|Dead End Drive-In: Now Showing - Blood Tracks|
|Written by Gaz E|
|Sunday, 27 May 2012 03:00|
Blood Tracks (1985 Smart Egg Pictures)
You might remember Swedish glam outfit Easy Action because their guitarist, and founder member, Kee Marcello replaced John Norum in Europe just as the band exploded onto the '80s music scene in a mess of perm and teeth with their breakout album, 'The Final Countdown'. You might remember Easy Action for their singer Zinny J. Zan who went on to front Shotgun Messiah. You might remember Easy Action for the notorious claims that Poison ripped off the chorus of their song 'We Go Rocking' for their own smash hit 'I Want Action'. You might, like 92% of the planet, not remember Easy Action.
I remember Easy Action....and not really for any of the thoroughly valid reasons listed above: no, I remember Easy Action because the trashy Swedish hair band starred in a trashy Swedish horror movie that checked every box in the 'So Bad It's Good' section of my teenage, big box VHS collection.
Stumbling across the tape recently - it hidden away under the stairs like one of the people in the 1991 Wes Craven flick - brought back a flood of memories: movie posters and video art just do it for me. Nostalgia kissed my eyes as I gazed upon the glorious artwork, the tagline - "The mountains echoed with the screams of terror" - reminding me of just how much I loved the whole adventure of video tape trading and hunting, in both the pre- and post-VRA times. So much so that ye olde video recorder was rediscovered, dusted and scarted up to a forty two inch television, this movie readied to finally be unleashed onto the biggest screen that I'd ever experienced it on. Then I pressed play.....
I had a soft spot for that debut Easy Action album from 1983. The band looked great and the tunes were, for their time, as good as a lot of the other lightweight sub-pop metal that bands ranked secondary to image. The fact that they were the first ever Swedish band to secure a worldwide record deal says it all really. But, in the harsh light of day (or a large LCD screen), no fan of the band, not even if they squinted their eyes, ears, morals and brain, could ever truly find Blood Tracks to be anything other than a low budget, bad horror movie. The film was known as Heavy Metal in a number of European countries, a German release perhaps nailing the ultimate title: Shocking Heavy Metal.
My Avatar tape starts abruptly - mobile phone footage of hostage decapitations have better editing - with a drunk bloke stumbling home through the night. His young children cower as he argues with his long-suffering wife, a skirmish resulting in a non-fatal knife wound to her neck, a knife that will soon be driven into her husband's back. A mystery man appears in the homestead, who he is and what he is doing there never explained, telling the troubled woman that she is a murderer in comically dubbed fashion; seriously, Blackie Lawless can lip synch better then these '80s Swedish cats.
The woman scurries off into the night, children hanging from every nervous limb, before the legend '1985' appears across a snow-covered screen, a tacked-on voiceover informing the lucky viewer that the family have hidden themselves away for forty years (!) to escape punishment for the murder - the wife would have done several years, tops, if she'd manned-up and told the truth to the authorities - "but now intruders are on their way..."
The movie's classy title card appears across the blizzard-white backdrop, animated blood starting to drip from it in time honoured awesome '80s movie fashion. Game on!
Never stating where the action is supposed to be taking place - America? Canada? - the popular hair metal band Solid Gold (yep, you've guessed it, those Easy Action boys) turn up with an entourage of 'sexy' female dancers, dim witted crew and obnoxious director in order to make a music video. Local authorities have cleared the road for the band, a road that would normally be snow-covered at that time of year, and leave these lycra-clad outsiders to it in their remote cabin base.
A quick location search - because, obviously, a director would take a band into the middle of a snow-caked mountain region without even seeing what was there - locates a disused factory which would make for some sweet music video cutaways. While Solid Gold mime their way through the movie's title track on what looks like a ski slope, a crew member takes off for the factory to get some shots. You will notice that I don't mention any character names, such is the total lack of care that the viewer is required to invest in these people. In fact, I care about them so little that I hope badly acted death scenes are coming quickly to them all. I will not be disappointed come the credits.
The disused factory is actually being used......by the hiding, murderous family - shock! The mother, while supposedly forty years older, looks okay, but her boys.....oh fuck. They look like they copulated with the cast of The Hills Have Eyes and decided upon the Chernobyl midwifery faction for the resulting births. Why they look like this, other than the filmmakers trying to recreate a stereotypical redneck/hillbilly/cannibal versus civilisation story, is never explained.
The playback of Solid Gold's future hit causes an avalanche - shocking heavy metal, etc. The band and crew retire to the cabin to party, listening to 'We Go Rocking' by Easy Action on the ghetto blaster, as it happens. The dubbing is worse than ever, the members of Easy Action barely trusted to mouth a single word. One of the band members disappears to a car outside the cabin - in broad daylight - to do the nasty with a slutty dancer, even though the other women are walking around the cabin naked and Zinny J. Zan (credited as Zin Zan here, fact fans) is fondling breasticles in full view of everyone else. The sudden shyness in the face of impending copulation makes (out) for my favourite scene of the movie: not only does the band member try to make an excuse when faced with imminent...err...easy action - "Wait a second, I catch cold easily!" - but another avalanche buries the car and, as the other four members of a 1980s Swedish glam band attempt to dig out their bandmate while wearing spandex and full stage gear, the worst jump-scare in the history of horror movies occurs. The slutty woman manages to force the car's window down and, in an attempt to recreate the timeless 'cat-jumps-out' horror flick jump-scare standard, a cute li'l fluffy rabbit appears at the window, hopping (well, being pushed) into the car in the least scary, most pathetic, ironically brilliant horror movie moment of all time. Fucking priceless.
Back in the cabin, the rabbit's whereabouts seemingly forgotten by these outsider heathens, video footage of the disused factory shows....wait for it....a face! Yes, it's the face of one of the mutant (although they aren't really mutant at all, are they?!) family, the little ginger one who looks like Jimmie Krankie would have looked if husband and wife team Janette and Ian Tough (aka The Krankies, duh!) really had an inbred offspring. Actually, I know people who have spent forty years in a factory and they look worse than these gnarly fuckers. I take it all back.
The avalanche has cut off the only access to the outside world so, as some of the band members indulge in soft focus obligatory sex scenes, one by one, the rest of the band and crew make their way to the factory to a) discover what is going on and b) get killed. The basic slaughter starts off very poorly with a bit of a wrestle here and there resulting in massive pools of blood and dead bodies for no real reason. It's not until Kee Marcello takes a trip to the factory that things pick up. Without even thinking that there might be danger on the (blood) tracks, Kee takes his whore-dancer friend into the factory and, jester that he is, slips in a pair of fake vampire teeth to tease her unmercifully. Karma, Kee old chap, is a bitch; a flash of ticked-off, scabby factory dweller later and Marcello's severed head is falling to the ground, his perfectly lacquered mullet soiled by stage blood and slut tears.
The killings get a little better, a burning or two here, an axe in the forehead there, but this is a particularly tame horror flick. I hear that an unrated DVD version of the film now exists, but no extra gore could save this movie.
I can't remember if I fell asleep or the film's climax is so forgettable, either way, the authorities go in search of the film crew and band, there is some gunfire, and the movie ends as abruptly as it began, with Easy Action's power ballad, 'In The Middle Of Nowhere' (which would appear on their 1986 album 'That Makes One') playing over the credits.
Bleary-eyed as I take the VHS tape out of the aged video recorder, placing it back into its pop culture big box tomb, I can't help but think that the whole movie was an excuse to mock those gentlemen who took to dressing like ladies in the name of glam rock. For a time I was a teenage one. The head mutant/son/family member looks just like a gnarly old metaller - long, dirty hair, beard, bad clothes - and I can't help but think that in the unrated version he asks every potential victim, with his weapon in his hand, "Glam or Thrash?"
"Glam, you say?"
Kee Marcello would, in November 1986, (head miraculously reaffixed) join Europe, remaining with the band until they went on hiatus in 1992. He declined an offer to rejoin Europe a decade later when they regrouped and, with original guitarist John Norum back in the band, suggested touring as a six piece, twelve-legged, parping rock monolith.
Zinny J. Zan would join forces with bassist Tim Skold (later a member of Marilyn Manson's band), glam guitar shredder Harry Cody and drummer Stixx (!) in Kingpin who, after recording the tasty 'Welcome To Bop City' record, relocated to the US of A, changed their name to Shotgun Messiah and re-released the album as their self-titled debut. Skold would, with his long-forgotten stage name, Tim Tim, and Kajagoogoo hair, take over from Zan as the band's frontman.
Both Zinny J. Zan and Kee Marcello are currently members of the reformed Easy Action. The band reformed to play the Sweden Rock festival in 2006, and supported Twisted Sister two years later.
Of the other cast members, Michael Fitzpatrick actually starred in Tobe Hooper's Lifeforce in the same year as he soured his filmography with Blood Tracks. He would go on to star in Navy Seals with Charlie Sheen and The Russia House alongside Sean Connery and Michelle Pfeiffer. Jeff Harding, who had top billing here, actually starred in the John Landis comedy Spies Like Us in the year of Blood Tracks' release, alongside Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase. While he would go on to star in television shows like Howard's Way, Space Precinct and Father Ted, he is no doubt most recognised for his role as Ed Winchester on The Fast Show where, unlike Blood Tracks, the laughs were intentional.
To pick up a copy of the legendary debut album by Easy Action - CLICK HERE