July 19, 2018 Sunset Society (Movie Review)
The vibe permeating the infamous Sunset Strip is that of the late 1980s once again, and the Hollywood elite are wining, dining, and 69-ing at The Manor, where all the hot vampires go for a tasty snack. Sunset Society is a tale of these wickedly-fanged undead, and it arrives to VOD, DVD, and Blu-ray on Tuesday, July 24, 2018, thanks to Cleopatra Entertainment.
We open with an animated Lemmy Kilmister (the late, great Motörhead frontman) providing a spoken word introduction as we creep up on The Raining Bow Bar (gee, that sounds familiar). Here we witness a vampiric game of poker gone horribly wrong, and learn how one wicked, sword-wielding Lemmy (who stars in the film as “Ace”) has come to rest among the undead. This flows flawlessly into the actual film, which is a film within a film, of sorts.
Here, Charlie (Ben Stobber: Party Bus To Hell 2017, The Immortal Wars 2018) has returned home to his Hollyweird mansion along with two ladies dressed in naughty Catholic schoolgirl attire. Unfortunately, before he can consummate their relationship, he discovers Mr. Cross (Robert Donavan: Art of the Dead 2018, Killer Kate! 2018) and his henchman Burton (Josh Fallon: The Bicyclist 2012, Step Too Far short 2017) in his basement rec room. We quickly learn that Cross is in search of a rumored film, said to be in Charlie’s possession, that will out all of vamp-kind to those pesky humans. In an attempt to save himself and his beloved fangs, Charlie is quick to point a finger at Frankie (famous porn-star Ron Jeremy), who supposedly destroyed all the copies of the tape.
Enter Sophia (Phoebe Dollar: Hell’s Highway 2002, Charlie’s Death Wish 2005), who, along with Charlie, is forced to view a copy of said tape in Cross’ presence, and so begins the movie within the film, which is aptly-entitled “Sunset Society.” This documentary, of sorts, details Ace (Kilmister) and his coven, which includes Dagger (Dizzy Reed of Guns N’ Roses), Gage (Tracii Guns of L.A. Guns), sorta-kinda butler Bronson (Randal Malone: Dahmer vs. Gacy 2010, Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde 2017), and, of course, Sophia. We quickly learn that all is not exactly roses with Ace’s clan, and Gage has committed the number one sin against vamp-dom, while Dagger is longing to return to his former human self. What plays out is a film full of antics that would clearly threaten the very existence of vampire-kind, and multiple copies of it still exist!
Sunset Society clocks in at 93-minutes in-length and was written and directed by Phoebe Dollar, who makes her directorial debut here, as well as starring in the role of Sophia. The Horror-Comedy offering is chock full of cheese, and also features the likes of Sarah Nicklin (Missing William 2014, American Exit 2018), Catherine Annette (Super Shark 2011, Spreading Darkness 2017), Matt Nespoli (Goth 2003, Bloody Tease 2004), Angelique Congelton (Werewolf in a Womens Prison 2006), and Aaron Groben (Awkward series, Face Off series). As for celebrity cameos, there is Jackass’ Steve-O along with porn starlets Sunny Lane and Jessica James, as well as several of L.A.’s beloved club scene fixtures (including Happenin’ Harry).
Here is the thing: the success of Sunset Society weighs heavily on the shoulders of three men who are not known for their acting skills – Kilmister, Reed, and Guns. Each of these men is an accomplished (and then some) musician who found a home for himself and his musical talents on the L.A. scene, but has never been known for his acting skills. This fact almost immediately makes the entire venture risky, but Sunset Society largely succeeds in its risk-taking.
In fact, Reed and Guns both hold their own as actors, and never provide performances that feel unnaturally forced or, worse yet, streaked with Velveeta. Both men do their best with their characters, with Reed convincing as the bored/boring vampire who wants out of the undead, and Guns as the errant vamp who has unintentionally created another.
Kilmister gives a performance that is solid, for a character that is largely flat and receives less on-screen time than one would expect. While his lines are oft garbled, his presence is commanding enough to be convincing, and the film serves as a memorial to this man’s myriad talents. Perhaps the most shocking delivery comes from the infamous Ron Jeremy, who is also given little material to work with, but stars in a scene in a wine cellar that is full of wit and a credit to his comedic talents. Here, he uses the cyclic nature of the material to create some pithy lines that are worthy of a chuckle.
Overall, Sunset Society is a bit of a mish-mosh of successes and failures. There is a pinch of sleazy humor, which is somewhat to be expected from a film peppered with porn personalities, and yet they never take the obvious sexploitation angle. So, while there is some non-PC humor here and a nipple or two, Sunset Society largely takes the ‘high’ road.
Plot-wise, the film falls a bit short and flimsy, ultimately amounting to a run-time that seems to drag a bit in places. While the idea of a film within the film is fine, it ultimately seems to only add unnecessary length to the tale that, shaved off, would amount to a tighter production. (Size does matter, yes!) The animations interspersed throughout the film, however, are pretty fabulous and, if blended with an appropriate plot-line, could have been a film unto themselves.
Perhaps most importantly – considering the Cleopatra Records backing for the film – one highlight of Sunset Society is its rocking soundtrack, which features the likes of Lemmy (of course), along with Stephen Pearcy (Ratt) and George Lynch (Lynch Mob), Leather Strip, Jyrki 69 (The 69 Eyes), Electric Hellfire Club, Thor, Inhalt, Jurgen Engler (Die Krupps) and Simon House (Hawkwind), as well as more. In fact, Pearcy and Lynch’s reimagining of the Ratt hit “Round And Round” scores one particular scene that includes both a bloodbath and a threesome. What goes around comes around, indeed!
Throughout the film, special effects makeup and prosthetics (those teeth, ugh!) seem to be intentionally overdone, while the script utilizes classic Horror references (Aliens, Bram Stoker) for comedic purposes. This all serves to give Sunset Society an intentional B-grade cheesy coating that ain’t nothing but a good time. Sure, the flick has its flaws – some of which appear intentional, others of which simply exist – but the familiar faces and talents of its cast and crew are able to pull through to create an offering that is watchable and enjoyable, if not an instant classic.
Much like the schlocky good B-grade Horror of yesteryear, Sunset Society often seems to intentionally flop on its face in the name of fun. Appreciating this little vampire flick for what it is worth, CrypticRock gives Sunset Society 3 of 5 stars.