People have been saying “punk is dead” since the early ’80′s, and seeing this movie you realize just how dead it can be. Not that I want to dwell on the angry old man soapbox for too long, but when I started listening to punk (around the time people first started saying it was dead, actually) part of the reason I liked it was the idea that punk was a low-fi, no-frills, REALLY LOUD “fuck you!” to the establishment.
In Punk Rock Holocaust, the movie shows just how dead punk is when a weapon appears and it burns in the logo of one of the corporate sponsors of the Vans Warped Tour into its victims (said sponsor, a certain energy drink, gets enough play on the dvd, so I won’t mention them here), the centerpiece of this amusing at times (and infuriating at others) stab at breeding a mutant love child from the films of Herschell Gordon Lewis and the early work of Penelope Spheeris, who documented the late 70′s/early 80′s LA punk world in “The Decline of Western Civilization”.
The director, Doug Sakmann, does deserve some credit for not simply aping Spheeris’ film (which itself owed a great deal to Lech Kowalski’s film about the Sex Pistols, DOA) and trying to wrap it up in a gory horror movie instead of a bunch of musicians yak-yak-yakkin’ about themselves. He does document quite a few performances from the Warped Tour, and you do get a taste of what the new punk scene is like in all its suburban-mall-kid glory.
But the horror movie part of it is so half-assed that I finally gave up on even trying to care about following the story (my interest in the later part of the film was saved, however, by a fun sequence that takes place in the headquarters of the sci-fi inspired band The Phenomenauts), but in my defense, I think I hung on longer than Sakmann and his co-writer, Nick Esposito, did.
The concept is that all kinds of gory murders keep happening on every stop of the Warped Tour. The bands, and the kids watching them, die at such an alarming rate that you wonder how the tour manages to continue at all (I mean, there were four deaths at Altamont, peanuts compared to the numbers that drop dead in this movie, and that concert remains in rock and roll infamy to this day). The manager of the tour, Kevin Lyman, is portrayed in an ominous light at first, but then at some point (being he was one of the executive producers, and all) he must have thought he was coming off as too negatively because the movie starts portraying him as just another one of the victims, too, who just wants to run his tour so the kids can have fun.
The gore is copious, and some of it is pretty well executed, in a Herschell Gordon Lewis style, with messy entrails, severed limbs, bloody bouts of poisoning, zombie attacks, electrocutions (more than one band gets it this way), severed vampire-like heads, and Lloyd Kaufman, everyone’s favorite sleazy producer, appearing as The Devil, which could have been funny if they bothered to give the devil anything besides long monologues to do.
The movie ultimately, however, comes across as too slapdash, and the elements of tour documentary and horror film do not mesh together to form a real movie. It made me feel like I’d turned into a square suburban dad after a while, because I couldn’t help thinking “turn this crap off”. Is a coherent, actually thought-over storyline and developed characters too much to ask for in a movie like this? Or am I looking for art in all the wrong places?
Or maybe I should just, like, get over it man, because punk is dead.
As bad as the movie is (and it is pretty bad), I have to say it has a very well-produced and fun dvd. It is loaded with extras (if you have access to DVD-ROM you can hear a commentary by the director as he proceeds to get drunker and drunker, and finally passes out, waking occasionally to look up at the film in stoned silence). A ton of “easter eggs” can be found by chapter-forwarding past any of the musical performance clips which include some gory outtakes. You can, if you wish, just watch the musical performances (some of the bands aren’t half bad).
I found some amusing stuff in the “trailers and other cool stuff” section of the dvd. “Live Freaky Die Freaky” (with some great claymation-style Manson family action) and “Cheese Theatre Sketch Comedy” (a motley bunch of college age sorts doing a not-bad riff on Mr. Show) were pretty fun.
As far as the movie goes, I can only ask “Whither art thou, Alex Cox?”
Rein sehen und abfeiern sagt der Punksender, das Radio eures Vertrauens!!!
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