Shock 'Em Dead (1991)
SHOCK 'EM DEAD
WRITER: Mark Freed, David Tedder, Andrew Cross
DIRECTOR: Mark Freed
STARRING: Traci Lords as Lindsay
Troy Donahue as Record exec #1
Aldo Ray as Tony
Stephen Quadros as Angel/Martin
QUICK CUT: Dorky loser Martin is determined to hit it big as a heavy metal rocker, and he finds just the right people to help him out, but he will learn what a soul sucking machine the music industry can be.
Martin - A giant nerd who just wants to rock out. He's put upon, he's a bit of a perv, but somewhere in there is a good guy, if he wasn't so crushed by the world.
Lindsay - The manager for a local band, and ends up being the woman Martin pursues once he becomes Angel.
THE GUTS: Welcome back, Triskelions! A year ago, I took a look at the rocker makes a Faustian bargain for fame movie, Hellbent. This year, I return to that theme with another movie in the same vein, Shock 'Em Dead.
The movie opens up with a struggling band auditioning for a new guitarist, before they have a big gig that could make or break their career. Without a guitarist, the chances of that are zero. And so far, they are having no luck of finding even a passable one.
Fortunately, one of the band members knows a guy who can play, so gives Martin a call. Martin works at a local pizzeria, where he is pretty much a screw up, and his boss hates him. And Martin always sneaks off to spy on the women who work there as they get changed.
Tony won't give Martin the time off to go to the audition, so Martin quits right then and there. And boy howdy does he ever quit. He not only flips off his boss, but tells him to fuck off. I'd say that went well!
Needless to say, because otherwise there would be no plot, things do not go well at the audition. When Martin fails miserably, the lead singer calls him the worst guitar player in the world, and just berates him to no end.
So Martin crawls back to Tony's to beg for his job back, and this is why you don't burn those bridges down on your way out.
Martin gets thrown out on his ass, and runs into a woman who offers him a deal to get everything he wants. And with the accent and voodoo and face makeup, I'm sure this is very offensive.
Our guy still has a few things left to lose though, so he isn't gonna give in to some voodoo mumbo jumbo, and heads back home to his crappy trailer. His practicing pisses off the trailer park owner though, and Martin gets kicked out. That's the last straw, and he heads over to Madame Zeroni's to sell his soul and get everything he wanted.
Martin has zero problem with this, and really, what does he have to lose at this point? Well, okay fine, his immortal soul, yes. But Martin probably doesn't even believe in that. Yet.
The witch stabs Martin with a knife, slams a mask on his face, and before he can become Jim Carrey, he falls into a deep vision where he sees himself being slammed into a coffin, meets a rock and roll demon playing a twin headed guitar, and is the thing that grants him his amazing power to play sick music.
Martin wakes up some time later, in a fancy house, with a hilariously bad giant wig of rocker hair, and surrounded by three hot women - Michelle, Monique, and Marilyn. And fun fact, all those names start with M, and M is the 13th letter of the alphabet. I wonder how much of that is coincidence, and how much was planned? OH, and of course, Martin.
The new Martin, now calling himself Angel (GET IT?), heads back to the band and reauditions as his new self, and easily gets in. It amuses me that whenever we see Martin playing, we never see his face and his hands at the same time. Not uncommon, but one of those things that once you see it...
Johnny tries to get Angel up to speed on the band's music, and he makes fun of how simple and easy the songs are. Good way to make a great first impression to your new boss! Also, Angel plays an example of the original version, then does his hot take on it, and you know what? I like Johnny's original better. Angel adds too many unnecessary flourishes to it.
Oh yeah, Traci Lords is in this movie, trying to start a respectable career. Oh well, you gotta start somewhere, right? She's playing band member Greg's fiance and the band's manager. And uh oh, Angel wants her.
Martin heads back to his place and starts making out with Michelle, and catches her reflection, which is all burned up. It turns out she was caught in a fire, and made the deal to be beautiful, but the catch would be she'd see her true face in anything silver. Same deal with Marilyn, who was born deformed. Monique was suffering from cancer, and her catch is that she lost her soul, and now has to kill people to survive.
Later, Angel goes to have a bite to eat, and learns everything now tastes vile to him, and he has the same deal as Monique; he must kill to survive. He's shocked, SHOCKED by this! WHAT DID YOU EXPECT?? Congrats, you made a deal with evil.
The voodoo bag lady shows up to deliver Angel's soul sucking knife, and tell him how to use his powers to seduce Lindsay and make her his, with a complicated ritual. Everyone decides they're hungry, and head over to Tony's to get some pizza.
Martin is a jerk and downright abusive to his old coworkers, and the new Martin, and when Tony shows up, he leaves for now. But heads back that night to collect his first soul. Couldn't have happened to a nicer boss. Angel's first kill doesn't go easy, but Monique is there to help.
So, let's see...they see their true selves in silver, and must kill and drain something from their victims...great. We have bargain basement vampires.
The big night of their debut finally comes, and Johnny makes the mistake of getting high in the bathroom as the band hits the stage. By the time he gets there, Angel has completely taken over, not only playing guitar, but as the new lead singer.
Angel picks one of the groupies as his next victim, but Johnny comes over to have a few words with the man trying to take everything he has, and sees a few things he shouldn't.
Johnny runs off, gets chased, and we find out later that his body is found dead. Mmmm, Angel got a double soul value meal tonight.
But Angel wowed the execs at the show, and they got a meeting, so Angel and Lindsay head back to his place so he can seduce her, or try to at least. She's still loyal to her fiance, for now, and she escapes before anything happens.
Angel returns to the trailer park, and sees the owner has tossed out all his stuff. I dunno why he cares, he has a nice new house, but Angel goes and kills the guy anyways for more nummy soul food.
Meanwhile, a cop shows up at the house asking about Angel, asking too many questions about Johnny. The girls are more than ready and willing to take care of him.
Fortunately, Monique is there to gobble up what little soul he has, so things don't go to waste.
Angel and Lindsay make the big record deal, and the band decides to take a few days off to celebrate. In the meantime, Lindsay heads over to Angel's so they can discuss business though.
Lindsay runs off, still loyal to Greg, but he shows up soon afterwards, afraid she's cheating on him. Angel laughs at even the notion this guy might challenge him for Lindsay's hand, and while they have a confrontation, Greg catches a glimpse of the girls in a mirror, and he starts getting the idea something is up.
The girls bring over one of the groupies for the notVampires to snack on, but while they try and do that, Greg sneaks back to the house, and sees the murder. He runs off to the cops with what he saw, but the group does a good job of covering things up, and the cops just think Greg is nuts.
I love this moment, where Monique is going to make stabby, Martin's just casually chillin' on the couch, reading a magazine, and just so nonchalantly hands over the dagger. It's such a great moment of 'yep, another casual night here at Chez Angel.
Greg heads home, and tries to explain to Lindsay what he saw, and that goes about as well as it did with the cops. And as a brief aside, it's funny how Traci "I Used to Do Porn" Lords is the only woman in this movie to NOT get topless...
Michelle tries to calm Angel down, but he rebukes her, waiting for Lindsay...so Michelle runs off to deal with Lindsay herself. Hell hath no fury, indeed.
Angel arrives to save the day before Michelle can kill Lindsay, which should do wonders for trying to woo the woman, but he also literally gets backstabbed by Michelle. Angel returns the favour, and as she dies, she returns to her original form.
He calls up Monique and Marilyn to bring his seduction supplies to the theatre, where he's gonna drag Lindsay off and force the magic on her. Meanwhile, Greg finds the voodoo lady to get some answers.
Madame Zeroni tells Greg that the vampire's weakness is food, and he now has to figure out what to do about that. He tests this out on Monique by feeding her toothpaste, and she quickly dies and reverts.
Angel and Marilyn bring everything to the ampitheatre, and Greg isn't far behind. There's another band, the headliner for the tour that Angel and friends would be opening for, that also show up. I love how chill and calm they are watching Angel do his thing, with Lindsay tied to a chair in a kiddie pool. They think it's all part of an act.
Greg finds Marilyn, and discovers since she's not a vampire, the garlic toothpaste doesn't work on her. They scuffle for a moment, then Greg runs off to the stage.
He fights Martin briefly, then manages to get Lindsay free, and runs right back into Marilyn. During the fight, one of the speakers falls over on top of her, and she dies from a self inflicted axe wound to the neck.
Greg grabs a syringe full of stuff, and jabs it right into Angel's throat, delivering a tasty treat as directly as someone can. And the rocker's music makes his head go boom.
So Greg and Lindsay walk off into the sunset, as the Creeping Flesh cheer about an amazing show they just watched. Talk about a once in a lifetime performance.
Video: It looks okay enough, for what the source material is. I appreciate adding the black bars on the side, so it will look right on a widescreen setup.
Audio: It sounds fine, but a better mix in a musical movie would've been amazing.
Sound Bite: "Do you believe in a greater power?" "You mean like God?" "...Close enough!"
Body Count: It takes awhile to get there, but we've got a decent amount once they start falling!
1 - 38 minutes and RickyAngel takes his first victim and kills his old boss Tony.
2 - He takes a fan out to his car and kills his second victim.
3 - Johnny makes a handy third victim when he sees what he shouldn't...
4 - Cop gets killed for asking questions
5 - Groupie gets killed to feed Monique
6 - Michelle goes up in flames
7 - Monique gets killed by boyfriend of Traci
8 - Marilyn accidentally axes herself.
9 - Angel's head goes boom
Best Corpse: Michelle's crispy body is pretty slick.
Blood Type - D+: No real blood, there's a few effects, and they're decent enough. Most points are being awarded for charbroiled Michelle.
Sex Appeal: Almost every woman goes topless at least once.
Drink Up! every time Angel's eyes turn green with envy.
Video Nasties: Decided this week I'd share the catfight between Lindsay and Michelle.
Movie Review: The story is decent enough here, and it's got a beginning, middle, and end, and sticks to its rules. The performances aren't great, but Martin/Angel is solid enough. Traci is good. The music is a highlight, although it does pad the movie out a bit. The effects are decent for this level. It's well made enough, and there's nothing glaringly TERRIBLE. Three out of five two headed guitars.
Entertainment Value: There's a lot of camp here, a lot of fun, and Angel is so wonderfully over the top as the confident rocker. It's an interesting twist on some classic themes, but is also SO very late 80s, in all the worst ways. Which just add to the camp, to be honest. Fun, but forgettable, but it held my attention. Three out of five snakes in the kiddie pool.