The Merits of Sin: Hard Rock Zombies (1985) (USA)

Inhale. Take in the splendor. Do you smell it? It’s the overpowering stank of rock & roll, baby! Mixed in with the burnt hair is the odor of inside jokes and pedophilia. Wait a minute. That may have been too strong of an opener. Jaysus. I’m sorry. I should backtrack, explain what that means. So ignore what I just said…just focus on Hitler. Wait. Oh fuck.

Follow me, it’s about to get weird

There’s a band and they rock….HARD. They rock so damn hard that as far as I can tell the movie doesn’t even bother to name them. The frontman goes by the name Jesse and his head of hair is pretty much how I’d imagine the hair of a horse who transformed into a human would look. It’s fucking glorious and goes well with his creepstache. And his creepstache goes well with his choice of love interest…but we’ll get to that later.

I don’t wanna be Jesse’s girl

After rocking incredibly hard and bringing the glorious joy that only hard rock can bring to their dozen or so fans, the boys do their part to put a smile on the faces of the five or so groupies their manager has gathered backstage. Jesse seems bored by all of it but he does notice a teenage girl shying away. He stops her and asks if she wants an autograph or anything but instead she warns him not to go to their next gig in the town of Grand Guignol.

Neigh! I say neigh!

Her warning may have something to do with what we had witnessed in the opening scene. Two buddies are cruising around in a convertible when the spot a sexy hitchhiker. Being dumb and horny, they scoop her right up. She leads them to a small lake and strips, erect and ready to party, the boys follow her in. Watching close by is a creepy dude taking photos and two short stature weirdos. One is a freakish monster of the dime store mask variety and the other is portrayed by his royal bad ass Phil Fondacaro (Willow, Return of the Jedi, Double Double Toil and Trouble, you know, the classics). They giggle and jump around excitedly as the hitchhiker murders the two morons. Can’t help but feel a similar fate may await our butt-rocking boys.

Get got

Our butt-rocking boys ignore the young girl’s warnings a head right to Grand Guignol. They even pick up the same foxy hitchhiker but there’s no murdering…at least not yet. Instead she invites them to come stay at her family’s large estate. Seeing a free place to crash and a hot babe, the band agrees. They meet her family (the trio from the opening murder plus her creepy German parents and a bald brutish butler) and then they hit the town. A goofy montage plays out as the band runs around and poses like some kind of discount store The Monkees and charm the hip folk in town but the town elders (mostly men with sticks up their butts) want nothing to do with these hard rocking dudes and they do not plan to stand by at let them have a concert in their town.

Go on now, GIT!

Jesse spots the young girl and chases after her. She still warns him to leave but they also start getting a little flirtatious. She’s only fourteen or maybe fifteen but our hero Jesse doesn’t look at age as anything but a number. It’s made all the worse by his insistence on calling her “little girl” and “kid”. That Jesse is a real winner. Thankfully the band is arrested, but not to prevent Jesse from getting his hands on more children. Nope. The sheriff is attempting to make those boys miss their concert. The hitchhiker bails them out of jail and the townsfolk decide to have a town meeting to stop the oncoming assault of the buttliest of butt-rock.

He’s definitely singing about an underage girl right here

Jesse finally learns the “little girl’s” name (it’s Cassie) and the band heads back to the mansion they be crashing at. As the town votes to ban rock & roll, the weirdo family murders all of the band members. The drummer is stabbed to death in the shower by the hawt hitchhiker, two of the dudes are murdered by grandma (who is not just a creepy German lady but a wheelchair riding, switchblade brandishing werewolf) and Jesse meets the fatal end of a weed wacker courtesy of the bald butler. The manager is spared thanks to participating in the town meeting while his boys were being slaughtered. Although, his life is about to get way May more complicated when it is revealed that grandpa is actually Adolf Hitler and the dawn of the fourth Reich is upon us. You’d be right in thinking that things look pretty dire but with all this weirdo crap going on, I’m thinking you forgot the name of the movie. Allow me to explain how we get to the zombie portion of the hard rocking.

Bad to the bone

Jesse has been fiddling around with a tune he found in a book from the Middle Ages. Convenient to the plot, this tune has the ability to raise the dead. It’s already been demonstrated with a constantly swatted fly, a repeatedly smashed tarantula and a jar kept severed hand. Jesse not only managed to record himself playing the song the night of his murder but fortunately slipped the tape to Cassie and told her to play it right before his death by weed wacker. Cassie, mourning at the shoddily dug graves of The now deceased band, plays the tape and the boys are magically back to get some revenge and play some butt-rock!

Dem boys

The revenge hits quick and they manage to wipe out Hitler and his weirdo family in short order. Unfortunately ghouls are gonna ghoul and the Hitler’s also return to life and start doing that zombie business to the townsfolk. So now we have a town overrun with the undead, a pissed of zombie Hitler, a living dead band with a gig to play and two innocent humans (Cassie and the manager) just trying to survive. A record exec shows up and digs the dead bands style and there’s a plan involving a virgin sacrifice put in order by the remaining townies. Can Jesse’s love for the teenage Cassie survive death and save the day? Will giant cardboard cutouts of celebrity heads work to fend off the intolerant zombie townsfolk? And will the weird gremlin zombie midget successfully eat himself? The answers await you, brave viewer.

He’ll be fine

There’s a wealth of ideas running around in Hard Rock Zombies. None of them are that well explained but it hardly matters. Filled with what I hopefully assume to be inside jokes and a madcap story profession there always seems to be some off kilter vibe permeating in every scene. It doesn’t always work and, as is the curse of low budget horror, it drags in some spots but it hardly matters. The movie is still a blast of trash greatness. The creepy relationship between Jesse and Cassie and the incestuous Hitler family bring a lovely queasiness to whole thing and if the awful music and cheapjack special effects don’t make you smile than you’re doing it wrong. It’s a low budget hard rock nightmare that I can’t wait to show my friends. 8/10

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