Tear down the walls of Hell
Review Date: March 22, 2008
Released by: Synapse Films
Release date: 9/25/2007
Region 0, NTSC
Widescreen 1.78:1 | 16x9: Yes
Make room for lust to dwell
Carry in your hands a sword
Tear away the image of the Lord
Pull down society
Only then can we be free
In the world alone to roam
Destroy your happy home
- Lyrics of the Black Roses
The quaint, tiny town of Mill Basin has erupted in controversy over plans by a rock band called the Black Roses to perform a four-night set of shows in the local high school’s auditorium. Numerous parents voice their opposition, calling the band’s lyrics evil and blasphemous, and worry that they will serve to corrupt their teenage children. After much debate the concerts are allowed to proceed, with Mayor Farnsworth (Ken Swofford
) pointing out that their generation had Elvis and The Beetles, which were considered equally controversial.
With the town’s teenagers excited over the arrival of the band, the concerned parents decide to sit in during the first concert to see exactly what the Black Roses are all about. But when the band’s lead singer Damien (Sal Viviano
) comes onstage and begins to sing an innocuous soft rock song, the adults decide that there’s nothing wrong with the concerts and decide to call it a night. However, as soon as they leave the band breaks into a more aggressive hard rock tune that really gets the kids worked up.
Although the rest of the town loses its concern over the concerts, English teacher Matt Moorhouse (John Martin
) suspects there’s something going on after noticing changes in his students’ personalities after the first show. His concern only grows with each night’s performance, but he is unable to convince anyone of his suspicions, even as the teenagers become more and more reckless, and adults begin dying mysterious deaths. There’s some sort of an evil, supernatural force behind the Black Roses, and it’s not just out to corrupt the minds of the town’s adolescents – it’s after their immortal souls as well!
Often remembered with nostalgia by the many fans who encountered it during the VHS era, Black Roses
is very similar to director John Fasano’s earlier Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare
(with this film often viewed as a sort of companion feature to it) in that it has many of the elements that are needed to make it entertaining, and few of the elements needed to make it good. It has boobs, blood, heavy metal music and plenty of laughably cheesy special effects, while also showcasing plenty of indifferent acting, plot holes and badly paced scenes. As strange as it is to say this, the movie is probably better off for having had the producers tinker with it after principal photography was finished, instructing Fasano to - somewhat against his will - cut out unneeded scenes and add more monsters. Nowadays it is almost heresy to challenge the cult of the “director’s creative vision”, but for an inexperienced filmmaker like Fasano (this was only his second movie) having somebody to look over his shoulder was no doubt a good idea.
is an oddly conflicted movie. It glorifies that rebelliousness and glamour of rock and roll, yet it ultimately - if unintentionally - comes down on the side of those forces which oppose it. The film sets up the conflict in which the conservative parents of the town’s youths become almost hysterical over the impending concerts. They are talked down by the liberal adults who point out the controversial music of their own generation. But in the end the story comes down on the side of the archconservatives who opposed the concerts from the beginning. The concerned parents were right – literally. The band really was coming to town to corrupt their children and steal their souls. Such is the odd conflict that is sometimes found in horror movies that embrace the conventions of the genre, which are fundamentally conservative, but which are made by people who are not.
Amusing social contradictions aside, what makes the movie so enjoyable is the comedic effect of its direction mixed with its lack of production values. Fasano just takes everything so seriously at times that it’s difficult not to laugh when you see a scene where John Martin fights an unwieldy-looking demon by stuffing tennis balls into its mouth, a scene that is played completely straight. The tongue and cheek approach that marked so much of Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare
is not nearly so prevalent here. This is disappointing in a way, but it works. Black Roses
would not play nearly as well as it does had it been made more competently. It’s cinematic junk food, made up of nothing but empty celluloid calories, but let’s be honest with ourselves – how many of us can really claim to have perfect nutrition?
is given a 1.78:1 letterboxed presentation that is enhanced for 16x9 displays. Overall this transfer is comparable to Synapse's great release of Rock 'n' Roll Nightmare
. Although the image appears a little grungy in places, the majority of the film looks excellent, with a decently sharp image and pleasing, natural colors that are occasionally replaced by the vivid hues of the rock show scenes. There are no instances of severe print damage, though small specks and a moderate level of grain are visible.
The only audio option is the film's original 2.0 Stereo soundtrack. Audio quality sounds slightly harsh overall, and the musical numbers in particular are a little flat. However, dialogue is usually clear and audible and there is no noticeable background noise or distortion.
The principal extra is a running commentary track with director John Fasanao, his wife Cindy Sorrell (also the film's screenwriter), their two children John and Lucia, and actress Carla Ferrigno (she plays John Martin's girlfriend, though it seems most of her scenes were cut out of the finished film). The most informative comments are usually Fasano's. He points out many instances where his own inexperience as a director created problems and describes many of the scenes that were cut because of the distributors, scenes that were added because of the distributors, and the distributor’s requirements of having enough female breasts in the movie.
Next up is a three-minute excerpt from Fasano's audition tapes when he was trying to cast the role of Damian. The tapes show a number of different actors, some okay, some quite bad, including the performer who ultimately landed the role, Sal Viviano.
The extras are finished off with a theatrical promotional trailer and a Cannes film festival promo for the film. Both were clearly taken from videotape sources, and the Cannes promo has a time code throughout most of it. It also appears unfinished, since many of the cuts are jagged and the music is so loud that the narration is almost completely unintelligible.
Another fine Synapse release of an entertainingly awful movie, this disc should please any 80’s horror fan with its nice transfer, reasonable price and good supplements. Check it out.
Movie – C-
Image Quality – B+
Sound – B
Supplements – B
- Running Time – 1 hour 23 minutes
- Chapter Stops
- English 2.0 Stereo
- 1 Disc
- Audio commentary
- Audition tape excerpts
- Cannes film festival promo
- Theatrical promo trailer