Bluray Review: SHOCK ‘EM DEAD (1990)

shockemdeadThere’s something magical about a lot of the cheesy films that the late ’80s and early ’90s put out. Wild stories that wouldn’t even be a thought to a studio execs these days, the films that filled VHS shelves and gathered dust in video stores everywhere are the ones I loved to check out. Some of the ones I never got around to picking up were still ingrained in my memory, just by having either killer or silly artwork. Thanks to the partnership between Olive Films and Slasher//Video, a lot of those films that were thought to be either long lost or unwanted are being given the Bluray treatment and in the case of Mark Freed’s 1990 heavy metal horror film SHOCK ‘EM DEAD, it’s a very, very welcome release.

We’ve all wanted to be someone else at one point or another, that’s a given. When I was a kid, I was raised inside of a Pentecostal family and was forced to go to church at least three to four times a week, told I would burn in hell for loving bands like Slayer, Motley Crue or even bands as tame as The Cure or Concrete Blonde. It was an odd upbringing that led me into finding solace in the punk rock and hardcore subcultures. While I never made a deal with an odd shaman woman to lose the awkwardness in exchange for rock god status, the silly story of SHOCK ‘EM DEAD and its protagonist turned antagonist Angel Martin and his desire to get girls, play guitar like a speeding locomotive and be famous makes me smile from ear to ear.

Martin (Stephen Quadros) is a nerdy guy who works at a Pizzeria in which he spies on coworkers getting changed, gets verbally abused by his boss and lives in a trailer in which he’s about the get evicted from. He auditions for an up and coming band and is brutally made fun for his lack of real skill. If that’s not enough to pull you in, just wait a few moments, when Martin comes across a Shaman woman who tells Martin that she can make his every wish come true, and when Martin agrees to the deal, he’s transformed into Angel Martin, a rock god version of himself who lives in a mansion along with three sometimes clothed women, can play the guitar just as good as Steve Vai and has hair akin to a member of Wasp. He has a new-found confidence and auditions for the same band again and immediately gets the gig as their lead guitarist. The band’s bass player, Greg, welcomes Angel into the band, and once he sets his eyes on Greg’s girlfriend/the band’s manager, Lindsay Roberts (Traci Lords, EXCISION, CRY-BABY), he decides the cost may be, Lindsay will be his. Upon realizing that in order to stay Angel Martin and survive, he must murder people with a special dagger and drain their soul, Angel goes full villain and the film gets as funny as possible, with parties, silly death scenes, nonstop guitar shredding and enough rock and roll and cheese to please the most devout horror fan.

It’s by no means a “good” movie, and it has more than its share of flaws, probably more than not, but SHOCK ‘EM DEAD is a fun ride and is given the best HD treatment as possible, given the circumstances that Olive Films were given for the release (A disclaimer on the back lets viewers know that they weren’t given an HD source, but was remastered from 1″ tape and upconverted. Personally, I think that works even better for the film. Part of the film’s charm is that early ’90s video look, and as a fan of heavy metal horror and silliness, I couldn’t recommend this shred and dead gem enough.

SHOCK ‘EM DEAD trailer (*not from the Bluray*):

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