Shock 'Em Dead (also known as Rock 'Em Dead) is a 1990 horror-comedy film starring future MMA analyst Stephen Quadros and former adult film star Traci Lords in one of her first non-porn roles.
The film tells the story of Martin (Quadros), a young man who works a dead-end job for a Jerkass of a boss, lives in a trailer park, wears glasses, has a bad case of acne, and doesn't exactly have the best social skills. And did we tell you he absolutely sucks at playing the guitar?
Eager to make something more out of himself, Martin unsuccessfully auditions for a rock band called Spastique Kolon, which is in search for a lead guitarist. After getting laughed out of his audition, he decides to take matters into his own hands, selling his soul to the Devil with the help of an unnamed voodoo lady, in exchange for rock stardom beyond his wildest dreams. When he comes to, Martin discovers he's living in a swanky house with three sexy ladies, is unbelievably fast and skilled on the guitar, and looks like a mash-up of every 1980s hair metal cliche. There is, however, one big catch to his new-found persona as "Angel Martin," and it eventually consumes him as he re-auditions for Spastique Kolon, takes over as its leader, and falls head over heels over the band's manager, Lindsay Roberts (Lords), who happens to be engaged to the bassist.
Aside from being a cult classic among fans of B-movie horror, Shock 'Em Dead is also notable for featuring legendary guitar shredder Michael Angelo Batio, who plays Angel Martin's lead guitar parts in the film.
This film provides examples of:
- All Part of the Show: The headlining band's reaction when Angel, after being injected with food concentrate, explodes to his death.
- Ambiguously Gay: Jonny, vocalist of Spastique Kolon. While he writes and sings the band's songs in the POV of a heterosexual male, his camp traits are quite obvious, especially in what turns out to be his last gig.
- Creepy Monotone: While Angel does become a big rock star, he remains socially impaired and tends to speak in monotone, and his courtship techniques toward Lindsay are nothing short of creepy.
- The Dog Bites Back: Once he gets comfortable taking souls for survival, Angel targets two people who used to make his life miserable when he was nerdy old Martin — his abusive boss at the pizza place, and his trailer park landlord who evicted him from the park and complained about his guitar playing.
- Specifically, Angel berates his former boss in the same way as he was berated back when he was working at the pizzeria.
- Dumb and Drummer: Somewhat averted by Spastique Kolon's drummer, who warns Greg that he noticed something weird about Angel's female companion Marilyn when her face reflected against silver.
- Dying Moment of Awesome: Angel's death scene. Greg injects Angel with some food concentrate, which causes him to explode in front of the band Spastique Kolon was to be supporting.
- The '80s: Despite being released in 1990, the music, hairdos, and fashions are a cross between 1980s new wave and hair metal in influence.
- The End... Or Is It?: Toward the end of the movie, the voodoo lady approaches the down-on-his-luck kid who narrowly missed out on being Spastique Kolon's new guitarist.
- FaceHeel Turn: Martin may be portrayed as the ultimate loser, but he's otherwise harmless. Angel Martin, on the other hand, obsesses over Lindsay, and this obsession helps him overcome his initial reluctance to kill people in order to stay alive.
- Fanservice: Played straight by the three girls who live with Angel.
- Averted by Lindsay, who, despite being played by a former porn star, keeps her clothes on for the entire duration of the film, and dresses quite modestly in comparison to Angel's girls.
- I Am the Band: With Jonny dead, Angel takes over as lead guitarist AND lead vocalist, and acts like he's bigger than the band, forcibly negotiating record deals and acting even more like it's he, and not the mild-mannered bassist, who should be dating manager Lindsay.
- Jonny himself acted like he IS the band, treating Angel in a condescending manner even after he plays the hell out of the songs he wrote, and storming offstage at the showcase gig after being upstaged by Angel's guitar playing.
- Ironic Name: Once transformed into a rock star after selling his soul to the Devil, Martin renames himself Angel Martin.
- Jerkass: Tony, the pizzeria owner.
- Kryptonite Factor: Angel and two of his female companions can stay alive forever as long as they keep on killing people and taking their souls, but cannot consume solid food, lest they eventually weaken and die.
- Love Triangle: Angel Martin, manager Lindsay, and bassist Greg.
- The Mirror Shows Your True Self: In this case, the "mirror" is silver, which reflects what Angel's women really looked like before selling their souls. One was a burn victim, one was suffering from terminal cancer, and one was born deformed.
- The women are also shown reverting to their old selves after they get killed toward the end of the movie.
- Nobody Loves the Bassist: Averted by Greg, who's dating the band's good-looking manager Lindsay, and is a far more pleasant character than vocalist Jonny.
- The Peeping Tom: When not making sure each pizza has 18 slices of pepperoni on it (and often failing to do so), Martin spends his time spying on his female coworkers as they change into their job uniform.
- Real Men Wear Pink: Greg, who prominently wears a pink shirt for a good part of the movie, including the closing battle against Angel.
- Take This Job and Shove It: Prior to his first audition for Spastique Kolon, Martin asks his boss Tony if he can take some time off. When Tony refuses, Martin cusses him out and announces he's quitting.