Sunday, May 25, 2014

Census Bloodbath: Kiss Of Death

Year: 1980
Director: Don Edmonds
Cast: Rick Styles, Chip Greenman, Rich Pemberton
Run Time: 1 hour 24 minutes
MPAA Rating: R

When will I learn to never trust slasher movies with cool titles? 

Friday the 13th, Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Burning, The Initiation... All great titles for great movies, but their names are low key in the grand scheme of things. But give me a Christmas Evil, To All A Goodnight, or Memorial Day and things get down in the dumps pretty quickly. Can you guess which camp Terror on Tour falls into?

If you guessed the former, you're just as optimistic as me. And just as stupid.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

You see, Terror on Tour was produced by Alex Rebar and Sandy Cobe, two slick types who also perpetrated To All A Goodnight earlier in 1980. Add in the ingredient of director Don Edmonds' history of producing trash like the notorious Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS and you've got the perfect recipe for a crap sandwich. Luckily, this film doesn't descend to quite the level of nuclear suckage that that might imply, but it would take a gentler soul than I to find anything substantial to praise about it. 

This film tells the story of The Clowns, a rock and roll band played by real life band The Names. Their show involves over the top KISS style costumes, makeup, and the murder of a mannequin onstage. Classic stuff, really. Their tour, which takes them to exotic locations as far and wide as this one rinky dink theater in middle America to.... the same rinky dink theater in middle America. 

But let us not get caught up in the minor crappy details when there's so much major crap to deal with. The band consists of Fred (Rick Styles), a real hit with the ladies; Ralph (Chip Greenman), who is succumbing to the lifestyle and battling a drug addiction; Henry (Rich Pemberton), the drummer with a heart of gold; and Cherry (Dave Galluzzo), who is a real sensitive type who doesn't really like the drug and violence addled personas they have had to take on to appeal to the crowd. I made those four sound much more interesting than they actually are.

The movie would have perhaps been a shade more interesting if it had focused on fleshing out their characters and enhancing their terror at their situation, but in that wall-to-wall 80's rock fashion, the killings this time are carried out while they're onstage and the film preoccupies itself with the machinations of the band's tour manager Tim (Larry Freaking Thomas, aka Seinfeld's Soup Nazi and the only "big" name in the entire film), their makeup artist Herb (Jeff Morgan), and their handsome roadie Jeff (David Thompson).

Oh, did I mention that the killer is decked out in full Clowns regalia?

Oh, did I mention that this regalia is comprised of Kiss makeup, a black unitard, a Phantom of the Opera mask, and an afro wig?

It had to come out sooner or later.

During the concerts and the afterparties, a whole horde of sexy young women are dispatched with a butcher knife that makes my crappy student film rubber knife look like a Ginsu. These scenes are interspersed with the copious nudity that is the trademark of these producers and this genre, but the murders leave something to be desired. It's all just people getting stabbed in the gut with a Big 'Ol Knife. Nothing groundbreaking here.

It's like the filmmakers watched Friday the 13th and pieced together that the formula for success was a high body count, crappy cinematography, and listless characters talking about nothing in particular. They even stole the CHA CHA CHA score! Unfortunately, they skipped over the magnificently rendered gore while compiling their list and the film loses a lot of the cheesy 80's impact it could have had. 

Although the costumes certainly work to make up for that.

The acting in the film is... well, what would you expect? The band members surprisingly hold their own, but the rest of the cast is pretty standard for a slasher of this pedigree. The men are too unattractive to make it in Hollywood, the women too untalented. Although ironically, the director and star of the 1982 slasher Boardinghouse (John Wintergate and Kalassu) make an appearance here as "Mod Boy" and "Mod Girl."

There are actually a surprising amount of slasher regulars in the supporting cast. Sylvia Wright, who played some chick named Carol would go on to make a name for herself in Bloody Birthday as "Girl in Van." And Verkina Flower, who played the charming "Well Endowed Girl" would go on to be a wardrobe consultant on Frightmare and Silent Night, Deadly Night, one of the very few truly good Christmas slashers.

But when that's the extent of your film's talent... Well, things aren't exactly the best. The songs are uniformly subpar, although they're not as grating as the endless slate in the same year's New Year's Evil. I already spoke of the acting. Since there's hardly any gore to speak of, at least I can't complain about its poor quality.

Although to be completely honest, I'd really rather have buckets of terrible chalupa sauce blood than nothing at all.

He gets it.

The only thing saving the film is those unforgettable costumes. Half KISS, half Juggalo, all ridiculous. The fact that at any given point, up to 75 percent of the cast is dressed like this gives the film a lot of mileage. Unfortunately, besides that and the presence of Larry Thomas who is at best a D-List celebrity, there's absolutely nothing else to recommend it.

OK, maybe there's one more interesting thing. Let's jump into SPOILER territory here. The killer, as anybody with a pulse could guess by the 30 minutes mark is, in fact, the Soup Nazi. He's killing the topless chicks for the usual reasons. They're whores, sex is a sin, he's a religious zealot, we get it. But there's an intriguing addition to this motive.

He kills them because he thinks they're morally unscrupulous and doesn't want them to bear children. Isn't that strange? I mean, it's not enough to amp up a dull, plodding final act that follows a goreless second act and a wholly boob-fueled first act, but it's certainly more creative than what we normally get in the end of these early slashers.

So it's not a total waste of time? But I wouldn't spend your time on it. Only mine. Because at least when I watch it, I can chalk it up to this Census Bloodbath project and feel productive. For you, it would merely be madness.

Killer: Tim (Larry Thomas)
Final Girl: None; Although the entire band survives, which is highly odd.
Best Kill: One of the girls is stabbed right in the boobs.
Sign of the Times: There's a character named "Mod Girl." Come on.
Scariest Moment: There is a room in the venue used exclusively for sex. It is decorated with red splatters. And a noose.
Weirdest Moment: The band members start to sing a song in the green room that actually isn't a pile of crap.
Champion Dialogue: "He's popping enough pills to put an elephant into orbit."
Body Count: 8
  1. Drug Dealer Girl is stabbed in the stomach.
  2. Horny Cocaine Girl is stabbed to death.
  3. "Next" Girl has her throat slit.
  4. Too Turnt Topless Girl is stabbed in the chest.
  5. Drummer's Girlfriend is stabbed to death. 
  6. Lt. Lambert is stabbed in the gut. 
  7. Narc Girl is stabbed in the stomach.
  8. Herb is stabbed in the back. 
TL;DR: Terror on Tour is not good, but at least it has funny outfits.
Rating: 3/10
Word Count: 1292


  1. I feel like you've reviewed 100 80's slasher films and you're still on 1980...what a task man.

  2. I only have five left! It's been quite an adventure just making it past the beginning of the decade.