There are, essentially, two kinds of horror movie fans. The first searches for the cathartic release of a good scare; for this type, atmosphere, pacing and story are vital to the successful fright film.
Certainly many fans of this type would argue that horror cinema is uniquely positioned to slay society’s most sacred cows by displaying the darker aspects of the human condition under the guise of thrills and chills. Filmmakers like David Cronenberg, Roman Polanski, George Romero and even Wes Craven have exploited the genre to get at deeper, less palatable social issues. Films like Rosemary’s Baby and Videodrome achieve high marks because they strive for something more than just a good scare.
The second type of horror movie fan, the gorehound, seeks to be grossed out. Story, character development and cinematic tone are irrelevant. Exploding heads, gushing arteries and melted eyeballs are the trademark attributes of this subgenre. Typically Z-Grade productions, these movies occasionally find a certain level of virtuosity. Masterfully balancing satire with violence, the early films of Peter Jackson (Dead Alive and Bad Taste) and aspects of Cronenberg’s and Romero’s work achieve something more than the over-the-top bloodshed endemic to these productions.
Unfortunately, few splatter films emulate these pictures and instead opt to follow in the footsteps of Troma Studios (The Toxic Avenger, Surf Nazis Must Die). Case in point: Greg Parker’s Lord of The Dead.
Boasting a budget in the four figures — the low four figures — the film plays like a late-night cable-access production, complete with actors struggling to remember their lines, cheap puppets, jarring edits and a Casio keyboard sound track. The gore is cheap and plentiful, the jokes are unabashedly adolescent and the fog machine puts in overtime.
The story, which is really beside the point, concerns Steve, an overweight, semi-retarded dweeb who stumbles upon a demonic book, unleashes evil forces and turns into a turkey-headed demon from hell. Seeking revenge on all those who did him wrong, Demon Steve steals the souls of his victims by melting them into bloody slag. Non sequitur plot twists abound, and it isn’t long before he attacks the cast and crew of a vampire lesbian porno shoot (gotta get some malnourished boobies in there somehow).
If you’re a fan of the rock band (and I use that term lightly) GWAR, then Lord of the Dead just might be your idea of Citizen Kane. For everyone else it’ll depend on how many bottles of Robitussin you’ve downed before the show.
Showing at the Roseville Theatre (28325 Utica, Roseville); 586-445-7810.
Jeff Meyers writes about film for MetroTimes. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.