Big Gay Horror Fan has long thought his life truly began once he threw down his pom-poms and left all those brainless football players behind. That hard won victory is, also, shared by singer-actress-acclaimed choreographer Toni Basil. After the astounding success of the 1983 song and MTV video “Mickey”, in which Basil cavorted about like the world’s most buoyantly skilled cheerleader, our multi-hyphened sonic adventurer brought her flamboyant presence to two fairly obscure terror flicks, 1988’s Slaughterhouse Rock and 1990’s Rockula. Basil, who had previously played roles in such classics as Easy Rider and Five Easy Pieces, was not offered challenging roles in either of these pieces, but her vivaciousness stands front and center in both.
1988’s Slaughterhouse Rock is a low budget horror effort with a charmingly ridiculous premise ultimately marred by its visual blandness (even Playboy model Hope Marie Carlton who brightened up such projects as A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: Dream Warriors, Slumber Party Massacre 3 and Ghoulies 3: Ghoulies Go to College comes off as innocuously drab here) .
A handful of friends take off for the abandoned Alcatraz prison (where the flick was actually filmed) because of one of the group’s supernaturally enhanced nightmares. Easily accessing the hard boiled compound (the one guard is later found dead), the friends are soon separated from their beleaguered leader who finds himself face to face with Basil’s undead pop star, Sammy Mitchell. Mitchell, of course, is the person responsible for his ghost flecked nighttime anxiety and ultimately leaves him with a special musical present in the film’s cute denouement. (Although, Basil, herself, doesn’t sing until the film’s closing credits.)
Slaughterhouse Rock does feature music from Devo, one awesome head smashing murder and some handsome jock types (who all went on to some success in such prime time events as The Young Riders), but it is truly Basil’s show, as she fills all her scenes with quirky energy and flippant sass.
Basil brings those same qualities to Rockula, a film that definitely has more cult pleasure to offer than Slaughterhouse. Here Basil plays the eternally young, glamorously flamboyant mother of meek musician vampire Ralph, Summer School’s Dean Cameron. Doomed to watch his true love die every one hundred years, Ralph finally decides to step up to ‘bat’ and save her this go round. To win his songstress love away from her demented mentor, Ralph decides to become an instant pop music sensation, with the help of cult icon Susan Tyrell and legendary musician Bo Diddley, known as – you guessed it – Rockula.
Cameron eventually faces down a zealously demented Thomas Dolby (who apparently survived when the aliens ate his Buick) in a scene revolving around a cryogenic casket. Director Luca Bercovici (Ghoulies, Parasite, Convict 762) gives the film the gloss of the music video and seems to revel in the film’s rampant ridiculousness while Basil gets a vampy production number “The Night” which she performs in front of an uncomfortable Cameron and his baffled lady love, played by the luscious Tawny Fere – whom, like so many of our beloved genre babes, had a number of cult credits (Angel III: The Final Chapter, Under the Boardwalk, Convict 762) before quietly fading away.
Basil, though, is still at it – choreographing, advising and gloriously networking at www.tonibasil.net.
Until the next time – Sweet love and pink Grue, Big Gay Horror Fan