Jess Franco‘s Killer Barbys is to the band The Killer Barbies what Aki Kaurismäki‘s Leningrad Cowboys go America was to the Leningrad Cowboys. Both are movies starring an existing band and both are typical products of the directors.
Kaurismäki is known for his deadpan black humor presented in films totally weirding you out and Leningrad Cowboys go to America is a weird and funny tale of the Leningrad Cowboys going to America.
Franco, on the other hand, is known for erotic horror movies and Killer Barbys is a mix of horny rockers and cannibalists.
But there’s more. Kaurismäki made a sequel, Leningrad Cowboys Meet Moses, an attempt to make the worst movie ever. To a certain degree he succeeds in doing so.
Franco’s Killer Barbys doesn’t look as if it pretended to make a similar effort,but it’s difficult not to see how many horror cliches you can see in this film: at night you hear the sound of wearwolves, it’s often twelve o’clock, there’s cannibalism, you’ve got some dwarves, most of the rockers constantly want sex, a semi-naked girl is being chased in the woods, there’s lots and lots of blood and someone even ends up being crushed.
How much gore can you get into one movie? We’d ask Lucio Fulci, but unfortunately he’s dead.
But movies like Killer Barbys and the “Leningrad Cowboys” films (apart from two movies, Kaurismäki also directed a concert documentary and several short movies with the band) never meant to be original pieces of cinematographic genius.They serve, in a way, to let you know the band exists.
Sure, the directors are there to produce an end result that’s a nice business card for both band and director, but if these movies weren’t large band promos,the directors could’ve gotten just as well a bunch of actors. If anything, they are much more enjoyable than your average rockumentary.
There’s one advantage the Leningrad Cowboys have: their name. You may have noticed I talk about the movie Killer Barbys and the band Killer Barbies.
The answer to this riddle is simple: Mattel didn’t like the idea of seeing their top product linked to a dirty rock band’s movie with sex and fangs and threatened to sue if the movie would bear the band’s name. One intentional spelling mistake later, everything was okay again.
Sure, it’s a minimal difference but if you look for the name of the band, you’ll need a bit longer to find the film. Thankfully someone invented the internet, home of the spelling mistake, and you won’t have to search that much longer.
But let’s go back to the film.
Even though Franco made lots of no-budget movies where anyone can see through the special effects, I suspect him here of making the effects as bad as possible (if you can’t see that the dead bodies are dummies, you desperately need to get your eyes checked.)
Either that, or the band intended to make a parody of a horror movie and everyone was in on the joke, except for the director.
It is true that Franco could have tried harder and that the movie could have been better, but it’s common knowledge that it’s better not to look Franco’s best movies in the nineties.
Most of Franco’s movies are so badly acted, it’s somehow ironic to conclude that in Killer Barbys two rockers act better than Franco’s cast of regulars (Lina Romay, Linnea Quigley, …).
To me, Killer Barbys stands out as the only decent movie Franco made in the nineties, so if you want to see some of his later work, this is the best choice you can make. As long as you remember it’s a Frankenstein experiment of combining gore and rockumentaries.
As everybody seemed happy with the result, Franco directed a sequel in 2002, Killer Barbys vs. Dracula. It just seems to make the weird parallels to Kaurismäki’s work with the Leningrad Cowboys even stronger, and it may be something for bands to think about: both the Cowboys and the Barbies managed to make more than one movie, whereas you don’t often get to see a sequel of a rockumentary.
If a band is inspired by this review to contact a director for a movie instead of a rockumentary you can always send me some money. I accept cheques.
By the way, “Love Killer” is not a bad song.
Label: VellaVision (Spain)
Subtitles: Spanish / English
Ration aspect: 4:3 (Fullscreen)
Extras: Interactive Menus, Scene Access, Filmographies, Photo Gallery, Trailers
Label: VellaVision (Spain)
Same DVD as above, but in pack with the movie’s sequel, Killer Barbys vs. Dracula.
Label: Shriek Show
Uncut Anamorphic Widescreen Version
Language: English and Original Multi-Language Dolby Digital Stereo Tracks
Extras: Interview with Sylvia Superstar and Billy King, 2 Killer Barbies’ music videos, notes, biographies and trailer