2 out of 5
Directed by: John Fasano
This one had me going for a while – I mean, it has some great B-movie maneuvers right off the bat, with a nonsense opening, over-acting, a super-cool high school teacher, and oddly incongruously zealous camerawork – but at some point after I noted similarities to Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare, and that Black Roses shares its director, John Fasano, the movie hits a dull patch of nothing-much-happening. Nothing-much-happening happened in R ‘n’ R also, but it’s a bit more goofy and cheap there, which lends it some charm. Fasano has more budget and skill by this point, and there’s arguably more of a “plot” – lead John Martin, the high school teacher, carries the majority of that on his hunky, cool-sweater-wearing shoulders – but that means the flick’s midsection is a battle of Troma-production instincts, Fasano’s own apparent obsession with demon puppets and 80s hair metal, and… something trying to tame itself into an actual movie. While that combo doesn’t sound horrible by any means, a lot of those elements cancel each other out such that attempted extremes are underwhelming, and some of the “this’ll sell some VHS” T&A is more embarrassing than anything.
I did like the cute setup, which has rock band Black Roses coming to a sleepy town, all the teens celebrating and all the parents protesting with the usual “rock music is destroying our kids” bit, only for the parents to turn out to be pretty reasonable about things… and for the rock music to actually turn the kids into monsters after all. Whoops!
Fasano regular Frank Dietz is there, in his 40s and playing a high schooler; a not-bad 80s metal soundtrack kicks around; eventually most of the ladies bare their breasts for no real reason; and some goofy but functional (and admittedly impressive, given the budget) horror puppets pop in here and there, substituting for gore, which is all off screen. Once things kick off – the last twenty minutes – it’s still pretty underwhelming, but then it succeeds in being charming. I imagine the pacing issues are better when you’re watching and laughing as a group, or perhaps watching for the 100th time when this somehow became your favorite movie, but on the first viewing, watching it on your lonesome, it only works in spurts.