The Grand Guignol began in the Pigalle district in Paris France in 1897. The name Grand Guignol literally translated from The Theatre du Grand Guignol meant ‘Big puppet show,’ and was originally used as a form of social satire during the reign of Napolean III. The plays that would take place on the stage of the building of what was once a chapel were a new genre about the lowest rung of Parisian society: vagrants, prostitutes, street kids, criminals, and con men. They were a huge success; tales of the grotesque including insanity, murder, necrophilia, syphilis and many other unsavory topics. The only thing more grotesque than subject matter were the on stage effects. Hanging, scalping, surgery, stabbings, disembowelment…while commonplace in films now, was ground breaking at the time. The Grand Guignol continued on through 1962 at which point wars, crime and life itself had become so gruesome that the plays offered at the theatre could no longer compete. Without the existence of The Grand Guignol, the horror movie may not have happened as early as the silent era, and it definitely gave way to the over the top gore filled and ultra realistic horror that we watch today.
In the mean time, movies and music have come together in the horror genre to put the sound to the scare. In many instances with performances by a band or someone from a band in a starring or bit role, for instance “KISS meets the Phantom of the Park.” KISS, being such a phenomena that a major television station made a movie specifically to showcase them during prime time which has never happened before or since that movie. I remember as a child running my parents out of the living room so that I could watch the movie on the big television. It was pretty much the equivalent on a Sunday football game to me. It was one of the few times I got control of the television away from my parents. This movie was more of a sci-fi and definitely not a horror movie (well it was horrific to the band once they said to finished project).
The history of horror is long and twisted, but the very specific sub-genre of Rock or Metal Horror is a small but well rounded one. Even if some of the movies are absolute garbage, garbage is fun to watch when it’s cold out and you have a 12 pack in the fridge. I’m going to give you some examples of the good, the bad and the downright strange. My only criteria is that either a band plays in the movie or a member of a band stars in the movie.
Rock and Roll Nightmare
This gem stars Thor (Jon-Mikl Thor) The band Triton is recording in a barn when they start turning into demons, and wouldn’t you guess it? Thor ends up having to fight the devil himself. This is definitely a movie made in the 80’s. It reeks of the decade. It’s entirely up to you as to whether you can stand to lose that 83 minutes from your life. In a similar vein was also another horror film called “Black Roses” where a band starts turning the towns children into Heavy Metal demons! The soundtrack is a classic and apparently heavily sought after, but seldom found.
Terror on Tour
The Clowns (played by The Names) go on a deadly tour leaving corpses in their wake. People love to hate this film but it’s a blast! The band is good, the murders bloody and good ole’ rock -n- roll hedonism abounds in this little masterpiece. Ignore the websites that tell you it’s bad, IT’S GOOD (I’m trying my hand at subjective hypnosis).
Cradle of Fear
This movie is so long and drawn out it could actually be a mini series. Child killer in jail exacts revenge on those responsible for his incarceration through his son Dani Filth. It’s bloody to be sure but a bit confusing at times as the plot tends to wander. Basically it’s an over 2 hour opus to demonstrate the acting talents of the lead singer of Cradle of Filth. Just like their live shows it’s entertaining until you realize your butt fell asleep because it has gone on for so long and your corpse paint is causing you to develop teenage like acne.
This is one of those gloriously strange Japanese Films starring the band Guitar Wolf. The earth is invaded by aliens who turn people into zombies, and when that happens you call Guitar Wolf. It’s got violence, zombies, hermaphrodites and loud music. Do I really need to sell this one anymore?!
The Sore Losers
This movie is a strange one and hard to explain. Jack Oblivian and Mike Maker star with a guest appearance by Guitar Wolf. There are mostly naked women all over this film, along with murder and yes, zombies. If I thought trying to explain this would make any sense to you I would, but it would only confuse you. It confuses me and I’ve seen it multiple times! That being said, the fact that I have watched it voluntarily more than once is proof that it is an entertaining thing. Boobies, zombies, murder, aliens and so much more, this is a film for the seasoned seeker of weird movies.
Phantom of the Paradise
I can not gush enough about this movie, and I’m not the only one. Much like Star Wars and other films with crazed fans, this movie has its own convention every year. Paul Williams stars as Swan, a creepy Phil Spector type, who convinces a man to sell his soul in order to have him produce his music at his spectacular new venue called ‘The Paradise.’ This movie involves part Phantom of the Opera with Faust. The music is incredible (all written by Paul Willams), the costumes are a work of art, and the film itself is beautiful. It’s over the top, it’s witty, and it makes you want to watch it again. Over the years the cult status of this film just continues to grow, deservedly.
So there are some of the movies combining music with the gallows humor and theatrics of the Grand Guignol. There are several more, so go online and see if there is one with your favorite band, or find the movie that gave that band its name (Black Sabbath by Mario Bava). If you love horror and music there is a movie out there for you. Promise.
Janet E Hammer