Welcome to my column dedicated to the appreciation of physical media supplements called: Feature Presentations. The goal of this column is not to say whether a film is good or bad and worth picking up or not—I would like to highlight the discs that go the extra mile and provide film fans with enough tasty tidbits to satisfy even the hungriest of cinephiles. With all that out of the way, today’s article will focus on Vinegar Syndrome‘s double-feature release of Hard Rock Zombies and Slaughterhouse Rock.
A little background about me and my collection, I have mentioned in past articles that I came upon Vinegar Syndrome late (by physical media collector standards). By that, I decided to jump head-first into the company with their year-long subscriptions. What does this mean? Each month, Vinegar Syndrome releases new titles on disc, and, being a subscriber, I get those releases delivered every month, whether they pique my interest or not. Is this yearly subscription to Vinegar Syndrome a haven for all things physical media? Yes, but the caveat comes with the aforementioned, “or not.”
This leads me to the one-two punch that makes up this article’s subjects, Hard Rock Zombies and Slaughterhouse Rock. As a film fan who grew up in the ’80s, I recall seeing both films in my local video store. I know this is blasphemy, but I hadn’t seen either until this double-feature landed on my doorstep. With titles like Hard Rock Zombies and Slaughterhouse Rock, I was sure there was a-rockin’ good time ahead of me. There was no way this double-feature could go oh-for-two, right? Let’s dive briefly into both films.
Before we get into the discs, I need to talk about the packaging. As Vinegar Syndrome has bundled these films together, you get one Blu-ray case with one exterior slipcover and two discs, one for each film. The slipcase is dual-sided, with each side getting artwork dedicated to that particular movie. The Blu-ray case comes with reversible artwork similar to the slipcase. Even though you get one Blu-ray case, Vinegar Syndrome offers multiple options on how to present the package.
Hard Rock Zombies tells the tale of a rock band killed by locals, only to be resurrected and seek vengeance on those who wronged them. That’s the gist of the plot, which sounds basic, but entertaining—unfortunately, this film was an arduous chore to complete. The acting, editing, effects, well; the entire production did the film no favors. The film was a chore, and the end credits could not come fast enough.
Rounding out the double-feature is another dose of ’80s horror rock with Slaughterhouse Rock. Borrowing from A Nightmare on Elm Street, our main character is haunted in his dreams by a killer. Teaming up with his friends, they make their way to Alcatraz (don’t ask) to exercise the hauntings. For me, Slaughterhouse Rock worked much better than Hard Rock Zombies. The film offered more ideas, better production, and Toni Basil—though being better than Hard Rock Zombies is a low bar to clear.
With the summaries out of the way, let’s get into the bonus features on each disc.
Kicking off the features for Hard Rock Zombies, Vinegar Syndrome crafted a making-of documentary entitled “Never Say Die.” Gathering together EJ Curse, Sam Mann, Geno Andrews, Mick McMains, Ted Wells, Richard Vidan, and David O’Hara, the actors who made Hard Rock Zombies the cult film it is; look back on the production of how the film came to be. I wasn’t a fan of the feature film, but this extended featurette is a welcome addition to the disc. Each actor looks back on how they became part of the production, stories during the filming, and feelings about the final product. “Never Say Die” is an entertaining watch due to the honesty of all participants. Everyone knows the type of movie they made, and there’s no sugar coating. At the same time, there are occasional sprinkles of love and affection to offset some of the saltier tales. “Never Say Die” is an excellent making-of!
Next, we have an interview with special effects artists Chris Biggs and Everett Burrell entitled “Popcorn Farts and Low Budget Cheese.” This short retrospective finds Biggs and Burrell reminiscing about how they came up in Hollywood and their time with Hard Rock Zombies. Both men provide brief stories about their time on set—best accentuated when discussing the underappreciated John Carl Buechler.
We next have an interview titled “From Bit Player to Band Leader” with actress Susette Boggs. This interview focuses on how Susette Boggs made the most of her brief screen time on Hard Rock Zombies. Boggs details how she met with Paul Sabu, the music producer on the film. From the time on set and meeting with Sabu, Boggs was able to procure a record deal for her and her band, Precious Metal. “From Bit Player to Band Leader” is an interview that doesn’t add much from a filmmaking perspective, but the story of how Boggs spun her time on the film into a record contract is a good, one-time listen.
Our last interview is titled “The Bible of Holy Moses,” with author Lucy Hall. Lucy Hall is a fanatic of Hard Rock Zombies and spends the entire interview explaining why. “The Bible of Holy Moses” is the type of bonus feature I do not enjoy. There is nothing to gain from this interview; feel free to skip it.
Moving on to Slaughterhouse Rock, Vinegar Syndrome has compiled a handful of interviews; the first, titled “Low-Key Horror,” is a sit-down with cinematographer Nicholas Josef Von Sternberg. Von Sternberg describes his time on set, cinematography effects used in the film, and additional production details. It’s a decent, meat-and-potatoes interview that might get a rise out of hopeful cinematographers, but those looking for juicy behind-the-scenes stories will not find it here.
The following interview, “The Girl That Lives,” is a chat with actress Tammy Hyler. This interview played off as a warm reminisce as Hyler takes the listeners through her early career, time on Slaughterhouse Rock, and where her career has led to in life. Hyler elevates “The Girl That Lives” from a typical interview into a comforting chat about the life and times of one of horror’s many final girls. It’s not a groundbreaking sit-down, but it was an enjoyable listen and a welcome addition to the disc.
Next up, we have the interview, “Wearing the Right Clothes,” with actor Nicholas Celozzi. Similar to “The Girl That Lives,” Celozzi fondly looks back on the making of Slaughterhouse Rock with remembrances of the cast, the release, and how he feels about the film today. If I have one quibble: the interview with Celozzi is conducted in a restaurant with a camera that appears to be handheld. I’m not sure the reasoning; this is the only interview structured like this, but it was distracting to start.
The last interview on the disc, “Lunch Break With Claws,” features actor/makeup effects designer Al Fleming. As with the other interviews, Fleming speaks about his positive experience working on the film. Even though what he says leans positive, Fleming spoke about moments during production that were a challenge. These include the struggle of wearing monster makeup, the issues of shooting at night, and more. “Lunch Break With Claws” was my favorite interview on the disc; and the longest. It was a high note to send off the Slaughterhouse Rock disc.
Rounding out the disc is the film’s original theatrical trailer.
And there you have it! Two semi-connected films that Vinegar Syndrome has bundled into one package. Would I have bought this if I wasn’t a subscriber? Having watched both movies, I would not. Slaughterhouse Rock was the better of the two by far, but neither blew my socks off. I know there are plenty of fans for both films, and Vinegar Syndrome did Hard Rock Zombies and Slaughterhouse Rock justice with more features than each film deserves. I wish Vinegar Syndrome presented these films with individual cases and slipcovers. I enjoyed Slaughterhouse Rock enough that it might stay on my shelf, but I’ll never watch Hard Rock Zombies again. I would prefer the option to pass along one movie that didn’t strike my fancy while keeping the other. If you’re a fan of either film, the Vinegar Syndrome double-feature is the release you want on your shelf.