Nightstream Film Festival (NFF) – Do you like gore, war, and documentaries? Scott Barber’s This Is GWAR is an excellent tour through the rise and fall of GWAR, a rock band known for its shock and awe performances, delightfully disgusting lyrics, and off-camera antics. Beginning as a parody of over-the-top metal bands, the self-proclaimed “art collective” that is GWAR had a rocky relationship from start to finish, having a revolving door of band members playing GWAR’s various nefarious characters. However, no matter who filled the boots and masks, there was always undeniable talent and unique perspectives beneath the costumes, as each member left their mark on the many albums and movies that the band produced.

An adventure into the world of heavy metal and the band members’ individual lives, This Is GWAR is screening in the feature film programs of the 2021 Nighstream Film Festival. GWAR is a group of highly imaginative artists centered around frontman David Brockie — R.I.P — who crashed the underground scene with their music that originally sounded more punk rock than metal. The band played rather horribly but managed to captivate audiences and earn a following with their eye-catching costumes and mythology-inspired lore. Consisting of quite a few characters — primarily Oderus Urungus, Blöthar the Berserker, Jizmak da Gusha, Beefcake the Mighty, Flattus Maximus, Pustulus Maximus, and Balsac the Jaws of Death — and crewmen who were collectively referred to as the “slave pit”, together, they created elaborate sets for their memorable performances.

In their personal lives, many of the band and crew members are enthusiasts of the role-playing game, Dungeons & Dragons, and furthermore, are consumers of science fiction content, all of which helped the band members come together to make GWAR; who are, as Weird Al Yankovich explains are “…barbarian interplanetary warriors who play heavy metal music and shoot various bodily fluids all over the audience”. It was this shared love of music and mythos coupled with a fated mix of singers, musicians, writers, and production artists that /came together in a random, rundown building in Richmond, Virginia to create the look and sound that would become GWAR. Director Barber pieces this rags-to-metal story together with old video clips and interviews from ex-band members and crew, telling delightful stories that are often accompanied by comic-book-like images to help visualize the wild antics being described.

The band members stuck together (for the most part) through their personal adversities and banded together when external forces tried to dismantle the band. Certain sects of media and political parties sought to scapegoat heavy metal artists as negative influences on the development of the nation’s youth during the Satanic Panic of the late 20th century, however, GWAR was there to lead the charge in rebelling against their cultural persecution and offering up yet more disgusting content. Besides appearing at numerous shows and self-written/directed movies of their own maddened makings, GWAR’s underground music and alternative style still managed to permeate mainstream pop culture, with them having appeared in cult classic movies and TV shows such as their cameo in Empire Records (1995) and their influence on the musical taste of Beavis and Butthead.

The goriest, raunchiest, most murderous superheroes to ever walk this godforsaken planet, the story of GWAR is told in full colorful detail in director Scot Barber’s documentary This Is GWAR. GWAR is one of the most talented bands to grace stage and TV that never sold out — except for possibly their souls to the devil. In my opinion, as far as music documentaries go, This Is GWAR is on par with something like Metallica’s Some Kind of Monster, which is just to say that This Is GWAR is a very entertaining and thorough telling of the band’s history while also allowing the audience to get to know the band members intimately.

This Is GWAR reviewed as part of our Nightstream Film Festival (NFF) coverage.

 

8 out of 10

 

This Is GWAR
RATING: NR No Trailer Available
Runtime: 1 Hr. 50 Mins.
Directed By:
Written By: /

 

 

 

 

 

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About the Author

Adrienne Reese is a fan of movies - the good, the bad, and the ugly - and came to the horror genre by way of getting over her fear of... everything. Adrienne also writes for the Frida Cinema, and in addition to film enjoys cooking, Minesweeper, and binge-watching Game of Thrones.
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