Murder Ballads: How to Make It in Rock 'n' Roll
Oct 25, 2023
Neil Rickatson, Mitchell Tolliday
Simon Callow, Marcus Massey, Niccy Lin
Rock music and horror have always gone together like peanut butter and jelly. Given that both are considered outsider artforms, it’s just a natural pairing. After all, rock (and metal or punk) music tends to be aggressive and there is no genre of film more aggressive than horror. Even action cinema tends to be less brutal.
Comedy is another genre that fits well with both horror and rock. Both artforms love to roll about in camp on occasion, cutting loose with over-the-top subject matter and black humor. Murder Ballads knows all of this and revels in it, while also mixing doses of British crime into the mix as well. What results is an offbeat concoction that feels like someone dumped elements of ‘90s slacker comedies, music biopics, and ‘90s crime comedies into a blender. The trappings are lo-fi due to its indie budget, but the throwback sentiments remain intact.
The story follows a struggling British rock band in desperate need of a new image – including a new member – and a new hit song. If they cannot swing either one, their label is going to give them the boot. Desperate times call for desperate measures and those desperate measures end up involving theft, deception, and murder, among other things. If that weren’t enough, most of the band members also happen to be morons. Given that morons are prone to making mistakes and mistakes are the last thing one should be making when committing crimes, well, you can see why things inevitably get out of control.
Writer/director Mitchell Tolliday has crafted a fun little film here about the darkly comedic and supremely chaotic rise and fall of a British rock ‘n’ roll band. The performances are pitched properly to the film’s playful tone, the faux documentary cutaways to actor Simon Callow are amusing, and the segues between sections are cute and inventive. Aside from some occasional pacing issues, this is a fun time.