'This is GWAR' Tells the Tale of the Most Ridiculous(ly Awesome) Band to Ever Shred - Knotfest
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‘This is GWAR’ Tells the Tale of the Most Ridiculous(ly Awesome) Band to Ever Shred

Posted by Nicolás Delgadillo in Culture on July 21, 2022

Shudder’s latest documentary dives deep into the career of the legendary Scumdogs of the Universe

This is GWAR claims to tell the true story of the sickest band in the world. For the uninitiated, GWAR is a metal band from Richmond, Virginia who are some of the greatest performance artists to ever grace the stage, while at the same time being “one of the greatest social commentaries ever”, according Randy Blythe, who was interviewed for the film. Look, a simple glimpse at a Google images search or a quick YouTube clip will pretty much give you the picture of what GWAR has got going on, and it ain’t subtle.

Filmmaker Scott Barber weaves together the story of the band’s early days and small beginnings into unprecedented superstardom, its aftermath, and of course the band’s current day status without its frontman, the late great Dave Brockie AKA Oderus Urungus. While the documentary itself may not be remarkable in its presentation, going through a basic linear structure of a band’s ups and downs told through interviews and archived footage, the band itself is such a wildly unique one in terms of their image, philosophy and artistic statement. GWAR can’t help but stand out.

Courtesy of Shudder

The film opens with a stagehand setting up for one of their notably elaborate live shows. He needs to connect a ton of hoses that will eventually spray any number of fluids out into the audience. Getting soaked by God-knows-what is one of the biggest appeals of going to a GWAR show. It’s certainly messy work for the good people behind the scenes, but as this particular stagehand tells the camera with a grin, “I just love spraying people with blood.” With so many enormous and intricate pieces that go into putting the shows together, you could almost do an entire documentary just on the behind the scenes.

Even with GWAR’s extensive history and its vast array of members that have come and gone, Barber’s documentary is able to devote enough time towards fleshing out every single out of them and understanding their relationships to each other (you don’t put on this kind of show for years and not become close), making many of their inevitable fallouts all the more impactful. Emotions run surprisingly high with these folks as they recall dealing with outside pressures, creatives constantly butting heads, and the toll of a rigorous and exhausting touring schedule. From their inception as a movie to their arrival at the Grammy’s and appearances on talk shows (an infamous interview with Barbara Walters is especially fun) to the passing of Brockie, the group has gone through it all and then some.

Courtesy of Shudder

Even so, it seems apparent that none of them would have traded it for anything else. The doc maintains that wild and unfettered creative energy that GWAR has always had and still miraculously maintains to this day. There is an insane amount of genuine talent and showmanship from every single person involved and the film manages to highlight that aspect of the band rather than gawk at the button-pushing absurdity of it. GWAR is lowbrow and nasty but also clearly intended to be campy fun at the same time.

The Scumdogs of the Universe may seem ridiculous and silly, as the band themselves admit in the film that it was a joke that just kept going. But it’s a joke with no punchline, because the fact of the matter is that they’re just actually great artists. While no doubt aided by the band’s distinct presentation, the music has endured just as much as their image. It’s cool to not care at all about looking cool, onstage or off. GWAR’s artistry and their earnestness and commitment to what they do is what’s given them the love and success. And of course, they helped pave the way for other acts like our very own Slipknot. This is GWAR is pretty standard music documentary, objectively speaking, but it’s one that covers the ongoing career and legacy of what is truly the world’s sickest band.

‘This is GWAR’ is now streaming on Shudder.


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