When I first rented a movie furnishing “MurderRock” in its title, to be honest, I wasn’t expecting it to be about dancing. It’s formal title goes by “Murder-Rock: Dancing Death”, which I found out shortly after. Though the experience can be summed up into…”What if Fulci directed Flash Dance?” This notion in its comical tone is exactly the kind of product we end up with. I felt because of this, it really paints it into a corner all its own. A unique corner…..
Now those who have seen it, “might” recall “that” initial reaction as it begins on a group of kids performing silly 80’s trend-dancing falling somewhere between bad versions of the worm-dance and an act out of Mummenschanz. If this weird opener wasn’t enough, it then cuts to a live dance routine in progress filmed in video style much in line with those old Showtime aerobics videos. You probably did what I did at the time…… Picked up the cover and took a second look?…Wait! what is this???
In between all this dance and wiggle, the director “name” Lucio Fulci flashes across the screen. At this point, you’re wondering how he got enlisted into dance rock coming out of “Gates of Hell”? It’s pretty interesting stuff to watch, and the women are sexy as hell. In fact, there is no denying that the dancing and sensual gyrating of young vixens are the star attraction in this film. However at its root still is a murder mystery horror film that embraces its giallo roots. Absent this round is Fulci’s trademark gore. “Murder Rock” does feature some beautiful shots including an extended solo dance routine. I got to feeling that maybe this was Fulci trying something out of his usual realm. (you think???)
The story centers on a school of dance, located in a prestigious New York ballet school. As the participants practice their routine, Candice Norman (Olga Karlatos), the head in charge, is told that only 3 of the group will get selected turning it into a competition. Those selected will go on to a dream opportunity.
As this chance of lifetime awaits, its’ also apparent that someone is bent on trying to make sure the competition is narrowed down. Several suspects are considered, but yet the murders continue. The style of killing is limited to a single decorated hatpin (ya you heard right) that is plunged into hearts of young hopefuls. In most of these murders the female victims shirts are ripped open exposing their breasts upon which the killer plunges his device into their hearts “thru” their breast. Sexy and macabre!
Some of my favorite 80s horror films are SO 80’s that it just brings back into a retro state of viewing. This was one of them. The film moves on from the “dancing queen” shots into a full on murder mystery. There are classic shots that echo its influences as we follow a murder weapon from the camera POV into the breast of the film’s first victim. Yep, it didn’t take long….sex, dancing, cheesy 80s songs that you’ll never hear again….I must be in the right place.
Further evolving, Candice decides to seek out a male model named George Webb who she dreamed was the actual killer. In the background, a local detective begins to investigate the circumstances that might lead him to the actual killer. Clues are brought forward, though no real answers.
The music to this film really dates the production with lyrics like “paranoia coming your way” and other odd 80s mixes filling up much of the score. It gives it it’s charm that’s for sure, but I doubt you’ll ever see a soundtrack being passed around.
The film was originally shot in Italy of which it took more appropriate names such as “Giallo a disco” and “slashdance”. In fact, upon hearing that….well, “slashdance” it is!
“Murder Rock” is one of the great retro titles that survived the VHS releases into a proper DVD format. (note: that statement may be subjective) It does contain some classic Fulci work while umbrella-ing itself in just pure 80’s cheese. You’ll love the one liners, and “Let’s get Physical” wardrobe. I’ve seen this film about 4 times myself, and it never entirely gets old.
Murder-Rock: Dancing Death (1984)