Oddly enough, I first found out about The 27 Club when I was doing a write-up for The 69 Eyes music video for their latest single "27 & Done", which features clips from the film. Within that same week, I covered the trailer for the Patrick Fogarty-directed film. Being that the film mixed two of my favorite things, horror movies and rock/metal music, I knew I had to check it out! I want to thank MVD Entertainment for supplying me with a copy to review.
The 27 Club has a premise that I'm sure many of you are familiar with. As the title suggests, the film is loosely based on the exclusive collective of rock n’ rollers who mysterious died at the age of 27, including Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, and Kurt Cobain, among others. Over the years, the idea has been thrown around that these musicians suffered from some sort of cult fate or Faustian bargain that gave them their talent, The 27 Club takes this idea and runs with it. When Lily (Maddisyn Carter), an aspiring singer, and a journalism student named Jason (Derrick Denicola) seek answers to the notorious curse of the so-called "27 Club," they find themselves trapped in an evil underworld that takes artists’ souls as payment for eternal fame. Will they discover a way to survive beyond the age of 27?
First and foremost, I want to touch on a topic that I've seen in nearly every review for this film: The claim that The 27 Club disrespects the aforementioned dead musicians and other members of the so-called club. While this may be somewhat true (though, not really), come on people... It's a movie! Why does it seem so hard for people these days to just sit and enjoy a film without being offended by everything? I mean, I've been a fan of Hendrix, The Doors, Nirvana and Joplin for practically my entire life and not once did I feel that The 27 Club was trying to mock or undermine their legacy. Now that's out of the way, onto the pros and cons of the film itself.
Look, The 27 Club isn't going to win the praise of the horror world in terms of originality, but I can fathom the guess that the filmmakers didn't really expect or intend for it to do so. Honestly, in terms of micro-budget indie flicks, I rarely experience one that absolutely blows me away, but I don't expect them to. I expect an enjoyable ride and that's what The 27 Club offers.
The main cast, Carter and Denicola specifically, brought a charm to their roles that's impossible to ignore. Carter gives her most to Lily, and delivers a believable performance as a musician who's determined to do anything to achieve success, even her soul. Denicola a is also likeable as Jason, and although he may have some instances of hokey, one-dimensional dialogue, he's able to elevate himself above your typical cinematic "nice guy". There are also cutaways to monologues featuring look-alikes of Hendrix, Winehouse, Cobain and several other musicians who speak directly to the camera. I felt all of these actors did a great job in portraying their respective musicians, and while I'm not entirely sure if what they're saying are direct quotes, they put forth an excellent effort in terms of channeling their individual and artistic voices. The best of these is probably John Hennigan as Jim Morrison, whom some of you may recognize from his time in the WWE as the "Lizard King" inspired John Morrison. Todd Rundgren, Cleopatra recording artist and a member of the progressive rock band, Utopia, also makes an appearance in one of the film’s best moments as a record store wise-guy patron.
From real-life record stores to grungy, Satanic dungeons, production designer Brenton Berna did a fantastic job with creating realistic and believable settings. Coupled with Nathan Gregory's cinematography, The 27 Club attains quite a striking atmosphere multiple times throughout it's hour and 37 minute runtime. Most importantly, the film's special effects are almost entirely practical and surprisingly well-conceived. We get a practically realized demon, completely realized with fangs, contacts, pitch black skin and prosthetics, as well as a few instances of grizzly gore. I've said it before, if a film takes the practical route in regards to special effects, it instantly earns some extra points.
My biggest gripe with the film comes from the lack of clarity. I'm all-in on the film's plot and the idea of musical talents giving themselves over to a demon in exchange for immense talent until their 27th birthday, but what exactly are the rules? Do you actually have to possess the demonic book that grants fame and power, or just know the ritual? We're also never told if the musician becomes the demon or if the demon is controlling them, and why exactly do they have to keep killing even after the demonic deal has been struck. I just feel with a runtime that's slightly longer than most features, the plot could've been fleshed out a bit more.
The Blu-ray release for The 27 Club also include a DVD copy of the film as well as the film's soundtrack on CD, which features tracks from Todd Rundgren, Trent Reznor, Jurgen R Engler of Die Krupps, and more. I really enjoyed this soundtrack (except for a single rap track) and have listened to it on multiple occasions already. Special features include interviews with Maddisyn Carter and Derrick Denicola, a slideshow and a trailer.
All in all, if you're looking to kick back with a pretty solid rock 'n' roll fable that's fraught with demons, occult trappings, and rather impressive special effects, look no further than The 27 Club. While it may not compare to other flicks of this nature, such as Suck or The Devil's Candy, you could definitely do a lot worse that checking this one out. Couple this film with Sunset Society, another rockin' horror flick from Cleopatra, and you've got yourself a bitchin' double feature! Also, Cleopatra will be releasing Glenn Danzig's Verotika (read our review) later this year. Trust me when I say you don't want to miss that!