FILMS FROM THE VOID: The Nearly-Lost SOV Madness of METAL NOIR

FILMS FROM THE VOID is a journey through junk bins, late night revivals, under seen recesses and reject piles as we try to find forgotten gems and lesser known classics. Join us as we lose our minds sorting through the strange, the sleazy, the sincere and the slop from the past and try to make sense of it all.

Back In July, I made the trip into North Kansas City to hit up Screenland Armour’s monthly screening series, Analog Sundays. Presented by the folks at Magnetic Magic Rentals, the free event features a VHS tape swap, a mixtape before the movie, and a full-length feature, presented direct from VHS. Before the screening of the 1988 SOV nightmare that was Cannibal Campout, there were a few trailers, but the one which had me fascinated was for a “lost film” called Metal Noir.

If there’s anything which is sure to drag me in, it’s a lost movie. Getting to see something from a past era that just sort of ended up on a shelf or in a vault, presented unfiltered into the modern age is like time travelling. It’s a rare occurrence, but when you get a chance to experience it, it’s kind of magical. I’d last had that experience with James Bryan’s Jungle Trap, when Bleeding Skull unearthed and restored the never-released (or even edited together) Renee Harmon film in 2016.

So, obviously, as soon as I got home, I looked up Metal Noir, and if the trailer had me hooked, the plot summary reeled me in:

“Laurel Oberion thinks she’s buying a nice house, but gets more than she bargained for! Haunted by a dead anthropologist and his satanic wife, Laurel’s newfound home turns into a bloodbath of sexual desires when pain and pleasure mix indiscriminately. A basement of terror hides the secret… blood flows as human sacrifice leads to resurrection of a Dark God… and only Laurel can stop it before it’s too late!

Writer’s block becomes psychotic madness in METAL NOIR, where blood-spattered sex leads to face-stabbing gore!”

The story of Metal Noir is just as mad as the film itself, and the entire reason there are DVDs and limited-edition VHS tapes of writer, producer, and editor David R. Williams’ film is due pretty much entirely to SOV Horror’s Tony Masiello. Thanks to a chance inclusion of a grainy version of the film on a VHS copy of director High Gallagher’s first movie, Dead Silence. There’s a story about the whole thing on SOV Horror, and it’s also included as an insert with their DVD.

But the movie! Oh my god, kids, it’s fucking glorious. A horror writer moving to a new place in order to work on their stories, only to have the real terror become their life? It’s a classic trope, but never has it been so sticky and pointy as Metal Noir. I’m always amazed at the fact that there can be an evil spirit living in one’s basement that you never notice until it’s far, far too late, because I can hear my cats in they so much as hop off the couch from two floors away, to say nothing of murderous demonic entities.

That might just be me, though. I’m kind of high-strung.

The lead actors, Michelle King and Scott Muir, work in the standard “declaming lines with minimal emotional inflections” style of deadpanning, and it’s charming in how amateurish it is, but thanks to the work of genre folk like Charles Pinion and Hugh Gallagher, there’s some wonderfully over-the-top work as the story moves forward. When Wild Bill Meyer appears toward the end as The Dark God, it’s absolutely glorious, and despite really only being onscreen for 5-10 minutes, you know that — had this seen release when it was made — he’d have become this underground classic character.

As the plot develops, it never really lags, thanks to a pretty short runtime, and while the effects aren’t nonstop, they’re really effective when they happen. A scene of King as Laurel tied to a cross and vomiting up gore is nasty as anything, and it’s pretty memorably gnarly. When Pinion as Mr. Madly reappears towards the end, the wounds on his face are cosplay-worthy weird, as well.

Does it make a lot of sense? Not really, but that doesn’t matter, as what happens is presented entertainingly, and I found myself enjoying just watching the visuals unspool onscreen when I watched Metal Noir for the second and third times with commentary. I had little trouble keeping track of what was going on, despite paying more attention to the discussion of the filmmaking.

The commentary tracks are good, but director Williams’ is the better of the two. He reminisces about the making of the film, comments on the various aspects of what’s happening onscreen, and even gets into the details as to why the film never saw release. He’s got a pretty good memory of what occurred, even after nearly 30 years, and while there are a few moments of dead air here and there, it’s pretty lively, despite just being him and a microphone.

Pinion’s track, moderated by Mike Hunchback and Matt Desiderio, is a little less appealing. Pinion’s phoning in, so his audio quality is less than stellar, and it’s just as much of a discussion about his career and films as it is about Metal Noir itself. The moderators manage to keep him more or less on-track when it really counts during Pinion’s time onscreen, but his track isn’t 100% necessary listening.

The S.O.V. The True Independents docs included as extras talk Hugh Gallagher’s Gore Trilogy — Gorgasm, Gorotica, and Gore Whore — and they’re a nice addition, if you’re interested in some other work from one of the principals in this film. The stills gallery is really cool, as well, and gives a nice look behind-the-scenes of the making of Metal Noir. I’m not particularly jazzed about the cover art, which looks like it belongs to some anime film, right down to the logo. I’d’ve much preferred the mocked-up VHS-style art Masiello featured on his site, but given the quality of the rest of the package, it’s a minor quibble.

While it’s maybe not for everyone, if you’re a shot on video horror fan who wants something new-to-you, Metal Noir definitely checks all the boxes for what makes for a fun viewing. It manages to be violent, weird, and kind of gross without ever falling into the realm of sleazy or nasty, and that’s a big plus in my book. The sheer amount of hair, stone-washed denim, and slang on display makes Metal Noir the perfect time capsule.

Metal Noir is available on DVD from SOV Horror and on limited-edition VHS from SRS Cinema.

Scott Virtes’ score is available for free on Archive.org, and you should download it for the nasty guitar-and-synths theme music, if nothing else.

Nick Spacek

Nick Spacek writes about films scores in his monthly OST column for Starburst Magazine (http://www.starburstmagazine.com), and can be found talking about movie soundtracks via the From & Inspired By podcast (http:///www.fromandinspiredby.com). He was once a punk, but realized you can't be hardcore and use the word "adorable" as often as he does.
Nick Spacek
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