THE BEGINNING

Andrew Anderson has been enduring films made by and featuring musicians who should know better. At least GWAR had a laugh with theirs.

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GWAR first came to my attention a few years ago when a friend played me a clip on YouTube. In it, Oderus Urungus, the lead singer of GWAR, is being interviewed about his bands’ appearance at the Grammy awards in 1993. While he is dressed as a cartoon space alien and talks about destroying all humans, Urungus (aka Dave Brockie) is also incredibly articulate – especially on the subject of why Dave Grohl sucks so much cock. I was intrigued, and I agreed: Dave Grohl does suck. I had to find out more.

Well, it turns out there is a lot to know. GWAR have been going since the mid eighties touring all over the world, releasing tons of albums and whole stacks of straight-to-video films along the way. They dress as space aliens and say they are also pledged to create misery for all humans (much in the same way as Simon Cowell).

It’s a mission that has served them well or, as Urungus put it during an interview with Joan Rivers, “They throw themselves into our jaws of death… the human race is in love with self destruction – we are simply satisfying a consumer need.”

That’s right – GWAR appeared on Joan Rivers’ chat show, and this isn’t the only example of them making incongruous cameos. While their video getting placed in Beavis And Butthead made sense, Urungus’ stint as a co-host on Fox New’s late-night show Red Eye did not (although perhaps it did, since Fox News also represents pure evil). Over the years they’ve made a habit of getting invited into places they simply shouldn’t be, by people who don’t get the joke. The result is comedy gold. Which brings me back to the Grammys. GWAR were nominated for their film, Phallus in Wonderland, an hour-long bloodbath across outer space and the streets of Richmond, Virginia. How they came to be nominated is a mystery and, needless to say, they didn’t win. It is another example of them making it to the mainstream, which they then proceed to mock. But is the film any good?

Before I answer that let’s take a walk through the plot. Well, I say plot, but having watched it a couple of times I’m still not entirely sure what happens. It starts with a news report that Urungus’ cuttlefish (in GWAR language this means his penis) has been stolen. The penis is standing trial for obscenity, with all-American super hero Corporal Punishment the lead witness for the evil Morality Squad. The outcome is that GWAR return to earth to destroy the Morality Squad, recapture Urungus’ penis and generally have a swell time (incidentally this is similar to the plot in Justin Bieber’s Believe).

But while the film is thin on plot the production quality is actually pretty good. GWAR are exceptional model makers, and the costumes and masks look suitably gruesome. The garish lighting and visual effects are also pretty slick for a zero-budget film, certainly no worse than the cult b-movies Phallus in Wonderland is inspired by. If you like your horror in The Toxic Avenger/Evil Dead mould then you’ll definitely enjoy the amount of bodily fluids that squirt, ooze and explode out of various places during the film. But is it any good?

Well, to get all pedantic on you, it really depends what you mean by ‘good’. GWAR’s aesthetic brings together slasher films, comic books, super heroes, sci-fi, metal and WWE wrestling. Working out of a space called The Slave Pit in their hometown of Richmond, the group and their allies are actually more of a creative collective than a normal band. Their live shows – which feature fake murders, mutilations and other mayhem – are legendary, something akin to Butthole Surfers doing Muppets puppetry with added Alice Cooper. The point isn’t to make great music – it’s to put on a great show. And so it is with Phallus in Wonderland. It’s stupid, over the top nonsense but at the same time it is also funny. As a film, it doesn’t really work, but as a spectacle it’s, well, spectacular. Who doesn’t want to see the conservative forces of mainstream America murdered by a bunch of metal-heads dressed as aliens, with added spurting goo?

I also think that GWAR stand for something worthwhile. In a world obsessed with violence, death and exploitation, GWAR are simply reflecting the times around them. Only when they murder someone it is a joke – it isn’t real. People go to GWAR gigs because they want to laugh, to enjoy something ridiculous, to escape from the shitty, terrifying world we live in; things have a way of seeming less scary when you can laugh at them.

The band themselves probably put it best when, towards the end of her show, Joan Rivers’ asked them if they were worried people would copy their violent antics. “Let them join the army or something, there’s plenty of outlets for them,” answers Urungus.

Unless you’re into 80s b-movies you probably don’t need to see Phallus in Wonderland. Instead, get on online and check out videos of the band being interviewed – you’ll laugh, lots. Or read up on how they basically made an entire genre out of nothing and followed their creative dream in spite of all obstacles – you’ll be inspired.

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