Hey folks, Harry here... Gina Gershon is headed to Austin to screen PREY FOR ROCK AND ROLL and there's nothing I hate more than when we have a celebrity come to Austin in support of a mediocre film. It makes everything awkward. Then there's HOUSE OF THE DEAD, which apparently is next door neighbors to genital leprosy. But, don't believe me... listen to MR. BEAKS.... he shoved his nose valiantly into the unwashed yeasty crotches of both rotten flicks...
PREY FOR ROCK AND ROLL (d. Alex Steyermark, w. Alexis Magagni-Seely and Cheri Lovedog)
Written, directed and produced by a number of big city music scene veterans, PREY FOR ROCK AND ROLL should jump off the screen with the same vitality one experiences, for better or worse, in a dingy nightclub, where many musicians play for keeps just to ensure that another night at another club might be in the offing. And it does. Intermittently. Unfortunately, though, sincerity is no match for bad writing, a persistent flaw that keeps upending Alex Steyermark’s debut film despite a number of solid performances, and an impressively scuzzy production design that, at the very least, evokes the sweaty and chokingly desperate atmosphere so depressingly particular to its milieu.
Based on co-writer Cheri Lovedog’s play, which earned its punk stripes by getting performed at CBGB’s in New York City (then again, Alan Jackson played there recently, so maybe those aren’t quite the bona fides they used to be), the film depicts the travails of Clam Dandy, a hard rocking female quartet on the simultaneous cusp of a possible recording deal *and* self-destructing. Of course, every member of the band is battling their own personal demons: the front woman, Jacki (Gina Gershon), a tattoo artist whose body is covered in ink, is anxiously dealing with having just turned forty; the bassist, Tracy (Drea de Matteo), is caught up in a whirlwind of drug abuse, as well as an abusive relationship with her asshole boyfriend (Ivan Martin); the lead guitarist, Faith (Lori Petty), is enduring the ignominy of teaching private guitar lessons to flighty college girls, while also tip-toeing around the heart of her current girlfriend, who also happens to be the band’s drummer, Sally (Shelly Cole), whose got troubles of her own; namely, a brother named Animal (Marc Blucas) who just finished serving a lengthy prison sentence for manslaughter. Will they be able to keep together long enough to bask in the glory of discovery that might be just around the corner?
To Lovedog’s credit, she doesn’t prettify her story, and she certainly doesn’t allow her characters many victories – all the better, one presumes, to mirror her own experiences as the lead singer for a popular, but never entirely successful, punk band back in the late 80’s. And if her reality was really filled with these kinds of stock dramatic beats, then it’s unfortunate that she couldn’t find a fresher way to present them. Because the scripting here is a veritable lesson on how-not-to write a screenplay, with every classic pitfall covered. There’s the annoyingly expository voiceover that artlessly tells that which could have easily be shown, witless dialogue masquerading as hip banter, and, worst of all, a digressive narrative throughout which the stakes are never raised. What blasts PREY FOR ROCK AND ROLL up into the bad movie stratosphere, however, is what might be the most poorly managed rape subplot in film history (including I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE), in which the attacker is simply beaten up and left in a shitty Los Angeles neighborhood with “rapist” tattooed to his forehead; thus, inviting the guy to lick his wounds, and come calling for retribution one day. Even worse, the victim’s plight is trivialized by a rub-some-dirt-on-it-and-get-back-in-there pep talk that’s presented as a stupidly anodyne cure-all for the torturous burden she’ll be carrying around for the rest of her life.
The actors do their best with the unremittingly atrocious dialogue, but that’s a losing proposition few performers can ably negotiate. Ultimately, PREY FOR ROCK AND ROLL leaves the audience adrift in a tempest of classically bad independent filmmaking. It’s a shame, too, because some of the songs penned originally for the film – ably growled by Gershon herself – are often catchy and propulsive (as should be expected anytime one encounters Stephen Trask’s name amongst the songwriting credits). But even then, the lyrics are so irritatingly blunt that it’s hard to get lost in these otherwise tuneful melodies. The same can be said for the film.
HOUSE OF THE DEAD (d. Uwe Boll, w. Mark A. Altman and Dave Parker)
Unbelievable. Quint and I must have seen two radically different films. In his review, the crusty seaman unleashed a stream of invective so severe, it might be legally actionable. Ultimately, he claimed HOUSE OF THE DEAD to be, “the kind of film that can put horror back 5 years.”
You’re so full of shit, Quint! This isn’t going to set back horror five years. It’s going to end the fucking genre. Stab it repeatedly while it sleeps. Pour sugar in its gas tank. Napalm it like a goddamn Vietnamese fishing village. (Okay, so the “pour sugar in its gas tank” thing sounds a little mild compared to the other two, but when you’ve seen what the sweet stuff can do to fuel injectors on a 1990 Isuzu Trooper… well, let me tell you, a war crime is low balling the requisite level of outrage you’ll feel.) I’d like to think that, with the arrival of talents like Lucky McKee, The Spierig Brothers and Eli Roth, horror is strong enough to survive this unconscionable blitzkrieg from Uwe Boll, but having been repeatedly assailed by those television spots over the weekend while I was simply trying to enjoy some fucking football… I just don’t know. (By the way, are the marketing geniuses over at Artisan aware that hip-hop singles have an extremely brief shelf life? By using DMX’s “Party Up (Up in Here)”, they’re merely advertising their squareness. They might as well be selling the film with “Pac-Man Fever”.)
The premise has a group of college kids chartering a boat to reach an island where what is unquestionably the lamest, most sparsely attended rave of all time is being held. The captain of the boat’s name is Kirk, and he is played by Jurgen Prochnow, setting up two blindingly obvious pop culture references that do not escape citation. This is, apparently, uproarious. Once the “kids”, none of whom look a day under thirty, reach the island, they find the rave site absolutely deserted. Had they the opportunity to see the sorry cavorting that was going down before they arrived, perhaps the absence of revelers wouldn’t seem so disconcerting. But they hang around long enough to get attacked by the real culprits for breaking up the rave – actors in bad zombie make-up. Seriously, that’s exactly what they are. To classify these guys as “zombies” would be an insult to everyone from George Romero to Ed Wood.
And to give this film much more thought would be a waste of my time time. Suffice it to say, though, that Quint was not kidding about the endless sub-MATRIX bullet time horseshit; it’s as if Boll figured that sheer repetition would wear down the audiences’ resistance, forcing them to submit to his strange, incompetent genius. In the case of this filmgoer, all he did was wear down my patience. Frankly, life is too short; ergo, I broke my own personal reviewer’s code, and walked out. If this review keeps just one of you from walking in, then writing it will have been worthwhile. Happily, the October 10th lineup of KILL BILL VOL. I, INTOLERABLE CRUELTY and MYSTIC RIVER has provided you with several excuses to avoid THE HOUSE OF THE DEAD. However, if you are overcome by some bizarre compulsion to watch a zombie movie that weekend (not to worry; it happens), then, by all means, slake your thirst for the undead by checking out the Gary Sherman’s overlooked, and recently-released-to-DVD, gem, DEAD & BURIED (his equally underappreciated RAW MEAT just hit recently, as well), or maybe check out a Lenzi or Fulci flick that you haven’t seen before. The options are endless, and, most assuredly, far more preferable than getting worked over for ninety minutes by Uwe Boll, who will return next year with ALONE IN THE DARK. I’m just warning you in advance.