“The establishment dished it out – but they wouldn’t take it!”
Here it is, our first Troma related review (so this goes out to the guy that asked me about Troma). This film was produced by Lloyd Kaufman’s sister so it’s no wonder it was released through them, it definitely doesn’t really feel like any other movie I’ve seen them put out or produce. It’s a straight-up comedy, but without any humor.
The movie features some terrible wannabe actress and some kid that thinks he’s cool for being against “the system.” A TON of boring shit happens, including some Cuban landlord who is the most stereotypical character possible giving them a hard time. He remains the only slightly, and I mean slightly, humorous thing in the movie. They get fed up with TV and come up with the brilliant idea to pretend to have a bomb on some TV station which causes a big controversy. Then the movie ends happily ever after. Not really, but no one cares.
It takes the lamest most cliché possible situations you can think of, such as the “actress” going through a bunch of cheesy overly exaggerated terrible commercial try-outs. Her try-outs consist of her dressing up in an asparagus costume and dancing around. I was amazed that a movie could be so unfunny and so painfully boring. I mean look at the cover, it looks really fucking good. And the whole message behind it, about terrible television being a terrorist forming offense is something you can easily agree with. But there is nothing fun, interesting, or enjoyable about this movie at all.
The film was never released on DVD but honestly that’s no surprise. It’s worthless. Complete worthless and meaningless trash. Without the Troma name on it and the clever marketing name (much better than the pile of shit original name, Amateur Hour, which tried to take itself completely serious) this probably wouldn’t even have applied for reviewing. It’s completely boring. The very few people who have seen it try and make it out to be a decent movie, but don’t trust anyone but me, this is ass and I know ass when I see it.
There’s some cult rarities that slip through the cracks, then there’s free online movies like this, that must have literally slipped into a crack in the earth which sent it back to the prehistoric times of the dinosaurs ala the 90s Land of the Lostshow, because no one I know has ever said anything about this movie. I’ve never heard this one brought up in conversation or seen someone go after this tape. It doesn’t even have 20 votes or a review on IMDB. I mean, even Hellroller had at least one review! I don’t really know why, either, because this movie is a blast.
Despite advertising itself as a horror/sci-fi movie, it plays more like a teens-revolt-against-authority-type of movie (at least until the last 20 minutes). You know it’s going to be a romp, too, when the movie opens with people sliding down staircase railings, jocks slamming nerds into lockers, and even a giant food fight. What the hell is better and less realistic than a giant, entire school food fight?! Only a handful of things, maybe. This food fight sets the principal of the school on a disciplining rampage involving him failing to barb wire the entire school. When the barb wire fails, he finally settles on using mind-controlling experiments on the students. A Harvard graduate, Dr. Gunbow, has developed an experiment where a computer can program a bunch of random notes onto a CD, and when they are played long enough, the students will begin to feel whatever was typed into the computer. This highly plausible and scientifically proven theory actually works, all of the students begin to obey their every wish, except two hooligans.
Enter the pre-Bill and Ted, Bill and Ted (or as they’re known in this movie, Frankie and Crash). They run a Rock ‘n’ Roll radio station (which the principal also shuts down because it is “sexually provocative noise”) and devote their lives to RAWK. They manage to avoid the mind-changing music because they’re always wearing headphones! Blasting that R.O.C.K.! They team up with a nerd to put a stop to the principal and his dirty tricks, but little do they know, they have bigger fish to fry.
The principal writes into the machine that he wants to get rid of all non-violent behavior, because he doesn’t want “a bunch of pacifists.” This causes everyone to go insane and start breaking shit and fighting. There’s even a classic scene where a bunch of girls in a beauty class start beating the shit out of one another and light a girl’s hair on fire. Speaking of classic, nothing in this movie holds a candle to the scene where Crash and Frankie bust into a funky rap in the bathroom about why teachers are jerks for not letting them wear headphones. It’s a miracle on film.
The nerd, through his nerdy investigating, finds out the doctor never actually went to Harvard and that no one has ever heard of this experiment. He also finds out the only way to get them to change back to normal is to play loud music or scare them before orgasm. Crash immediately chimes in with, “I got it! We have everyone pull out their things and start to jerk off….” Then they cut him off for being an idiot, but oh how I wish the movie would have went in that direction. That would have been something to see.
By now the kids have turned into mindless, violent zombies and will stop at nothing to kill these disobeyers. That’s when they unveil the doctor as an alien and he shoots laser beams out of his eyes and freezes the principal. The doctor even has the line (in case it was unclear since he still looks exactly the same), “Haven’t you figured it out? I’m an alien.” Thanks for clearing that one up, Doc. They run away and happen to find a record player and a loud speaker and through the power of rock ‘n’ roll they save the day. And in the most calm voice, the alien reveals his true form and says, “It was never our intent to harm you. We will meet again” and flies away.
It ends with Frankie and Crash realizing that rock saved everything and that all is back to normal, which causes them to scream BECAUSE THEY HATE ALL NORMAL THINGS! Get it?
I can’t get across to you how fun this movie is. I am so easily bored by bad movies, but this one holds your attention the entire time. It honestly feels like Rock ‘n’ Roll High School with a young Bill and Ted and aliens. Strangely enough, it was directed by one of the three directors of the movie Spookies, Eugenie Joseph, and is a much better and easier to understand movie, too. In America you might have seen it late night under the spoilerific name, Alien High, but for video market the name was changed. If you have the chance to watch this, do it. The VHS was released by Atlas Entertainment Corporation (most famous for releasing the rare Halloween Night aka Hack-o-Lantern). Their releases aren’t very common, but they’re really cool and worth grabbing when you see them. They pack the tapes with trailers and released some very interesting and unheard of films in the 80s and early 90s. Invasion has never been released on DVD and probably never will be. It’s just a lost gem of Canadian cinema that deserves more attention.
David Henry Sterry is an author, comedian, and actor, who has written thirteen acclaimed books and been acting since the 1980s. He has acted in everything from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air to the VHShitfest favorite, Hellroller, where he played two roles, Dr. Kosloff and the King of the Bums. I was lucky enough to conduct a phone interview with the man about his entire career, but focusing mostly on the obscure trash classic, Hellroller! Thanks again to David for letting us interview him and for shedding some light on a movie that sadly very little is known about.
For starters, to end all the debates between me and my friends, what year was Hellroller actually filmed in?
1989 and 1990. It took a while from scene to scene. You would do one scene, then wait a couple weeks, then get a call to come to a weird rooftop in Hollywood to do the next scene.
How did you get involved in Hellroller?
I was living in L.A. looking for acting roles. There was an auditions paper in Hollywood with all these low budget films, students films, and all the weird roles that no one wanted to play, like sexual assaulters. That’s where I saw the ad for the movie, which, I believe, already had the name Hellroller. The audition was in Gary’s [J. Levinson] seedy apartment, like in Boogie Nights, but even more low end, nothing fancy. I love to act and Gary was very laid back and easy-going and I loved working with him. He would let me try whatever I wanted. It was one of the most fun experiences of my career. Better than working with [John] Carpenter and better than Fresh Prince [of Bel-Air], but I got no money. [Gary] couldn’t cast the role of the doctor so he cast me as the evil doctor, too. I just kept getting random calls, “Show up here. Show up there.” You started to know to bring a thick book ‘cause it took very long to set up. But I got my eyes gouged out in the movie, so that was amazing.
The conjoined twins in the movie were really bouncy. They were really twins, but they’d just throw a big shirt on and that’d make them conjoined. It was ridiculous. I mean, even on the set we all knew it was lame, but there was a liberation in the lameness.
Do you have any behind the scenes stories?
Yes! Ron, the guy in the wheelchair, was a really nice and normal guy off set, but as soon as he sat in the wheelchair it was like the Exorcist chick. He would start twitching and shaking all over. He must have been working some shit out. You didn’t want to put a weapon in his hands, he could have snapped at any moment.
There was a guy who was doing the lighting on the movie, and again, like something out of Boogie Nights, he said, “There’s shadows in the shot” and Gary said, “There’s shadows in real life, man. Let’s shoot!” It was that kind of production. The whole time, though, I kept thinking someone will see this movie, like John Waters, and he’ll cast me in one of his weird movies and then Scorsese will see that movie and cast me in one of his movies and soon I’ll be working with [Robert] DeNiro!
When we finally finished the movie Gary had a screening of it in the seediest theater in L.A.. I decided to take my wife at the time and her British diplomat father to impress him. To impress a diplomat I took him to a screening of the worst movie ever! It was in that same area of L.A. where Eddie Murphy picked up that tranny prostitute. We are driving up to the theater and trannies are everywhere. Huge black trannies. And I’m walking in with a diplomat. It was all bottom of the food chain people inside, too. I mean, we get inside and you see the twins, more trannies, some dude who looked like he had been fucked up on crystal meth for a month, some women with horrible skin and nasty bare midriff guts showing. It was insane. Gary was loving it, though. During the movie my wife said, “I can’t believe we brought the diplomat to this. Let’s leave.” And I said, “No, it’s my part!” Then next there’s a girl showering and rubbing soap on her tits forever for no reason! [The diplomat’s] face never moved even a muscle the entire movie. I gained a lot of respect for him that night. When it was finally over, the only response he had was, “It was very in-ter-est-ing.” He dragged it out and turned it into like four syllables. That was all he had to say.
Did you keep in touch with anyone involved with the film? G.J. Levinson or Stuart Wall?
No. I tried to get in touch with Gary for like two years, but I couldn’t find him. Nothing. I couldn’t even find a number or anything. I really wanted to talk to him and maybe get a copy of the movie so I could see it again. Then I heard he died, which is very sad. I mean, he made this movie, it’s like psycho sexual sleaziness, but you can’t look away.
Do you know anything about the release of the film? Did you get a copy of the movie? Did you ever see it in any video stores?
We were promised a copy, but we never got one. Gary kept saying, “I’ll get you a copy” and he never did. I kept calling and calling and soon his number was disconnected. It did play in a theater, actually, more like a big space, five movies played, each one worse than the next. Hellroller was of course the worst and played last. It was like a sleazy movie fest. I did see it in a video store at one point, a store with a huge selection, in a bin, but that was a long time ago, never more recently.
It’s quite a rare VHS actually. I’ve seen copies sell for over $60. What do you think about that?
Yeah, I saw that! That’s crazy. It’s so weird and surreal to know it has some crazy value. It’s the most bizarre thing that’s ever happened to me, well, in my professional career at least.
Were you interested in horror when you started out?
Yeah, I have a love of horror and B-movies. They used to crank them out at the drive-ins and I’d watch them. All those Bride of Frankenstein-type movies I love. You could almost say Hellroller was an experimental film, though, because of just how crazy and surreal it is.
I see you worked on a few horror/cult soundtracks like Once Bitten, Savage Streets, and Voyage of the Rock Aliens. What’d you do on those movies exactly and how did you get involved?
I was doing voice stuff on those and working on voice stuff for the soundtracks, but not much to do with the productions.
What did you do after Hellroller?
I did a pilot for Eddie Murphy, originally called Bust the Move, then changed to Move the Crowd. It was like a black Saturday Night Live. But that was around the same time the L.A. race riots broke out so NBC got scared and didn’t make it. But that launched me into the black sitcoms like Sister, Sister. You remember that one? I’d play the dick white guy. It all culminated with Fresh Prince. After that I sold a few scripts but they never got made, which was very frustrating. I mean, I got paid pretty well, but I wanted to see the movies get made. I was sick of the bit parts, too, so I decided to write a book. I was the tiny cog in a machine I thought was entirely corrupt so I stopped acting to write.
That book I wrote landed in the lap of an agent in New York City and she loved it, she actually eventually became my wife. I told her about myself and she was the one who got me to write a book about my life, which was called Chicken [:Self-Portrait of a Young Man for Rent]. It told of me when I was a male hustler, servicing old rich ladies in the nights and going to an all-nun-taught school in the day. The rights to make that book into a show were tossed around to HBO and Showtime, but now the head writer for the show Dexter has written the screenplay for it, he just finished, and that will hopefully go into production next year. I’ve written thirteen novels since then. I’m writing a novel right now, a ghost story about a boy who is haunted in boarding school. It’s half modern day, and half takes place during the time of the Shakers. The Shakers was a religion of people who didn’t believe in sex. It’s 80% done.
The slumber party slasher sub-sub-genre may be my favorite ever. You get the unrealistic, albeit amazing, situation where a bunch of at least slightly attractive females spend the night together getting naked, having pillow fights, and getting picked off one by one. What’s not to love? Some would say The Last Slumber Party is what’s not to love about the genre, but for me this is one of the most underrated so-bad-it’s-good movies of all time.
A mental patient armed with the weakest weapon I can think of, a scalpel, escapes from the hospital and no one really seems to care. There’s even a conversation between the nurse and the doctor (who is the main girl’s father) before he escapes where the nurse says the patient would kill him if they cut out his brain and he says, “That’s exactly why we have to do it.” After he threatens murder no precautions are taken and he literally walks right out the front door.
Coincidentally the day he escapes is the last day of school and it’s time to get wild! Introducing our leading skanks: There’s the prude, who is of course the hottest of the bunch and the one least likely to strip, and then there’s her hideous and slutty friends. They attempt to pass off as high school students but no one is buying that for a second. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the guys in the movie look like they range from the ages 25 to 39 and they are the biggest bros in the world. All they do is make fun of a nerd in school by calling him “Science” and try to get these girls into bed. As if you needed any further proof that they were worthless bros, at one point, as one of them is climbing through the girl’s bedroom window, he says he can’t fit because his dick is too big!
“Yeah, dude, she’s not wearing a bra, bro!”
The plot centers around a slumber party where the girls cock tease the guys while the one’s mom sleeps upstairs. The dad is away from home just chilling at the hospital. Instead of worrying about the killer that’s on the loose, all he worries about is bringing home orange juice for his bitchy wife. Why the hell does she want orange juice that bad? Who seriously needs to drink orange juice in the middle of the night and can’t wait till the morning? Psycho.
One by one the girls will go have sex with the bros, but decide to take a shower beforehand and get killed. It happens at least twice, if not three times. One of the most bizarre scenes/fake-outs in the history of cinema features “Science” climbing through the window out of nowhere looking like the actual killer and killing one of the bros with a scalpel. In the background the actual killer pops up from behind the bed like “What the fuck?!” That really pisses him off and he runs and massacres Bill Nye the Science Guy.
“ARE YOU FUCKING SERIOUS?!”
The editing in that scene is so confusing and terrible words cannot do it justice. Just watch it for yourself:
Later, one of the other bros is killed and wrapped up in a blanket. His girlfriend begins to look and can’t find him so she says, “He took the bed spread. I think he must have gone to sleep outside.” Nice fucking try. Are you serious? How could someone write that and be like, “Yep, that’s good.” It’s like they didn’t even try. Why would he be sleeping outside for no reason?!
The movie continues to remain enjoyable because of some really funny and cheesy lines like, ” Let’s go wrestle up some ‘menfolk’. I’m going to the kitchen to munch out!” and “Like yeah. Like wow, man. Mellow out!” There’s also an insane amount of ridiculous and over-the-top homophobia from the girls in the movie. It’s pretty funny, actually. Not because I support that, but because it feels so out of place and strange. Randomly one of the girls will be like, “Where’d that faggot go?” And each one says “homo” and “queer” about 20 times. The director was a closet homosexual, obviously. Keeping with the hilariously over-the-top sexism, one of the girls asks to be excused and one of the bros replies, “No! Just because you live here doesn’t mean you can just do whatever you want around this place.” Completely out of nowhere he puts her in her place!
The movie became so terrible during some parts, though, that Dabeedo and I began arguing about which of the hideous girls had bigger boobs. It was a new low for VHShitfest. Picture Tim drooling, passed out on the couch with his body hanging half off and a Coke spilling onto my couch, and me screaming, “No, the rat face girl has bigger tits!” It was just pitiful.
Pretty soon each one of the characters has been killed except for the main girl and her father (who still isn’t home with that orange juice!). The main girl and the killer end up battling and somehow both wind up passed out on the ground. You don’t know who is dead and who isn’t. Then the screen goes black.
I immediately started talking about how little sense the ending of this movie made, but before I could finish they somehow made it even more confusing. It cuts back from black and first, you see the dad killed at the hospital in an elevator. Then, he is magically floating face down in the family swimming pool. His daughter awakens and dives in to try to save him, but guess who’s in the water? Crazy eyes! He cuts her throat, but then she wakes up in her bed and it was all a dream! THEN, on the radio you hear “the killer is loose,” which for some reason triggers her to walk way outside of her house and look around as the killer hilariously creeps right inside the door. She returns and gets her throat cut again. So basically, none of the movie happened except the last two minutes, which had already happened two minutes before that! UGGGHHHHHH. As infuriating as this ending is, it’s soooo insane that you just have to laugh. I mean, what in the fuck was the writer thinking? A dream? Kill me.
The technical aspects of the movie are pure shit. During the whole movie I couldn’t figure out if it was shot on 8mm, 16mm, video, or a fucking Game Boy Camera! The cinematographer must have been really nervous around all these “good-looking” babes, too, because the camera never can stay steady and goes in and out of focus constantly. You know that dream effect most TV shows and movies use? Well, I thought that was happening every other scene!
I do need to note that the killer should have gotten an award for eye performance. He has the most expressive and over-the-top eyes I’ve ever seen. With each frame he’s on the screen you get a sense of sheer terror because of his beady eyes alone.
As the box so proudly displays, the soundtrack is done by the 80s hair metal band Firstryke (of Last Slumber Party fame). The metal flows like blood in this movie, and the only thing sicker than the riffs is the sadistic mental patient who massacres these women!
^Could anything be more metal?
I was surprised to see the movie was directed by Stephen Tyler of Aerosmith, too. It seems unlike an insanely famous rock star to stoop so low. I was praying the entire time that “Sweet Emotion” would kick in and I’d wake up from my nightmare revealing Dazed and Confused was just starting. I’m never that lucky…
No matter how bad the movie technically is, it doesn’t mean I didn’t have a blast watching it. I’d even go as far as to say this deserves much more attention and appreciation then it gets. Most people write it off like it’s one of the worst movies ever made or something. If you think that’s even remotely true then you haven’t seen enough movies. This is fun 80s cheese that belongs in anyone’s horror collection.
The VHS was released through United Home Entertainment in a straight-to-video release to capitalize on their previous popular horror titles like Blood Cult and The Ripper. It’s a a cool tape to have, but not a very rare one. You can also get this movie on DVD in a double feature with Terror at Tenkiller, but trust me, with trash like this, VHS is the way to go (like always).
When the slasher genre is brought up, a title that is either too well-regarded or criminally forgotten is always Nightmare. Some people look at it as a deep and realistic psychological thriller, while others don’t look at it at all. Perhaps the title may be too simple for its own good. Try to do a search for this one on Ebay, I dare you. It’s also got a bit of a troubled past mainly having to do with master effects man, Tom Savini and the Brits. Tom Savini threatened to sue because they wrongly credited him as Effects Director, when really he was only a consultant. You try to pull a fast one of The Savini? Nice try. It also became known as a video nasty in the UK and was banned, but that was mostly a result of creative marketing (involving barf bags and the like) and not so much the film itself. Despite all these things, the film itself is mostly hit or miss. It feels almost like a poor-man’s Maniac, falling somewhere between masterpiece and deservedly left off the “great slashers” list.
The movie opens ala the scene in The Godfather, but instead of a horse’s head, you get a female’s, along with all her other body parts. The decapitated head winks, causing our lead character to scream his ass off, of course revealing he’s dreaming and actually is in a mental institution. What a surprise. Weird how frequently that seems to happen in film. Somehow the idiotic doctors allow the patient to escape. I don’t even remember how he got out; All I remember is how easy it was for him. He basically opened the front door and walked right out into the streets. First thing you do after you escape an insane asylum? Roam the streets of New York City until you find a peep show! I guess being locked up that long really makes you want to see some boobies.
Sad thing about our lead character is that boobies cause him to go berserk, froth at the mouth, and kill! He slits the peep show skank’s throat. Her boobs reminded him of when he was just a wee 8-year-old butler (complete with a tiny bow-tie and suit) and he witnessed his father having crazy sex. Nothing pisses this young butler off more than sex! Slowly, but surely, more of this flashback is revealed and you see that the reason he was in an institution all those years was because he grabbed an axe and killed his father and his father’s sex slave.
You want to know what really pisses me off in this movie and in most nightmare-related horror movies? When all that keeps happening is the character dreams for a minute or two then wakes up screaming. In Nightmare this happens about 20 times in the first half hour. There’s nothing less satisfying than watching something happening and it being interrupted by a sweaty screaming Peter Lorre-looking mother fucker.
(Okay, well maybe he doesn’t look like him so much in this picture, but trust me!)
He begins a random killing spree until he is inexplicably drawn to this family and their babysitter. The young kid in the family, C.J., is a nonstop joker scumbag who won’t stop giving his mom and babysitter a hard time. He sees Peter Lorre stalking their house (obviously) and then happens to stumble home covered in blood saying the guy stabbed him. Everyone freaks out (though no one thinks to call 911) only to reveal the kid was faking it the whole time. Wow, hilarious!
No one at the hospital seems too concerned about this missing patient except one crazy old fool. One of the doctor’s even says, “He’s not that dangerous.” If by “not that dangerous” you mean he’s going to kill an entire family and already killed a bunch of other random people, then you’re right! For some reason Lorre is in love with this family. It’s not clear if he has some relation to them or what, but he stalks the shit out of them all the same. C.J., being the completely annoying jokester that he is, causes about twenty fake-out scares, including an obligatory shower scene fake-out, the above-mentioned fake death, a mask fake-out, an entire huge masked-dummy fake-out, among others.
The next day, Lorre pays the babysitter a visit with a pickaxe to the head while the mom is away. The kids are obviously doomed and now the killer has added a badass mask to the equation. He begins to look for the kids and finds them locked away in their room cowering in fear. As Lorre is cutting through the door, C.J., out of nowhere, has a pistol. I literally have no idea where he got this gun from. Maybe I blinked when he got it, but man this kid can shoot. He’s a fucking marksman. He shoots him right in the gut like five times through a tiny hole in the door. Then when he doesn’t die shoots him a couple more times. And after you thought this unstoppable beast was finished, he gets back up and wants some more lead. C.J. runs and grabs a shotgun, which he somehow handles with ease (need I remind you he’s like 8 years old, max?), and blows him away. The movie ends with the mom screaming, “That’s my husband!” Umm, what in the ungodly fuck are you talking about, lady? Are you insane? I have no idea why that was included and just like the majority of the movie, it’s entirely implausible and stupid. Despite that, though, it’s an enjoyable and gritty flick with some good Savini-influenced effects. At the end you see the full, uncut flashback sequence and you get some great slut beheading and some son-to-father knife-to-the-skull action that makes all those 30-second long dream sequences worth it.
Nightmare is one of the most sought after films in any release form. A mint Continental big box of this would command some pretty high dollars in auction, and the Planet Video release is always in high demand, too. I haven’t witnessed any release of this film sell for under $50 in a long time. With each different release you never know what cut of the film you’ll get, too. Some versions that are said to be uncut have more gore added in, but take away some dialogue, and vice versa. It’s highly debatable which version is best and there is still no 100% definitive release. Just the other day I heard rumor of a foreign release that contains more footage than any other version out there. It’s crazy that someone doesn’t do their research, find all the different footage, and release a completely uncut DVD version. Many people would cream themselves for a nice special feature-packed, uncut DVD release. Our Continental release is sadly cut, but works as a placeholder until I can snag one that’s not cut. If you ever come across this in any form definitely pick it up. Not only is it a pretty enjoyable movie for what it is, but it also has some stunning cover art that would look beautiful on any collector’s shelf.
The whole movie is uploaded to YouTube!