rocker named Sammi Curr, has died in a mysterious hotel fire. He visits a local radio DJ named "Nuke" (played by Gene Simmons), who gives him the only copy of Curr's final and unreleased album...because that's what a DJ would do with something like that. After playing the album backwards, Eddie begins to receive messages from the dead rock star, and all hell begins to boil over soon after. Trick or Treat is a well-made film that had a decent-sized budget, so it doesn't have as many warts as some of the other films on this list. The cameos by real metal stars like Simmons and Ozzy Osbourne haven't aged as well, now that those guys have been overexposed via reality television, but at the time it might have seemed like a fresh idea. I'd say that Trick or Treat is a pretty standard '80s horror film, and looks like it. It's probably best watched after drinking three or four beers with a few friends and listening to Diary of a Madman.
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