Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #531
Also known as Shocking Heavy Metal
Number of Views: Two
Release Date: November 1985
Sub-Genre: Eighties Slasher
Country of Origin: Sweden
Running Time: 90 minutes
Director: Mats Helge Olsson
Producer: Tom Sjoberg
Screenplay: Mats Helge Olsson, Anna Wolf
Special Effects: Dick Ljunggren, Mats Helge Olsson
Cinematography: Hans Dittmer
Score: Dag Unenge
Editing: David Gilbert
Studio: Smart Egg Pictures
Distributors: Vista Home Video, Avatar Film Corporation Limited
Stars: Jeff Harding, Michael Fitzpatrick, Naomi Kaneda, Brad Powell, Peter Merrill, Harriet Robinson, Tina Shaw, Frances Kelly, Karina Lee, Helena Jacks, Lotte Heise, Zin Zan, Chris Lynn, Alex Tyrone, Freddie van Gerber
Suggested Audio Candy
 Easy Action “We Go Rocking”
 Easy Action “In the Middle of Nowhere”
I believe I would be well within my rights to proclaim myself as something of an eighties slasher fanatic. Indeed, there are precious few examples from that era that haven’t been placed under my microscope at one time or another. Some have been great, others halfway decent, and then there are the inevitable bottom feeders – only present seemingly to make up numbers. Most have been well documented by now and it may seem as though the period holds no more surprises but there are still a few movies that somehow managed to slip through the net altogether and still remain anonymous all these years later. Mats Helge Olsson’s Blood Tracks (originally titled Shocking Heavy Metal) is one such rare creature.
The Swedish director, operating under the more Stateside-friendly pseudonym Mike Jackson, had precious little funds at his disposal and, realizing that he needed an angle to break the American marketplace, managed to procure the talents of Scandinavian big-hair glam rock band Easy Action. Unfortunately, none of the band members had ever acted a lick and were ill-prepared for how laborious a long day’s shoot could be so producer Tom Sjoberg ensured there was plenty of Absolute Vodka and Nördic Wölf beer on-hand to help sweeten the deal.
Blood Tracks kicks off with a domestic spat gone awry as an abusive husband receives his just desserts when laying into his long-suffering wife after returning from a drinking binge. She stabs him in the back, before grabbing their children and running off into the night. So where does one take the toddlers in such circumstances? A battered women’s refuge? To stay with family members until it has all blown over perhaps? Nope, she whisks them away to an abandoned chemical plant in the Colorado mountains and raises them to become bloodthirsty cannibals. Mother knows best.
“For the next forty years the family hid out in the middle of nowhere … now intruders are on their way.”
Courtesy of a decidedly solemn voice over, we are then delivered bang up-to-date as gender-confused rock outfit Solid Gold arrive in said mountains, with entourage in tow, to shoot a promo video for their new song Blood Tracks. Clad in tight spandex, sporting poodle perms back-combed to within an inch of their lives, and enough eye shadow to create a solar eclipse, the band members find a suitably picturesque spot, worryingly in avalanche territory, and set up their amps. Of course, no hedonistic eighties rock band in their right mind would embark on such a treacherous expedition without a gaggle of skanky groupies on-hand to tend to their every sexual whim and it appears as though they have all bases covered there.
It all starts innocuously enough as they shack up in a nearby cabin and engage in the usual extracurricular pursuits. However, it isn’t long before the inevitable avalanche strikes and the group become cut-off for the foreseeable. Needless to say, they begin to wander off site one-by-one to check out the condemned power station nearby, alerting the attention of the self-exiled deviants who just so happen to be particularly territorial. Worse still, decades of compromised hygiene have taken their toll and left them littered with festering sores and questionable table manners. The last thing they need is all this excess hair product flaring up their skin conditions so they do what any dehumanized outcasts would do in such circumstances, they stand their ground and rid themselves of any unwanted visitors.
Much of the bloodletting takes place within this booby trap-ridden factory and the industrial setting serves Blood Tracks decidedly well. Our mutants scuttle across corroded catwalks, darting in and out of the shadows, and making the most out of their territorial advantage. Unfortunately, for as much as the power plant makes for an atmospheric locale, Olsson’s film is sorely hamstrung by uninspired cinematography and woeful lighting that obscures much of what is playing out on-screen. Meanwhile, the performances are pretty turgid, dialogue of the Camembert variety, and there’s not a great deal of suspense either. Sounds bad right? Admittedly it ain’t great but neither is it a complete write-off.
If Blood Tracks has one weapon in its armory then that would be good old-fashioned eighties charm and it just so happens to have this in abundance. Riffing on Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes and replacing its dusty dunes with snowy peaks, it makes up for any lack of quality with sheer enthusiasm and, with an eighteen-strong body count, can never be accused of being uneventful. Whilst I live in perpetual hope, it is looking increasingly unlikely that Olsson’s oddity will receive the luxurious restoration treatment any time soon. Nowadays, we’re somewhat spoiled for slasher and fresh audiences will likely find this far too long-in-the-tooth. However if, like me, low-rent fodder such as Claudio Fragasso’s Monster Dog and Ruggero Deodato’s Body Count still tickle your pickle, then pack your thermals. Just don’t forget those rose-tinted spectacles.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 6/10
Grue Factor: 3/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: The kills here are a mixed bag and Blood Tracks has a tendency to cut away just as things are about to get bloody. Having said that, there is still plenty of splatter on the platter. Axes plunge, heads roll, eyes are gouged, bodies burn, and there’s a particularly grisly stand out involving a steel wire trap that slices its victim in two. The practical effects are reasonably well implemented, it’s just a shame the lighting is so lousy. Thankfully, we are provided a smorgasbord of slutty groupies, most of whom appear to be allergic to their fabric softener, and itching to loosen their linen.
Read The Hills Have Eyes (1977) Appraisal
Read Cold Prey: Resurrection Appraisal
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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