Friday, December 17, 2010

DVD Review: SCREAM DREAM (1989)

Challenging for their own title of "Most Fun Artifact of 80s SOV Madness of the year," which they garnered way back in August with the surprisingly entertaining release of Truth or Dare?: A Critical Madness (1986), in October the crew at MVD Entertainment did another service to cultural anthropologists across the web with their budget DVD release of Donald Farmer's 1989 heavy metal horror tale, Scream Dream . What Farmer (Cannibal Hookers, Chainsaw Cheerleaders) and crew lack in technical skill, they more than make up for with enthusiasm, earnestness, and perhaps unintentional hilarity. To say nothing of some kickin' 80s bar metal tunes by shoulda-been-stars Crikk-O-Shay!

After a wild and completely-unrelated-to-anything-else-in-the-movie credits/dream sequence (in which a busty 80s beauty is menaced by a demonic crotch-saw), we open the movie proper with a bored former metalhead-turned-yuppie watching TV at his home in rural Tennessee, while his wife, THE QUEEN OF THE HARPIES, shouts nonstop abuse from the neighboring wood-panelled room. Our henpecked hero is extremely excited to learn that Satanic rocker Michelle Shocked (Carol Carr) not to be confused with the American singer-songwriter with the same stage name, and determines that he and his wife are going, despite the price of tickets compromising their ability to pay rent for the month. For all her acrimonious protestations, the wife does accompany her hubby to the show--judging from her constant insults and stinkeye looks, solely to make sure that he doesn't have a good time.

The cover of Michelle's breakthrough album, Coccyx Kruncher

Friends, Satanic Shock Rock was an extremely different animal in 1989 than it is today, at least in the wilds of Tennessee. Michelle is less Deicide than she is Pat Benetar, all spandex and sparkly chains and big mousse-y hair, singing melodius radio metal about such blasphemous subjects and bad dreams and wanting to have a good time. When her intimidatingly permed bandmate Derrick (Nikki Riggins, winner of the 1988 Southern States David Coverdale Lookalike/Roscoe P. Coltrane Soundalike competition) says of their fans, "These people are hardcore metalheads--they think Van Halen is elevator music!")--you might get some idea the level of RAWK we're dealing with here.

"You want me to open for Stryper? Okay, send over the contracts."

The maritally dissatisfied superfan gets his chance to meet his idol after the show, and he wastes no time putting the charm to work, telling Michelle his wife is in fact his sister while the harpy is standing RIGHT THERE (smoove move, bro). Of course the outraged spouse leaves in a huff, and Michelle, being the lecherous devil-worshiping frontwoman she is, rewards the man's fandom with the offer of a backstage blowjob. It's all a part...of his rock n' roll fantasy! But with his dreams coming (and cumming) true, the hayseed doesn't notice when Michelle starts to transform into a talon-handed demon, and by the time he catches on, he's one frankfurter short of a pack, IYKWIM.

Fun While it Lasted
Despite the fact that Michelle is selling out pool halls and truck stops all across rural Tennessee, her manager Lou--a delightfully foul-mouthed and top-volume performance by Gene Amonette--has had enough of all the headaches her Satanic lifestyle is causing him, and decides with Derrick that Michelle has to go. Fired from the band but still eeevil, Michelle goes to county fair and there hooks up with a Camaro-mulleted, porn-stached local, takes him back to her place, and rips out his heart and eats it Horror Rises from the Tomb style! Apparently she's made a habit of this, as an investigative journalist from Murpheesboro In the Morning TV reports that there have been 13 unsolved murders in recent months, each in a town where Michelle had just performed a show. The police dismiss her deductions as the PMS-induced ravings of a crazy lady-type, naturally.

Not wanting to refund the money for any of the remaining shows on the tour--shows that sold out based on the reputation and talent of Michelle Shocked, mind you--Lou and Derrick quickly hire her replacement, the bustier and blonder Jamie Summers (Melissa Moore, last seen round the VHS Vicarage as part of the not-nearly-so-excellent MVD release Scream Queens Illustrated). Lou ill-advisedly sends Derrick to Michelle's place to reclaim some of the stage costumes he paid for, which he wants Jamie to wear at her first gig. You can probably guess this plan is a flawed one, and when the possessed chanteuse attacks Derrick with sacrifice on her mind, he does the only reasonable thing--which is to hack her to death with a handy medieval halberd and then flee the premises!

Flirtin' with Disaster. Every Day.
Stupidly, though, the big-haired bonehead has forgotten to snag the stage gear, and as a result is forced to come back later, with Jamie in tow, to loot the treasure trove of spangles and spandex and spiked collars. Somehow Derrick thinks he can keep Jamie from discovering the body, a drastic overestimation of his diversionary skills. While Jamie stares in shock at the body, Derrick claims ignorance and dashes into the next room for the gear. Unfortunately Michelle's deal with the Devil comes to fruition just then, as a rat creature hand puppet scurries out from under a nearby coffee table to gnaw on Jamie's throat, which of course allows Michelle's spirit to possess the bimbo's bodacious bod. It's not long before Jamie is also sprouting finger-talons and demon horns, cutting a bloody swath through her legions of new fans and threatening Derrick with vengeance from beyond the grave. Will Derrick be able to use the power of METULL to survive?

Scream Dream is one of those movies that was clearly made on weekends for next to no money by a group of underfunded, overambitious dreamers who probably should have scrapped the whole thing in its planning stages and gone back to their manufacturing jobs and weekend bar gigs, playing their own brand of down-home metal for their tens of appreciative, drunken fans. But Farmer and crew just didn't know when to quit--and if you're a fan of so-bad-it's-good entertainment, you'll join me when I say, THANK THE GODS OF CINEMA they didn't! (Note: Farmer went on to amass a lengthy DTV filmography and is still making movies--hopefully he got better over time.)

"Am I Demon? You Need to Know!"

The acting here ranges from the terrible to the refreshingly mediocre. Minor characters like the superfan and his wife, the Three Mulleteers at the county fair, and later two of Jamie's female admirers who meet a grisly fate, seem to be projecting their lines like they were in a high school play in an auditorium with no stage mikes. Next to these, Riggins and Moore look like graduates of the Strasberg school; Riggins' Derrick is amiably dumb and an ace with the ladies; bonus points if you can figure out what instrument he plays in the band, since he's never seen onstage with them and seems to skip every rehearsal. Moore brings an "I'm a Model but I want to be an Actress" sensibility to her role which is smile-inducing, and gyrates and lip-synchs gamely to Crikk-O-Shay's stylings. Standouts are Amonette as Lou the foul-mouthed Manager and Carr as Michelle Shocked, who throws herself into her role of heart-ripping, nob-gobbling hobgoblin with admirable abandon.

Story-wise, the flick is full of great trash movie moments. Even though the flick clocks in at a lean (indeed, almost anorexic) 69 minutes, it's padded with no fewer than three full-length METULL songs of a quality that will have cheestastic metal lovers smirking with glee and rock snobs reaching for the fast-forward button. Subplots abound, from the unrelated opening nightmare girl to the unhappy couple of the first episode to the TV journalist's sanctimonious editorials that stretch toward 80s Satanic Metal topicality without ever even getting close. (Also, despite being the star reporter, the journalist cheerfully gets her video editor/cameraman coffee at the studio, while he leans back with his feet up on the desk, as much as to say, "That's wimmin's work.") And the make-up effects are totally LOLtastic, particularly the hand-puppet demon and Moore's devilish creature costume. (Oh, and Moore flashes her not-unimpressive boobs, a lot--so there's that, as well.)

She was cuter at the bar.

The video quality is quite bad, as you can see from the grabs, doubtless sourced from one of the original VHS tapes--though since the flick was shot on video for what looks like about a hundred bucks total, it's probably as good as it's ever looked. The only extras are trailers for other of MVD's horror releases. But the movie will set you back less than a sawbuck ($9.99 list price, $7.49 at MVD's online store), and is a lot of fun.

In short, Scream Dream is a trash movie fan's delight, a little piece of history from a time when Mom & Pop video stores were booming, demand outweighed supply, and anybody with a camcorder and a dream could get distribution. Go in with low expectations and a high appreciation for horror and metal cheese, and you'll have a good time with this one. 2.25 thumbs.

A few more shots from Scream Dream (1989):


SAUSAGE. DOGS.

Rockin' and Shockin'

Theft prevention tip: Always Lock Up Yer Crotch

I don't care if it is a double-wide, that's a big fucking door.

"Not the hair!"

Maybe She's Born With It

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