As stated in the review of the original Punk Rock Holocaust, horror and hardcore seem like a perfect match. Each represents the outside edge of their respective mediums, and while many can argue that there are universal elements involved, it is clear that not everyone embraces these entertainment extremes. No, it takes a true type of enthusiast to enjoy the melding of these two totally intense concepts - and a better concern would be what such a merger would look and sound like? The answer, interestingly enough, is incredibly FUNNY! Yep, that's right. With Van's annual concert tour as a backdrop, and what has to be the highest body count in any movie EVER MADE, Doug Sakmann's lunatic love letter to bloodletting and mosh pitting is a big, brash power chord layered across the entire DIY mentality of the music, and the moviemaking, he's championing. It's no surprise then that each and every one of these accolades applies to the inevitable sequel, Punk Rock Holocaust 2. It's an equally inspired effort.
After the multiple deaths and negative media coverage generated by the appearance of pissed off ex-musician/ Satan spawned murderer William Van Landingham, III at last years event, things on the Warped Tour 2004 are a bit tentative. The story has not died down, and reporters from all over the country are trying to discover the truth behind the inordinate body count. When Meghan Saunders shows up, asking a lot of nosy questions, promoter Kevin Lyman can't be bothered to address her concerns. He lets tour manager Kerry Nicholson run interference. Of course, what no one knows is that the headless corpse of Landingham has risen from the grave, and is seeking payback - and his mad melon. And he won't let any band, roadie, accountant, audience member, or misguided poser stand in his way. Of course, all roads lead to Lyman, and his ongoing spat with Satan himself.
Damn Doug Sakmann! Damn him to all kinds of easy listening Hell. No, this is not a response to his otherwise exceptional horror comedy Punk Rock Holocaust 2. It's a declaration spawned out of a last minute plot point, and the accompanying screen card announcing Punk Rock Holocaust 3! While many may know him as porn star Joanna Angel's Max von Mayerling (look it up), creating such alt-core titles as Re-Penetrator and The XXXorcist, Sakmann got his start with Troma, and the famed Manhattan movie company's super-schlocky imprint is on every blood drenched frame. Undeniably goofy, amateurish to the point of pre-school, and laden with enough post-modern music to make even the most jaded safety pin fan weep, these films follow a set pattern for success: get a backstage pass for the Warped Tour (in this case, the 2004 and 2005 versions), convince concert organizer Kevin Lyman and a few famous faces like Lloyd Kaufman and Metal VJ Mistress Juliya to mug for the camera, and offer lots of known and under the radar bands as part of the backdrop. Toss in one insane serial killer, some gratuitous gore, and a corpse count higher than a Grateful Dead audience, and you've got some stellar rock and roll retardation.
Everything this critic said about the first Punk Rock Holocaust applies doubly here. This is as much a showcase for the excellent up and coming bands that Warped champions as much as a callback to the beloved slasherfests of the 1980s. Proving that old adage that all musicians want to act (and equally supporting the notion that many should stay behind the monitor instead of attempting thespianism), Sakmann allows the main stage bands to play important roles in the story, including the novel narrative device of "stand in slayer". It's hilarious to see members of The Aquabats, Bouncing Souls, The Casualties, My Chemical Romance, River City Rebels, and Pro BMX Rider Rick Thorne getting their Voorhees on as accidental splatter fiends. Even better, some show real promise, and forward the plot with their winning personality and style. Of course, much of the heavy lifting is left to Lyman and returning cast members Meghan Sanders, Heather Vantress, and Kerry Nicholson, and they do a bang-up job of keeping things light and loony. In fact, their performances, as well as the home movie feel the film strives for really adds an intriguing dimension.
That's why Sakmann deserves damnation. As a viewer, one enjoys this junk drawer experience so much that, when the "To Be Continued" tag arrives, it's the equivalent of a power ballad during a Rancid set. We want more - more goofy concert tour in-jokes, more of Mistress Juliya's buxom braying, more of Sakmann's stupendously stupid turn as a disembodied head, and more of Kaufman coughing up his Devil dog dialogue like so many egg cream loogies. We just need more bands, more blood, and more baffling asides. We crave frontmen falling off speaker stacks, rebellious teens proving that body art and piercing aren't dead, and purposeful product placement (Monster energy drinks, specifically). With Japan as the next backdrop, and the continuing saga of Lyman's battles with Belial still front and center, the pain of waiting to see what happens next is just too great. In a culture craving that crack-like instant gratification, Sakmann is requiring patience - how unfair is that? Until Part 3 arrives however, we'll have to settle for the demented delights of Part 2. It's an acquiescence that's well worth it.
Offering an excellent 1.33:1 full frame image, Punk Rock Holocaust 2 makes the mistake of not using a digital print for its packaging, instead of relying on a camcorder to film remastering and retrofitting. The results give the visuals a cinematic feel, but avoid the intimacy and sense of realism a direct from video picture can provide. Sakmann then twists this concept by adding some intriguing post-production material including comic book style dissolves and a wide variety of visual sparkle to perk up and professionalize the overall look. The results are really good.
Utilizing a combination of live elements, ADR, camcorder capture, and direct to mixing board recording, Punk Rock Holocaust 2 is an amazing sonic experience. All the bands sound magnificent (with a few "recorded" tracks subbed in for missing concert performances) and the dialogue is always clean and clear. The Dolby Digital Stereo preserves all of these facets spectacularly. Along with an additional backing track of fun, frantic music (which really enhances the tone and atmosphere of the film) this is a great aural experience.
Unlike the first go round, which found the director purposefully avoiding a detailed commentary track, Punk Rock Holocaust 2 has a wonderfully informative alternate narrative. Sakmann goes into great detail over how the film was made, why he uses the Warped Tour as a setting, and the various pre-movie incarnations the project went through (web series, prequels, linking videos) before ending up part of a proposed trilogy. While he tends to wander off subject more times than not, this is still a great listen. It complements the film very well. There is also a few other pieces of added content, extras like an alternative film score from Hick, Nick, and Jew (of the Dead), some additional Mistress Juliya (advertising a vodka filter), a video for the band Shiragirl, and something called Ketchup vs. Mustard. This vomitorium food fight truly lives up to the tagline "the long awaited, much anticipated, and absolutely disgusting eating competition". Urp.
Perhaps it's this critic's Sex Pistols/Clash/Ramones rich past, or his inherent love of all things splattery, but Punk Rock Holocaust 2 touches parts of his peculiar aesthetic that usually are left pretty much unexplored and/or unscathed. The combination of music, murder, mayhem, and monkeyshines simply breaks down his curmudgeon-like cynicism and brings him right back to a mohawked 1977. As a result, this fabulous fright farce earns a Highly Recommended rating. But potential viewers be warned. If you love wuss rock, think anything acoustic or New Aged is the high end of fist-pumping squall, stay away from Punk Rock Holocaust 2. Similarly, if you like your horror handed to you on a paltry PG-13 platter, gore excised to protect your precious Ritalin reconfigured mind, then this movie is not for you either. Those who like it louder, faster, nastier, and nuttier need apply, however. Thanks to the devious Doug Sakmann, all your simplistic chord progression tendencies will be sufficiently satisfied - and then some.