A low budget comedy-horror b-movie featuring shred guitar legend Michael Angelo Batio, cult actress/pin-up Traci Lords and lots of visual cheese? Why the hell haven't I seen this years ago? The VHS group I'm part of talked about this film recently and I was foaming at the mouth instantly.
I needed it in my life. There was the promise of shred guitar, bad acting, demons, cheap laughs and Traci Lords doing her best with a lousy script. I was sold. Ebay was visited, and an ex-rental big-box VHS was purchased. Unfortunately, the tape sat on my shelves for weeks due to a very busy period (having a baby kinda eats time a bit...), and I was left gazing longingly at the spine of the box with no idea when I'd get to fire it up.
Thankfully, my lady and our baby are asleep right now so I've taken the opportunity. I'm glad I did, as this is an absolute treasure of trash cinema, and I'm loving every second. It's about as cheap and tacky as it gets. Visually it looks like it was shot by the people who made Saved By The Bell and California Dreams, while the script plays like the fevered rantings of a randy 14 year old with dreams of rock stardom and consorting with demons.
Stephen Quadros plays Martin, a hopeless geek with dreams of being a rock star. After being humiliated at work, he auditions for a band and is tossed aside for having no talent. Thus, naturally, he meets a Voodoo priestess and makes a pact with her to become the greatest rock star ever. He is transformed into the enigmatic guitar god Angel Martin (looking very much like W.A.S.P. mailman Blackie Lawless), but at a price – he must kill and feed on human souls to stay alive.
In his new life as Angel, he is given a mansion, a squad of scantily clad ladies who are all in cahoots with the demons, massive hair and serious guitar skills (played in closeup by the aforementioned Michael Angelo Batio, who also plays the double guitar-wielding demon).
It's about as scary as a particularly tame Point Horror novel, thanks to cheap glowing green eye effects and some gloopy vomit being just about the only concessions to the horror genre.
With plot holes galore, a budget which would just about buy a Happy Meal, Traci Lords playing it straight as the character of Lindsay and the rest of the cast hamming it up beyond belief, Shock 'Em Dead is a great example of a film which doesn't take itself too seriously, which is good, as it's impossible to take any part of this thing seriously at all.
Still, I have to say it's thoroughly entertaining, and that's good enough for me. Incidentally, I love the fact that Michael Angelo Batio still has the famous guitar he used in the film, amidst his collection of several other double guitars. My hero.