Why Horror Fans Should Care About “Scooby-Doo! and KISS”

Gene Simmons and WWE Studios to produce horror trilogy: “Temple”

There are exactly 2 reasons (no more, no less) for horror fans to care about the animated feature Scooby Doo! and KISS: Rock and Roll Mystery (which went straight to DVD last Tuesday).

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Official Synopsis: Get ready to Rock! Scooby-Doo and the Mystery Inc. Gang team up with the one and only KISS in this all-new, out-of-this-world adventure! We join the Gang at Kiss World – the all-things-Kiss theme park, as they investigate a series of strange hauntings. With help from Kiss, they discover that the Crimson Witch has returned to summon The Destroyer from the alternate dimension of Kissteria! The evil duos ghastly plan, to destroy the earth! Can the Gang’s cunning and Kiss’s power of rock save the day?! Tune in to this Rock and Roll Mystery for some thunderous, heavy FUN!

Reason #1: You’re a horror fan who’s also an avid KISS fan (and at least tolerant of Scooby-Doo).

Is it a prerequisite that you love KISS? Not necessarily; you don’t have to be a card carrying member of the KISS Army to enjoy this movie, but you’ve at least got to appreciate classic rock and animation. If you enjoyed Heavy Metal (1981, Potterton) than you’ll dig Scooby-Doo! and KISS: Rock and Roll Mystery. Even if you’re only tepid about mystery-solving teens from the 1970’s you’re in luck; Scooby-Doo and his gang may get top billing, but this is KISS’s vehicle.

Kiss World, the fictional amusement park where the story’s set, was the brainchild of Gene Simmons (KISS’s bass player and business-driver) who, in the mid-1970’s, dreamed of a traveling carnival that would accompany the band on tour. When the idea was deemed financially unfeasible, a live-action movie featuring the band (ironically, also produced by Scooby-Doo owners Hanna-Barbera) attempted to bring a visual representation of a potential Kiss World to their fans. The unmitigated disaster, Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park (1978, Hessler), was so atrocious it became a sore spot, and the first of several major stumbling blocks the band would have to overcome in the following decades. Scooby-Doo! and KISS: Rock and Roll Mystery is the film KISS Meets the Phantom should have been. Fans who have begrudgingly defended Phantom over the years can at least be proud of this one.

The "Rock off Kissteria" is a Black Diamond--get it?

The “Rock off Kissteria” is a Black Diamond–get it?

It’s a film for the fans, filled with nods to the band’s 40-year KISStory, including poignant shout-outs to past members Vinnie Vincent and Eric Carr (RIP) who are hailed as heroes who helped guard the “Rock of Kissteria”. And the film is gleefully self-aware, with KISS clearly willing to laugh at themselves, joking about the band’s embarrassing concept album The Elder and lampooning the glut of overpriced KISS-themed merchandise (which includes churros, smelling salts, toilets, and barf-bags).

KISS has established a visual aesthetic that’s larger than life, so short of CGI, animation is actually one of few practical mediums for visualizing their mythos. There are times when Scooby-Doo! and KISS looks more like stylish anime than any retro throw-back. Their songs Shout it Out Loud, Detroit Rock City, and even the disco-tainted I Was Made For Loving You become vibrant and hypnotic stand-alones, like alternative videos. And it’s actually trippy as fuck at times, sure to delight KISS fans who also indulge in ‘shrooms and/or pot brownies.

Bottom line: If you love KISS, then you will love this.

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Scooby-Doo! and KISS: A Rock and Roll Mystery was directed by Spike Brandt and Tony Cervone.

 

Reason #2: Gene Simmons has announced his intensions to enter the horror filmmaking arena.

Is it accurate to describe Scooby Doo! and KISS as horror-related in any capacity? Admittedly: Barely; perhaps only if we’re talking about cartoons as horror primers for kids (or maybe one short scene involving possessed dolls being dismembered). Nonetheless, horror fans should take note of just about anything Gene Simmons releases these days—well, except for music.

On March 27th, RollingStone.com reported on the partnership between Gene Simmons and WWE Studios to form Erebus Pictures (named for the Greek deity of perpetual darkness). Their mission: To produce and finance “elevated” horror movies. For some reason, the announcement made me nervous. Gene Simmons is known for a lot of reasons, but hardly for being “elevated” (unless, of course, we’re talking about the 7-inch platforms on his famous Demon Boots).

If this were a music website, believe I could write a blistering piece based on my mixed emotions about Gene, but for the sake of keeping this article horror-centric, I’ll do my best to stay focused (sorry Peter and Ace, I can’t lobby for you here; no rehashing the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame debacle today).

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Two things can’t ever be denied: KISS is a wildly successful band/institution that’s endured longer than anyone could have predicted; and: Gene Simmons has a proven track record as an economically successful businessman. But a person’s success in one arena doesn’t guarantee success in another. Remember when Michael Jordan played baseball?

Hardcore supporters might say, “Hey, this isn’t Gene’s first rodeo,” and it’s true. Simmons made his first foray into horror as the rock DJ and resurrectionist Nuke in 1986’s Trick or Treat (directed by Charles Martin Smith). But just as there’s a huge chasm between music making and movies, there’s a similar gap between acting and directing (and let’s be frank, it’s not like Gene’s Nuke was Oscar-worthy).

Rolling Stone quotes Simmons as revealing: “The horror genre continues to fascinate me as it proves to be endlessly thrilling and engaging for audiences.”

That’s sweet and all, but what do we really know about Gene when it comes to his ability to identify and produce quality horror movies? KISS may be adept at entertaining arena audiences, but horror is not just loud, explosive, and shocking. True horror practitioners understand the necessity of dynamics, skills KISS has yet to demonstrate (and after 40 years, no one expects them to change the formula). And the fact that Gene is a successful business man only matters to those who measure personal and artistic value in dollar-signs.

There’s a saying that once something is created with the goal of making money, it ceases to be art and becomes merely commerce. While art can produce a financial windfall, it should, ideally, be coincidental rather than intentional. In other words, if you’re not doing it for love, you shouldn’t be doing it at all.

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Gene Simmons the business man (an entity best separated from his beloved onstage persona: The Demon) has a reputation for being cunning, shrewd, and greedy. The ridiculous over-production of KISS merchandise is an obvious testament. And while there’s nothing wrong with setting out to make that cheddar, it should be done with a mind towards ethics. The last thing the horror community needs is another producer who underestimates the depth or our genre who’s just looking for a quick cash-grab.

In addition to being considered almost cruelly ambitious, Simmons has a reputation for refusing to partner with those who don’t share his opinions and/or question his directions (*cough*asshole*cough*). Unless a movie producer is a documented genius on par with Scorsese, this kind of dictatorial filmmaking rarely yields positive, quality results.

Conclusion

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Just because certain genres of music share an aesthetic with horror movies doesn’t make this a natural migration. I’m not saying that rockers can’t or shouldn’t transition into filmmakers; to do so would only produce another potentially oppressive stereotype. And just because music and movies are hardly interchangeable art forms, that doesn’t mean a person can’t be skilled at both. Rob Zombie seems to have started the trend with House of 1,000 Corpses back in 2003; while his work has been controversial and divisive (especially among horror fans) he’s established an impressive filmography and a sizable band of supporters. Slash (the guitar player for Guns ‘N Roses and Velvet Revolver), on the other hand, ventured into horror filmmaking in 2010 when he founded Slasher Film; their first production, Nothing Left to Fear (directed by Anthony Leonardi, III in 2013) was—not so good.

For their maiden endeavor, Erebus Pictures plans to produce a horror trilogy; the first film, Temple, was written by Matt Savelloni (Exile to Babylon) and is supposed to go before cameras this summer. As with everything, I’ll do my best to hold judgment and hope for the best until I can give the final product a fair evaluation. Still, when you’re talking about a personality as problematic and well-documented as Gene Simmons at the helm, it’s hard to reign in the apprehension.

Have you seen Scooby Doo! and KISS: A Rock and Roll Mystery, or do you intend to? What do you think about Gene Simmon’s impending foray into horror filmmaking? Sound off in the Comments section!

Follow me on Twitter @josh_millican for quality horror articles worthy of your attention.

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Writer Josh Millican, KISS Army Member for Lile

Writer Josh Millican, KISS Army Member for Lile

 

 

4 Comments on this post.

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  • TheBlondBaka
    26 July 2015 at 3:21 am - Reply

    I can’t wait to see Scooby Doo! and KISS: A Rock and Roll Mystery, last year I watched the Scooby Doo WWE film and it was good fun, great to see that the direct to video films they have been doing since the late 90’s are still as entertaining as the first few when back when I was a kid (though it dosen’t scare me now I remember the transformation scenes in Zombie Island been really creepy to me back then). Plus been a Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes fan it’ll be fun to see (or is that hear) them in the films =D

    As for Gene Simmons foray into horror films, I say go for it,yeah here are a lot of factors that may see this been an unmitigated disaster but I’ll stay optimistic and check it out when its released.

  • Matt Myers
    26 July 2015 at 12:09 pm - Reply

    Great article, this is an interesting combo. I have been a Kiss fan since I was a child, and watched Scooby Doo a lot then as well. I will pick this DVD up later in the week, I want to check it out.

    I am especially excited with Gene’s partnership with the WWE. As a dedicated life long fan of pro wrestling, I have seen all the films WWE has produced. Other than the John Cena Marine films, they have been pretty decent. It is great to see them taking a stab at horror! The Soska sisters have worked with WWE as well, I would love to see them in this mix.

  • Luellen Coston
    26 July 2015 at 4:15 pm - Reply

    I am a lover of all things Gene Simmons. Can’t wait to see any and all horror flicks that the KISS demon has his claws in!

    • Josh Millican
      26 July 2015 at 4:18 pm - Reply

      I love your enthusiasm! I’m hoping for the best!

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