Hard Rock Zombies is just one movie in a long line of terrible movies whose titles just tell it like it is, like Redneck Zombies or Teenage Zombies or pretty much any movies with “Zombies” in the title. In this case, it’s easy to guess that zombies will be involved, and, chances are, they are going to rock hard. That’s what sets this one it apart from other “Zombie” movies.
Before the rockers become zombies though, they’re Holy Moses, a perfectly adequate late-1980s band on the cusp of fame led by a dashing, mustachioed brunet by the name of Jessie. Despite an ominous warning from a mysterious young fan, Cassie, Jessie and the band travels to the creepy town of Grand Guignol. Though it’s small and backwards, it’s where they must go if they want to impress a Columbia Records A&R exec. On the way, they pick up Elsa, a babetacular cannibal who, as viewers learned earlier, uses her babetacularness to lure unsuspecting men to their deaths. Elsa takes the band to her palatial home, where they meet her “family.” Her clan includes an ax-wielding maniac, two little people (also cannibals), some other dude who looks kind of normal but isn’t by association, Hitler-in-disguise, and his OTP Eva Braun, who’s also a wolfperson, which doesn’t seem particularly “master race” to me.
Holy Moses enjoys its off-time in Grand Guignol, dancing in the streets and performing skate tricks with the town youths in just one of many musical sequences in Hard Rock Zombies. As the hijinks ensue, the town’s influential males look on judgingly (and maybe even a little erotically), and Holy Moses ignores all the obvious creepy clues that would send any smart rock band running. Even after they’re electrocuted during a practice performance of their brand new, pedophilic song “Cassie,” as the family watches on, they don’t leave. Meanwhile, the more normal townspeople, with their Footloosian politics, decide to ban rock ‘n’ roll. They’ve got enemies on all sides.
The townsfolk needn’t have bothered though. Pretty soon the band meets its end at the hands of various family members. Hitler takes the opportunity to restart the Fourth Reich.
Fortunately, Jessie bequeathed a recording of an occult chant to Cassie just before he died. She plays the tape by their graves, awakening their inanimate, surprisingly well-dressed bodies. You can tell they’re zombies from their fresh coat of Kiss makeup. Now it’s their turn to terrorize the town.
Hard Rock Zombies comes from the canon of Indian director Krishna Shah, who passed away in 2013. UCLA- and Yale-educated, Shah’s body of work includes the Bollywood thriller Shalimar, a couple of episodes for popular ‘60s TV shows, and American Drive-In, another shitty B-movie. In fact, Hard Rock Zombies was originally produced as the background film for American Drive-In, and the studio figured what the hey, might as well double their output if they were already doing the work. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much thought that went into the originally-fake-but-soon-to-be-real Hard Rock Zombies, which was made before American Drive-In, and as a result, many of the plot twists were added in on shooting days, including all the Nazi stuff.
This fact was confirmed in a 2011 interview with Hard Rock Living Person EJ Curse, who played Jessie. He originally auditioned for the film with the rest of his real-life band, Silent Rage — who are still a thing, by the way — but he was the only one who actually got a starring role, while the rest took on bit parts. Apparently, he also had sex with the actress who played Elsa on every one of the film’s sets. He only got a single (open-mouthed) kiss from the girl who played Cassie, who fortunately wasn’t actually a teenager, but a more appropriately aged 21-year-old woman. Or so he claims.
Guess she wasn’t really into her song.
Susan Cohen decided to leave her career in journalism to go back to school — for journalism. She's still not sure if she made a mistake. Visit susanjcohen.com to learn more about her.