Black Roses: Heavy Metal Puppets Of Horror From 1988!
by: Dr. Boogie

Heavy metal is the devil's music, we all know that. But what if it were the devil's music in a literal sense, and not just in the sense that it's so great it can't possibly have come from Jesus? What if listening to sweet guitar hooks and lyrics about smoking in the boys room turned you into a literal demon!? Or something demon-like, at the very least?

Black Roses, the 1988 heavy metal horror film, attempts to answer those questions. Mostly that last one.

Black Roses - A 1988 Heavy Metal Horror Film!

The titular band goes to some podunk town and plays a series of shows, each one corrupting the youth of the town a little more. At first, the effect is very subtle, such as getting a crazy-eyed blonde chick to defenestrate her guidance counselor. But after a few more treatments, all those 20-something Hollywood "teenagers" start to transform! It's less of a demonic transformation, and more of a weird puppet transformation.

Black Roses lures you in thinking it's going to be a horror movie about rock music, but it's really a heavy metal puppet show put on by the Devil. And in three important scenes we get to see just how far the Devil has shoved his infernal mitt up this movie's ass. So let's break these three scenes down, one by one, shall we?

Scene #1:
The Speaker Monster!

When one of the delinquents starts with the sass, it's nsturally up to dad to set him straight.

And wouldn't you know it, an Italian kid named Tony has Vincent Pastore playing his father. And what a class act, waiting not more than twenty seconds before calling his son a gay slur.

He sends Tony to help his mom with the dishes so he can relax and read the paper. Only problem is the stereo won't stop playing hair metal, no matter how many times he turns it off. When the speaker starts blaring backwards music, he gets up to investigate.

Boy, that song is a real earworm!

Seriously, though, a grown man is wrestling with a puppet on the floor. And losing.

That's some great tongue acting, Vincent. I really feel like you're trying to push that spider-worm thing off you and not just gently moving it around near your face.

Hey, gently. GENTLY!! Those puppets are expensive!

Obviously the speaker monster is a little too on the Sesame Street side of puppetry to be shown killing off the dad straightaway, so the director had to find some other way to dispatch him.

Not a perfect solution either, since they can't really depict him getting lifted off the ground and forced into the small speaker, but hey, they got rid of him all the same.

Fun fact: this was Pastore's first film appearance. Lucky for him, nothing prepares you for a role in a Scorsese film like old fashioned puppet wrangling and being murdered by a speaker.

Scene #2:
Julie's Transformation!

Late in the film, Mr. Moorhouse, the cool teacher/hero of the film, is approached by favored student Julie. Julie has gotten a pretty full dose of evil rock music by now and she intends to seduce Moorhouse. The two of them were already uncomfortably close prior to the Black Roses coming to town, so things probably would've gone that way even in the absence of a demonic band turning her to the dark side.

Even so, Moorhouse decides maybe things have gone too far as Julie starts unbuckling his belt, so he defuses the situation diplomatically:

And by that I mean he shouts, "Julie, NO!" and smacks her away. I mean he REALLY lets her have it. Like maybe Moorhouse has some other issues to resolve besides being too friendly with the student body.

He swoops in to apologize for giving her a taste of the hot five, but she is not taking it well.

He said he was sorry! Geez.

Wow, that's... horrifying?

You've seen an overweight man wrestle unconvincingly with a puppet, but what follows will make that scene seem full of weight and dignity by comparison.

Moorhouse reaches for a weapon to fend off the creature, and all he can find is a tennis racket. He swats it a few times. Luckily for him, the creature is so gangly that the weight of a two pound tennis racket actually slows it down.

After one swing, the creature gets a claw into the webbing and shreds it. Why would that matter when the much harder rim is still intact? I didn't have time to ask that question before he found another weapon:

As if challenging himself to find something less useful than an unstrung tennis racket, Moorhouse grabs a tennis ball and pops it into the creature's mouth. It wouldn't be accurate to say the creature spits out the tennis ball, but the puppet does manage to angle its mouth downwards and shake its head until the ball falls out. The chase is on again!

The creature chases him into the kitchen and knocks over a wooden stool that breaks instantly. I was convinced that Moorhouse wouldn't know what to do with anything more dangerous than a partially-unzipped couch cushion, but he figures out which end of the broken stool to stick in the creature.

He stabs the creature and it lets out a noise like a screeching cat inside an oil drum before dying. No big loss. I honestly don't think Julie would have been a particularly useful soldier in Satan's army.

Scene #3:
The Final Confrontation!

Right after dealing with demonic puppet Julie, Moorhouse realizes he needs to take down the Black Roses before they finish corrupting all of the kids in the town of Mill Basin.

His plan had three parts:

1. Buy a bunch of gasoline and road flares.
2. Burn down the school.
3. Save the kids from the Black Roses.

It looks like he's going to have a tough go at it...

But actually, he doesn't. He enters the auditorium when the Black Roses are playing and walks right up to the stage without being noticed by anyone. Anyone would be a little cocky at this point, so he starts pouring gas on the stage.

This finally gets the attention of the lead singer, Damian. He sics a couple of his goons on Moorhouse and tells him that the students belong to him now. "What the hell!?" Moorhouse asks. "Yes, hell." he responds.

You're probably wondering if anything could top the previous scene where the hero fought off a monster with stuff lying around his bachelor pad.

You tell me.

Yeah, that's pretty ridiculous, but can we get dumber? Is there any way we can turn any and all horror into pure cheese?

How about a battle between a man dressed like Marty McFly and a monster with a fanged loaf of bread for a head?

And hey, how about if Moorhouse's signature character trait is using harmless objects as weapons?

Now he's softly thumping the evil monster mastermind with a padded gong mallet.

Come on! We can still get more ridiculous!

Kicking the lumbering monster right in his Ken doll nethers? Genius. I suppose now we know that the Wolfman isn't the only monster who has nards. Now I'm completely out of the movie, but let's keep this hot streak going. Sure, the previously diabolical Damian is being humiliated by a middle aged man in front of his disciples, but what about Moorhouse's plan?

He savors the low blow and moves onto the next step:

Yeah, that'll teach her to... I don't know, stand in the way?

Time for the coup de grace. He's spilled a small amount of gasoline on the stage and he picked up a road flare. Time for a memorable one-liner:

"Show's over."

The band turning into monsters only got the crowd more excited, but a small fire starting on the stage completely kills the mood. They pour out of the auditorium screaming their heads off (pfft, and they call themselves metal fans?) while Moorhouse slinks out with that girl he threw on the floor. He does like to toss high school girls around, that guy.

Meanwhile, the Black Roses are consummate professionals that won't let a simple fire ruin their show.

I sure hope getting hit in the chest with a padded stick doesn't affect Damian's vocals!

Black Roses has a message for us. No, it's not "rock music is corrupting the youth." No, it's not "our heavy metal demon band couldn't even sell out a high school auditorium." And no, it's not even "Jim Henson rose from his grave and strangled our special effects team."

The message of Black Roses is this: It's easy to make a scary puppet, but it's hard to make a puppet scary.

That's why I'm proud to announce a Kickstarter campaign for my new project, The Marionette Massacre.

"The Marionette Massacre: NO STRINGS ATTACHED!!!"

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