Black Roses (1988)

The famous hearings of the Parents' Music Resource Center, led by Tipper Gore, happened in 1985.  While we got the Tipper Sticker, the PMRC was pretty much done for afterward, although that didn't keep various states and municipalities from continuing to try to ban albums they didn't like from being sold at stores.  This was a time when heavy metal and hip-hop was still considered dangerous by many parents and older people.

This was definitely an influence on Black Roses, a 1988 film by John Fasano that followed his low-budget Rock 'n' Roll Nightmare.  This time around, with screenwriter Cindy Cirile, he puts forth the idea that, like a stopped clock, someone may be right every now and then.  In this case it's a band of actual demons called Black Roses that have found a use for heavy metal music. 

Black Roses are a popular band, but they have never performed outside the studio.  They choose the small town of Mill Basin in which to begin their tour.  Many parents object, finding the lyrics to be antisocial, and are afraid of the influence they may have on their children.  Mayor Farnsworth (Ken Swofford) is less concerned, thinking that the concerts will finally give the kids something to do, while English teacher Matthew Moorhouse (John Martin) encourages keeping an open mind.  As for the kids, our main two are Johnny (Frank Dietz), who is champing at the bit to leave the town, and Julie (Karen Planden), a straight-A student that Johnny has a crush on.

Things begin innocent enough but, after the first of four concerts, many of the kids begin to act out with vandalism and violence.  Soon everyone at the school appears to want to do nothing but go to the concerts.  Hypnotized by the lead singer Damian (Sal Viviano), the teenagers begin to commit greater acts of violence as well as turn into demons themselves.  Moorhouse takes it upon himself to stop Damian's reign of terror, but for much of the town it is already too late.

This has some interesting special effects and makeup.  I would not say great, but Fasano and crew do what they can, although some scenes that are thrown in - like kids turning to skeletons at the concert - don't seem to fit anywhere with the plot.  One of the more memorable scenes is a boy's dad, played by Vincent Pastore in his first film role, getting pulled into a speaker as the band's album plays.  Damian's true form at the end is obviously a rubber suit, but at least it's a good looking one. 

Unlike many horror movies from the 1980s that feature rock bands the music in Black Roses is pretty good.  That is because instead of getting some no-name band together Fasano had his actors mime to the songs of good metal bands like Lizzy Borden.  There is also Carmine Appice as Black Roses drummer Vinny Apache, and he cowrote and played with actual musicians on much of the music as well.  I expected to be wincing throughout, but it helps get through the slow parts of the movie. 

While this is one of the better rock horror films of the time it is still quite silly and is best approached as a dark comedy rather than a straight horror.  Much of it is intentional, although when Damian starts talking to the kids in a deep, scary voice I couldn't help but laugh because of how ridiculous it was.  The band outfits are also laughable as Damian's costume design seems to be taken from a Man-o-War album.  Still, this movie is fun and sometimes shocking at the same time and is one of the few to do something different with this concept. 

Black Roses (1988)
Time: 90 minutes
Starring: John Martin, Ken Swofford, Frank Dietz, Karen Planden, Sal Viviano
Director: John Fasano 



  1. A demon named Damian? How original! I hope the effects are better than the goofy rubber puppets of Rock n Roll Nightmare and no one is wearing spiky metal underpants.


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