Slaughterhouse Rock is one of many bizarre horror flicks that tried so hard to be different after the onslaught of copycat slashers in the first part of the 80s. As a result, it suffered the same fate; it’s a typical late 80s meandering, sloppy mess that paved the way for so many shitty 90s horror flix. Back when I was working at the video store, I couldn’t get into Slaughterhouse Rock when it first came to VHS. But now, I can totally appreciate its 80s awesomeness and see how much potential it had.
This bizarre story starts out with some everyday dude having serious dreams and hallucinations about being chained up and tortured by a hideous demon thing. Very promising and creepy. We soon learn a rock band was slaughtered at Alcatraz, and then this paranormal investigative chick shows up and tells the lead dude he’s the chosen one and needs to go face the killer/monster at Alcatraz. Something like that. I didn’t really understand what the fuck was going on, but that’s basically it.
So he, she, and all his adorable friends and their girls head to Alcatraz. The guys are so 80s cute and most of them show off their furry chests. Anyway, once they get to Alcatraz, the leading man meets the dead singer from the band—none other than Toni Basil. She doesn’t perform “Mickey,” but she does a cool shadow dance over him to release his spirit from his body so it can help free the souls of all the dead in Alcatraz that are giving the monster his energy…or something like that.
Really, the BEST part is that the lead dude’s hot brother, who comes on the trip, becomes possessed and turns into a freaky demon, much like those in the Demons and Night of the Demons movies. Awesome.
But instead of making it an “infectious” demonic possession like in those movies, with everyone turning hideous, the brother demon is the sole threat to the others. And by the way, the other guys and girls are all very likeable characters, which gives the movie some charm. But the most charm comes from Toni Basil, whose ghostly presence adds a campy element that should have been exploited but comes in late in the film with jarring results.
While the movie has some grisly gore and a creepy monster during the early hallucination scenes, the demon and new wave horror angle should totally have been amped up to truly make this the feature length MTV video it seemed to be going for. I mean, the dang thing is called Slaughterhouse Rock, features a soundtrack of all Devo songs, and has Toni Basil as a dancing spirit in constantly changing, flamboyant new wave outfits that would have made Cyndi Lauper jealous! Which is why I think the movie should have been called Slaughterhouse New Wave.
The problem is, Slaughterhouse Rock came too late in terms of its MTV new wave appeal. It missed the height of Devo and Toni Basil’s careers by about 6 years. Sure, they had only one top 10 hit each, but they each had loads of perfect new wave songs. Aside from “Whip It,” Devo had plenty of alternative radio hits and performed one of my favorites, “That’s Good,” on Square Pegs. And Toni’s second album was amazing dance stuff created by several partners of Giorgio Moroder, who was producing stuff like Electric Dreams, Never Ending Story, and Flashdance at the time. Toni’s second album sounds just like his stuff. I believe Giorgio had some input into the record even though he’s not officially credited (but he is thanked. Curious).
Devo even collaborated on several songs with Toni on her first album, and Toni sings lead vocal on the song “The Only One,” which appears in Slaughterhouse Rock.
It’s only available on the Devo compilation “Recombo DNA.” The song “Part of You” has only appeared on the Infinite Zero reissue of Devo’s album “Oh No! It’s Devo,” and the song “Man Turned Inside Out” is from their album “Total Devo.” I think the track “Set Me Free” is instrumental score, perhaps the opening credits music? I’m not sure.
Slaughterhouse Rock could have been a reboot of Toni’s and Devo’s “one hit wonder” careers if it had been a bigger (and better) movie, but that sure wasn’t the case. However, it does automatically get total cult 80s horror movie status due to their inclusion. Which is why it needs a fricking official release on DVD. And they better get the damn rights to the Devo songs and not replace them with generic faux-wave songs like they do with so many 80s movies and TV shows.