★★★★ out of ★★★★★
Directed by Scott Barber.
GWAR is the little band that no one has ever heard of, but absolutely everyone needs to know. Their horrifying musings are just that — horrifying musings. Don’t be mistaken there’s so much more this gore-filled party. So much more. After nearly 40 years they have perfected the art of soaking their weak and puny audiences with blood, guts, urine, and yes, semen.
In the new documentary on Shudder, this is GWAR, documentary director Scott Barber tells a fairly linear tale of GWAR’s hardcore punk origins, their move to metal, and the constant state of exigence-filled chaos. In case you were wondering, the bastard offspring of metal and punk is not grunge, it’s GWAR!
For the uninitiated, and we fully understand if you are uninitiated, GWAR is a gaggle of massively costumed interplanetary behemoth barbarians who are here on earth to DESTROY puny and weak humans with their crushing riffs. The GWAR mythos goes much deeper than this tepid description, but at its core, GWAR is a massive mobilization of monsters who mosh.
While GWAR counts upwards of 100 plus members in their past and present ranks, the band, which is really an art collective, is the tortured and confrontational demon child of hardcore enthusiast Dave Brockie and visual artist Hunter Jackson. Brockie brought the punk and Jackson brought the monsters. In turn, this unholy unison brought the aforementioned blood, guts, urine, and semen, but it also brought a massively understated universe of social commentary and a knife to the throat of political hypocrisy.
To see GWAR is to believe GWAR. Describing GWAR is a futile exercise. What Barber’s film really does is not describe GWAR, but the compelling needs of a weirdo outsider collective who were willing to take on any idea, costumes, music styling, and taboo. The anarchy behind GWAR, while not without serious peril, is the thing of gory legend. Think VH1’s Behind the Music spawned in the murkiest depths of H-E-L-L!!!
The most interesting element to GWAR is not just their relative staying power, but the fact that the are exceptionally talented musicians. Granted even hardened GWAR fans probably can’t name five of their tunes — maybe a few can — but they’ve never had a hit, nor have they ever crossed over in the name of corporate malfeasance. They have consistently stuck to their guns, halberds, battle axes, and even broad swords.
Whether it’s grinding up Sarah Palin and Mike Tyson, shooting up a dinosaur egg with crack cocaine, or feeding Jerry Springer to a space monster, GWAR knows no bounds. Literally, no bounds. If Lloyd Kaufman turned to hardcore punk instead of Troma, or if Mark Twain was raised on a never ending diet of LSD and metal, you might have gotten GWAR earlier.
The GWAR chronology is a real feat and a real treat. A once-in-a-lifetime accomplishment. Barber nicely captures their ingenuity and respectfully gets to the heart of Brockie and Jackson’s decades of hostilities, while also paying homage to the trauma that of hundreds of artists and freaks that have touched the GWAR throne.
If any of GWAR’s musings offend you…well, that’s kind of the point.
This is GWAR is probably Rated R+ and it’s streaming on Shudder.