American World Pictures // 2010 // 80 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker // July 15th, 2011
She'll take care of the band.
For its first few minutes, Groupie had me stoked with its abundance of B-movie promise.
1. It's got the director of Roller Boogie and Class of 1984, the writer of Boston Strangler: The Untold Story and Chicago Massacre: Richard Speck sharing scripting credit with the writer of Hell Comes to Frogtown, and the star of Best of the Best and The Ambulance.
2. It opens with a ludicrous scene of unintended tragedy, then skips to "One Year Later," setting us up for some sort of vengeance ride.
3. We get an early scene of non-PG-13 nudity, drug taking, and assorted decadence.
4. We get an incidental character murdered by an unseen assailant wielding a knife and wearing black gloves.
Imagine my thrill at the idea that director Mark L. Lester, writers Michael Feifer and Randall Frakes, and star Eric Roberts might be dusting off the classic Italian giallo formula and offering up a sleazy murder mystery/thriller, rather than the usual direct-to-DVD soft horror that's the current standard.
Unfortunately, after a promising 10 minutes or so, the film settles in to what it really is: a fairly slow-moving soft slasher that telegraphs its hand, thus avoiding any sort of shock or suspense.
The Dark Knights is a band with a gimmick: at the end of every show, lead singer Travis (Hal Ozsan, Dawson's Creek) sets himself on fire.
One night, a drunken, flaming Travis stumbles into a curtain, causing the club to go up in smoke. Fortunately, the casualty list is light -- one guy gets trampled to death -- but it's enough to give the band a reputation of being cursed and pull them out of circulation for a year.
Their manager, Angus (Eric Roberts, Star 80), books them on a comeback tour, and soon the Knights are enjoying the rock star life again on a tour bus complete with drugs and groupies.
Unfortunately, all that glitters isn't Malawi Gold. Travis refuses to do the flaming stunt, and this angers the fans, who boo and throw bottles at the end of each non-incendiary performance.
Then, a new groupie appears on the scene, the fetching Riley (Taryn Manning, Kill Theory). Travis finds himself taken with her, much to the chagrin of his main groupie, Nikki (Betsy Rue, Miss March).
As Riley gets closer to Travis, the other band members, as well as Angus, begin to resent her. They feel she's a disruptive influence and has some kind of agenda that they just can't figure out.
Boy, are they ever right.
It's no mystery that Taryn Manning plays the baddie here, and it's barely a mystery why Riley has set out to destroy the Dark Knights. The big mystery is why Groupie isn't more entertaining.
As noted, the veterans here are no strangers to the exploitation genre. Manning is game as the seductive psycho, and Scott Anthony Leet (Freeway Killer) gives a showy supporting turn as a suspicious bandmate. But despite all this potential, Groupie remains frustratingly restrained and routine, with too much focus on the dour and guilty-ridden Travis. Riley's plan of evil evolves slowly, and there's little gore. A late-game Fatal Attraction riff only drags things out, though even with all the padding, the film only runs around 75 minutes without end credits.
Other than the early shot of the bandmates cavorting with the groupies, life on the road is pretty dull. Midway through, the groupies get dumped so the band can "focus," and all hopes of good times and gratuitous T'n'A get dumped with them. If rock stardom is really this boring, it's a wonder more kids don't fantasize of growing up to be dentists.
The disc is serviceable: Clean image, surround and stereo audio options, and a useless "making of" as an extra.
Guilty. All involved are sentenced to read the complete works of Pamela Des Barres.
Review content copyright © 2011 Tom Becker; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: American World Pictures
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 80 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated