Slaughterhouse Rock (1988)

As I toasted last week…  Here’s to 200 more!

We begin that march with something that was a part of an end.  I have often talked about the importance of Bizarre TV, a Roku channel that ultimately brought me back to writing on this site and introduced me to many of the movies that I’ve covered over the last almost 4 years.  Slaughterhouse Rock was one of the final six films that played for many months while the beloved creator of the channel, Mistress Rhonda, was battling a terminal illness.  During that time, fans of the channel tuned in, day after day, holding onto the memory of the channel and Rhonda, but also hoping, maybe beyond hope, that the day would come that something new played and the channel would be reborn.

While that didn’t happen, from the ashes came Otherworlds TV.  If you have a Roku, I can’t recommend that channel enough.  It certainly captures the spirit of Bizarre TV.

Back to matters at hand and that final lineup.  This is the third of six movies that played in that final lineup that I’ve featured.  Go way back to November 2016, I already talked The Werewolf of Washington.  Then, in March 2018, I covered the rock and roll classic(?) Zombie Nightmare.  There are still three more to go after this (check back at the beginning of March for the next).

There are some interesting elements to Slaughterhouse Rock.  First, it’s a demon cannibal/haunted prison flick that takes place, in all places, Alcatraz.  Just in case you thought Alcatraz was only something that is a setting for an action flick, well…  Here’s a horror movie for ya.  It also had a soundtrack by Devo.  You might think that would lead to a hugely popular soundtrack…  It did not.  However, some of the songs did appear on later Devo releases.

One of those songs, “The Only One”. features someone else at lead vocals, Toni Basil.  If that name sounds familiar, it should.  She sang the super popular “Mickey” from the early 80s.  In this movie, she plays a bit of an ooky spooky rocker chick.  However, more than an actual actress, Basil began as a dancer.  And that career goes back to the 60s.  In fact, she’s in one of my favorite movies from the decade featuring one of my favorite musical acts ever – The Monkees.

That’s Toni Basil dancing with Davy Jones in one of the most upbeat scenes in the entire movie.  Of course, later, she hit big with “Mickey” and that brought her into music immortality.  But between that scene above from Head and the video for “Mickey”, which Basil choreographed herself, she’s a phenomenal dancer.

Aside from Basil, though, who else is in this movie?  Well, truthfully, mostly people who ultimately go on to do other things besides acting, with a couple exceptions.  Nicholas Celozzi, who plays our main hero, Alex, ultimately went into more of a producer role in movies instead of acting.  You’ve got Donna Denton, who was mostly known for being a Playboy Playmate, and being in a bunch of low budget flicks in the 80s.  You do have another Playmate, and someone of some note – Hope Marie Carlton.  Carlton is my favorite lady action star from the Andy Sidaris catalog (most notably Hard Ticket to Hawaii and Picasso Trigger).

Honestly, this movie is just one of those late 80s/early 90s examples of a foot-in-the-door type home brews that helped people act in some smaller, direct-to-video type stuff so they could get some credits and then go onto other things.  Nothing wrong with that, but you’ll likely notice a lot of movies I write about from this nebulous period in time basically end up doing this sort of thing.  Get into a low budget horror movie, then go onto other things.

Our movie begins with a creepy crypt with torches that light themselves and skeletons rising from the rat-filled muck.  Someone is chained up and a monster like guy is slowly creeping toward him…  I think?  Toni Basil’s ghostly visage appears for a moment before fading.  But it’s just a dream.  Alex wakes up in a cold sweat, but what’s this?!?  He’s missing his hand that was lopped off in the dream!

Nah, just kidding it…  It was one of those dream within a dream thing.  Roll credits, movie.

The film proper opens at college.  Alex meets up with some friends who tells him about some strange stuff happened at Alcatraz.  The rock band, Body Bag, led by Sammy Mitchell (Basil), broke off from a tour group and wound up slaughtered.  As if they went to a slaughterhouse to rock out.  Alex’s pals, knowing about his nightmares, think maybe there may be some sort of connection.

Alex lives with his brother, Richard (Tom Reilly).  They get a visit from Richard’s girlfriend, Krista (yummy Hope Marie Carlton), and Jan (Tammy Hyler), who likes Alex but she doesn’t think he notices her.  Krista pulls Richard into his bedroom to “look for a lost earring” which ends up just being a hot fuck sesh so Jan and Alex can get to know each other better.  Jan and Alex go on a hot hamburger date.  On this date, Alex starts to realize he can see and hear things he probably shouldn’t.  Like other people’s conversations and/or thoughts, and the walls move behind him and demon hands come out of it to grab at him.

Otherwise, I guess these kids are getting along well.  I feel like that should give me some hope whenever I go on my next date.  I’m a weirdo but not a eavesdropping, walls moving around me kind of weirdo.

Later that night, Richard and Alex say goodnight to Krista and Jan.  I just realized that so far, Richard hasn’t worn any pants.  He came out wearing a flannel and his jockeys and fucked his girlfriend and then she gets redressed and he comes out, AT NIGHT, and still wearing only a flannel and jockeys.  But enough about a lack of pants on that dude.  Later, Alex has what seems to be another dream about a guy who looks like he might have been a soldier coming in and attacking him, ripping off his chest and pulling out his innards.  When Richard asks him about his dreams, he notices that Alex has marks on the back of his neck.

In class, things start to escalate as Alex has a fucked up face with worms sticking out of it and he also pucks up some worms for good measure.  He begins screaming, which gets the attention of the class, but nothing is wrong.  His hot teacher, Carolyn Harding (Denton), gets a little concerned about what might be going on with him.  Jan tells Alex that she will stay with him and watch over him.  She is sure these are just dreams, but she wants to help.  At the bar, he hears a song that he recognizes, but isn’t sure how.  The bartender says it is the new single from Sammy Mitchell.

But isn’t she dead?

Later, while Alex is sleeping, Carolyn comes over to speak to him.  Jan takes her to his room where they smell smoke and see his bed burning.  Meanwhile, in Alex’s dream, he is in a jail cell that soon turns into a slaughterhouse where he gets chased by a guy cleaving up a body.  Carolyn finds an old book that explains everything he saw.  Carolyn figures out that this soldier that attacked him was a Commandant that was doing some pretty bad shit at the fort.  He was a cannibal, but there was a fire, and he died.  Eventually, the government covered all that stuff up and turned it into a prison.  Carolyn wants to take him to Alcatraz to confront it.  Alex is pretty snarky about it, but it’s because he’s scared.

Then things escalate…

This time Richard sees the stuff actually happening in the real world.  In Alex’s dream, he’s strung up over a fire and his back is getting cooked like so much roasted pork by the Commandant.  Everyone living at the place, plus Jan and Krista, see the whole thing.  Carolyn comes over and explains the whole thing to everyone and how they need to go to Alcatraz to fight the demon ghost Commandant dude.

And off they go!  They sail up to Alcatraz and take a look for some ghosts and stuff.  This is a good chance to take stock of this movie real quick.  First, I want to say that I actually quite like this movie.  I’ve seen it quite a few times from when it was on BTV, but I also recognize the cover/poster from my weekend trips to the video store.  You don’t forget that demon dude.  The movie can definitely remind me of other movies like Night of the Demons where you have a group of friends dealing with supernatural shit.  This is the era of the slasher film dying out, but, nevertheless, you still have a group of mostly dumb kids doing sex stuff and drinking and getting involved and getting dead.  It’s just not the masked serial killer stalking them.  It’s monsters.

However, this is a group of “dumb” kids.  And that’s the main problem with the movie.  There are these two friends, Jack and Marty, who I cannot tell which one is which, and they are these goofy, jokey jerkoffs that cannot take anything seriously.  They act like a comedy duo with no jokes, or at least no jokes that aren’t at their troubled friend’s expense.  At one point, one of the jerks asked if Alex’s bad dreams are like Herpes – like, can they catch it by drinking from the same glass?  These guys are morons.  I can buy Richard giving Alex some flack, but these two accidental pregnancies that were carried to full term literally saw him floating, so why are they so indignant of the entire deal?

This is another one of those tone issues that can drive me nuts.  Granted, I’m not expecting an Academy Award nominated script for this movie, but I would at least like appropriate tone.  You can still tell some jokes but take a situation seriously and not act like an asshole.

The group find their way into the prison.  Carolyn tells them to look for a door with a stairway leading down.  While they are sneaking around, Alex gets grabbed by a female hand.  Carolyn and gang go deeper into the prison while Sammy Mitchell explains to Alex what the situation is.  She tells him that the Commandant is there and very pissed off.  She plays him the tune he’s been hearing in his dreams.  She says she’s been sending him those dreams to tell him about that dude she let loose.  He’s gotta set all the souls free that belonged to the Commandant’s victims.  Let them go and he will be de-powered and they can end him.  Why she specifically sought out Alex is not well explained.

But, she has him lie down to separate his soul from his body for… reasons.  She does it by way of interpretive dance.

O-kay.

Carolyn discovers that someone let out the spirit of the Commandant and he’s already killed a guard.  When everyone else is trying to find Alex and get the hell off the island, Richard is grabbed and sucked into the haunted room where the Commandant’s stuff was hidden.  He’s been possessed by some sort of demon.  The first thing he does?  Rape.  Because… That’s what demons do…?

This, understandably, freaks Krista the fuck out.  She screams so the others hear something and they can also hear his seriously scary demon sex growls.  The others find Richard and realize that he’s acting preee-ty strange.  He stretches his face and his arms and then takes off go somewhere else.

Now that Alex is out of his body, Sammy tells him about the Commandant.  He likes to do some sadomasochistic shit to hookers.  He also likes to kill Native Americans.  Eventually, those guys decided just too many natives have gone missing so they tied him up and cooked him.  But before they got to him, the Commandant made a deal with the devil to be able to exist as a demonic spirit.  He possessed Sammy and killed her band.  He’s now possessed Richard.

That also means Richard is effectively dead.  He’s not too bummed about it.  Alex is sorta bummed, I guess.  I mean this movie doesn’t do a very good job at explaining how seriously people take anything, but I guess he’s bummed.  No time for feelings, though, because he’s gotta go solve this whole shit that Sammy started.

Alex is reunited with his body and meets up with the others.  Just then, Richard attacks poor Krista again and starts tearing out her throat.  This poor girl.  One of the dickwad friends practically makes fun of her for being startled by a rat, as if she hasn’t just been raped by a demon possessing her boyfriend, and now she’s being eaten by said demon possessed boyfriend.  I mean jeeze…  What’s her problem here?!?   Unfortunately, they have to leave her because they can’t pull Richard off her.

Alex explains what he’s learned to Carolyn.  While he tries to explain what needs to happen, Sammy’s ghost shows up to tell Alex that he has to burn the Commandant.  Shortly after, Krista’s ghost shows up, understandably pissed about her situation, to give Alex some shit.

Oddly…  Previously, Richard’s ghost was originally supportive and such of Alex solving the problem here.  However, now he’s acting like Alex is a monster piece of shit that is to blame for being dead.  I mean Richard was the guy who said they need to help his little bro.  I feel like this movie was inconsistently written and rewritten between scenes.

Anyway, the two jackass friends get killed by demon Richard and everyone cheers.  Alex and Jan find some gasoline and she goes to meet Carolyn at the chapel.  Sammy interpretive dances Alex’s soul from his body so he can go complete his part of the mission to free the souls held prisoner by the Commandant.

At the chapel, Carolyn decides to try to tempt demon possessed Richard with her sexy to bring him into the chapel so Jan can hit him with a giant cross.  That immediately fails.  Alex getting close to the door to free the souls distracts Richard long enough so the girls can beat him up with pipes and shit and spread some gasoline around to light that bitch up.  Carolyn is about to torch that place, but Richard grabs her leg and she’s unable to escape the fire and dies.

I kind of feel like Alex could be brought up on some serious charges and/or get fuckin’ sued out of existence with wrongful death suits.  But whatever, I guess everything is okay – look!  Alex was kissed by Sammy before she went into the afterlife and he now knows how to play piano!

Sure.

I did say that this movie is kind of an enjoyable watch despite the questions it forces its viewers to ask.  I’ll get to those momentarily.  It’s enjoyable because you have this haunted location and demonic shenanigans.  The evil guy killed Native Americans because… sure?  He’s buried under the prison on Alcatraz like some sort of extra evil Jimmy Hoffa.  It is a ridiculously easy 85 minute watch.  It doesn’t ask much of you.

Buuuut…  You do have questions for it.  First, why does Sammy communicate to Alex specifically?  It’s not like he has any affinity to the band Body Bag, so what gives?  Why are his friends terrible turds?  Why was Richard supportive of him when his ghost first showed up but when he showed up the second time, he’s kinda pissed about his situation?  Why is there a legit teacher of occult shit at the gang’s school?  Why did she have to be played by a Playboy Playmate?  I mean, I appreciate it and stuff, but…  You know.  Why did Sammy use a particular tune to connect with Alex?  Was it because Devo was on the soundtrack and that’s awesome?  If Sammy could technically connect with anyone, why not Carolyn who was much better prepared to understand the things happening?

We may never know the answers to these questions.  Or, well, I suppose no one will ever care enough to ask these questions and get those answers.  But I do know that that next week, I got myself a Ferd and Beverly Sebastian sexploitation classic!  Come back in seven days for The Single Girls starring Claudia Jennings!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s