Director: John Fasano
Cast: John Martin, Ken Swofford, Julie Adams, Carla Ferrigno, Sal Viviano, Carmine Appice
Screenplay: Cindy Cirile
90 mins. Rated R.
There were a string of rock-n-roll horror films in the 80s to combat all the Satanic Panic of the era, though none of them reached the heights of the horror greats. Some of them, like Trick or Treat, are really difficult to hunt down. Others, like Black Roses, exist under the surface, passed around the horror community like a hidden secret.
Mill Basin has become the destination for the first concert appearance of the new heavy metal band Black Roses, and the local teenage demographic has turned out. The adults are not fans of the band but are quickly won over, and the show is so popular, the Black Roses play for several more nights. What the town’s adults are not aware of is that the band actually IS evil, corrupting the souls of the Mill Basin’s youth population. The only adult with an inkling that something isn’t right is high school teacher Matthew Moorhouse (John Martin, The Underneath, Night Game), but can he convince the rest of the town in time to save the children?
Shot in Hamilton, Ontario (Canada for tax deals), Black Roses has largely been forgotten by mainstream horror fans, but I’ve had this one suggested to me for a number of years. Having finally seen it, I can state that this flick is great. It’s the perfect amount of fun and fear, excitement and creature effects. There’s a level of cheese that I have to assume was intentional, as director John Fasano (Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare, The Jitters) has done similar films before, and the fun latched onto me.
The creature effects here are great, especially the band’s transformation. It’s like GWAR before GWAR, and the way that they win over the townspeople with their soft romantic rock before going full demon as soon as the adults are gone. From the opening to the end, every scene with the Black Roses works, especially the facade. Sal Viviano (Spikes of Bensonhurst) is perfectly cast as Damian, the lead singer, and he convinced me that he was really must’ve had experience in a heavy metal band. That appreciation extends to the music written for the film, which I found to be quite catching and engaging. I could swear that it had been licensed instead of written directly for the film, but I’ve found no record of any license agreement.
There are a few odd choices, like the weird attraction implied between Moorhouse and one of his students (it’s never stated but there’s an odd amount of hinting), and also the late-in-the-game inclusion of the mayor’s daughter, Priscilla (Carla Ferrigno, The Adventures of Hercules, The Death of the Incredible Hulk) as a love interest for Moorhouse and then instantly making her unlikable. I was also confused about a few scenes of female nudity that were unnecessary and nonsensical. One sequences features a woman removing her top and caressing her breasts for what seems like several minutes, nonstop, before putting her top back on, and the scene ends. I understand that most nudity in horror is unnecessary, but this was just egregious and confusing.
Black Roses is a bit silly but a whole lot of entertainment. I was endlessly enjoying the entirety of this horror rock show, flaws and all. It might just be my favorite of the rock-n-roll horror films from that time period, and if you’ve missed this gem, check it out now.
-Kyle A. Goethe