AWARD THIS! 2023 NOMINEE! Like a geyser of blood and semen from a phallic cuttlefish, the unexpected insights keep spouting from writer-director Scott Barber’s incredible rock-doc This is Gwar. The story of a 1980s rock band comprised of alien barbarians exiled to planet Earth starts in one of the most wretched corners of the galaxy: Richmond, Virginia. A bunch of art students hated by their schools for loving low art like comic books and monster movies gathered together in an artist’s space that was formerly a broken-down ex-dairy factory framed by giant towering faded milk bottles.
Hunter Jackson was there building space weapons and monster costumes for a movie he was making called Scumdogs of the Universe. Another guy, Dave Brockie, was there practicing with the funniest band in the local punk scene, Death Piggie. Brockie said to Jackson that it might be amusing if they open for themselves wearing Jackson’s costumes, pretending to be a band of space warriors called Gwarghh. It went better than expected and soon developed into a decades-long musical gore-drenched puppet massacre called Gwar. Using lyrics that would make The Mentors blush and employing a bloody stage show that would make Alice Cooper s**t his leather pants, Gwar has torn its way through hard rock history.
“…alien barbarians exiled to planet Earth starts in one of the most wretched corners of the galaxy: Richmond, Virginia.”
This Is Gwar goes through the story of the estimated hundred people who worked from the Slave Pit up to make the spectacle known as Gwar. The history of the feud between co-founders Brockie and Hunter is exposed in blinding clarity. Also, there was an obscenity arrest where the cuttlefish mentioned above was confiscated. And a shooting that comes out of nowhere. So forget what you know because you probably already have, this is the Gwar you will remember.
Barber makes the genius move of framing the proceedings as the creative results of an artists’ collective. The disdain these people received from academia for their pop culture referencing builds sympathy and respect for their endeavors to create unacceptable art. This includes sticking all those swords in the giant rubber a*s of a grotesque pedophile priest, which was the act that led to the arrest in Charlotteville. The genuine passion that all involved had to bring something really unusual to life is captured in some very poignant interviews. Even the guy in charge of mixing up the fake blood to spray on the audience talks with pride about his craft. No one got rich, but only a very few regretted their involvement with the band.
"…the Gwar project is much bigger than its demonic lead singer and his actual demons."