Before seeing the independent, in-limited-release film Gory Gory Hallelujah, I’d heard good things about it. Of course, I’ve also heard good things about a lot of indie horror flicks that I’ve watched and just went, “What?!” at the end (that is, if I was still awake).
This movie starts off by introducing us to four actors competing for the stage play role of Jesus Christ: a black militant, Rahim (Jeff Gilbert, channeling Samuel L. Jackson); a bisexual hippie, Sky (Tim Gouran, channeling Val Kilmer); a principled Jew, Joshua (Todd Licea, channeling Paul Riser); and a free-spirited redhead, Jesse (Angie Louise, channeling Geena Davis). They each audition for the Fosse’esque director, and each is rejected. Banding together in their disappointment, the former strangers become fast friends and decide to hit the road on hogs, ala Easy Rider. On one of their early rest stops at local bar, they come upon a swivel-hipped group from an Elvis convention and a misunderstanding gets everyone all shook up — a fat Elvis winds up dead, and the thespians go on the lam.
The quartet find themselves stranded in the evangelical town of Jackville (a burg straight from a John Waters movie, secretly populated by characters right out of a Russ Meyer girl-on-girl fantasy), where they are put under false arrest and kept imprisoned inside a church’s Sunday School where they must await trial in a kangaroo court for their “sins”. To say much more would give the game away, but if you wait until the end you will see that Gory Gory Hallelujah qualifies as a horror movie.
You probably noticed I’ve made a lot of comparisons when talking about Gory Gory Hallelujah, but unlike most movies that remind me of other movies, it’s not derivative. It’s a hard film to pigeonhole. Even though it is not strictly a musical, it conjures up the look and feel of spoofing (and giving homage to) movies like Tommy, Jesus Christ Superstar, and A Chorus Line. Even though it is not strictly a zombie movie, it definitely conjures up sense-memories from Dawn of the Dead. One thing Gory Gory Hallelujah is, and what it shines at, is divine comedy; it feels like a vague mix of Eating Raoul, Hairspray, and a movie Mel Brooks hasn’t made yet.
Now, I am probably heaping the praise on too high. I don’t want you to be disappointed when you see it. Gory Gory Hallelujah is not the Second Coming. It’s not the best movie I have ever seen and it does start to drag about ¾ of the way through (but is “saved!” by a bang-up ending). However, when I think back to all the independent films I have seen and reviewed, particularly ones in difficult genres to master like comedy and horror, I have to give kudos to the writer and director team of Angie Louise and Sue Corcoran, aka The Von Piglet Sisters. They both acted in the movie, wrote, directed, edited, etc., in true “Let’s put on a show!” fashion and they succeeded on every level. Even the shot-on-video look isn’t cheap; somebody knew about lighting, thank god (this is almost never the case in these low-budget films; I am sure I have suffered some retinal damage over the years peering into dim, dark sets barely lit by amateurs).
If you liked The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Jesus Christ Superstar, and Shaun of the Dead — and want to see them all rolled up into one — you will adore Gory, Gory Hallelujah. While there is not as much “gory gory” as a horror fan might hope, the saving grace and pleasant surprise is that it’s superlative camp you can say “hallelujah” to.
The movie is currently out in limited release and will make its debut on Showtime in the fall.
Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson for Horror.com