Nightstream 2021: This Is GWAR – Screw the Critics

This Is a Review, from a card carrying film critic. Keep that in mind. That’s important. GWAR isn’t for the critics, that’s what they say. It’s also not for the children. Who GWAR is for, presumably, is a live audience that is already on board with what’s about to happen. What’s about to happen is an absurdity of live entertainment. The live audience will be sprayed down with fake blood and bodily fluids that will probably ruin whatever shirts they are wearing. They will be debased by the band they worship. Not for me. Not for critics. For someone else. This Is GWAR is showing at Nightstream, it won top honors in the audience category for feature films. Let’s see if you can tell what GWAR lead vocalist Blöthar the Berserker thinks about critics:

I’ve got a night stream for ya. I’m working with a prostate the size of a Hyundai Elantra. But seriously, we are honored to have the audience award. Screw the critics. It’s the people that matter. That’s why we do what we do. After all, they’re the ones with the money and the drugs.

Screw the critics. It’s the people that matter. GWAR is for those people only. Lacking drugs and money, I’ll have to settle with film criticism.

Which means that This Is GWAR is also my entry into the too-zany-for-me world of GWAR, a band constructed around cinematic allusions that plays well in such a format. It’s no wonder it has already garnered an approving response from the fans. The Venn diagram of fans of GWAR and cult genre festivals probably also forms a perfect circle. If you can’t see the live show, and the last year has been poor for attending music but great for watching documents of it, then this will just have to do.

It feels like a defining enough document. The sort of document where a line like “then the police took his dick away in a bucket,” makes perfect sense. Because, really, anything goes at a GWAR show. I admire both that ethos and the KISS-like formality of production-first live shows. Give people something to really remember your show by. Have them go home covered in simulated body fluids. That plays at a live show and probably psyches up a crowd that’s game for that sort of thing, possibly offends the people the band hopes to offend, and thus further enlivens the people who should enjoy that kind of thing.

And This Is GWAR is a simple, good tracing of the band’s legacy. It leans into their early cinematic pretensions. The band was originally formed to perform in a would-be movie called Scumdogs of the Universe. It’s all good branding, until you get to the band’s self-labeling of their volunteer space as “The Slave Pit.” Frankly, that’s flat out condemnable and worse than shock value, stupidly offensive. They started as a joke and grew into something authentically satirical. It’s a cool enough story about a random enough inception that grew into a mini-movement in the late-’90s, that it’s worth seeing it all through.

I’ll never go to a GWAR show. I’m a film critic. The original members of the band have left since Dave Brockie sadly departed the world. It would have been worth it, I think, given the impression This Is GWAR has left me with. It’s a nice, clean movie about a messy band. It’s directed by Scott Barber, who just came off the green slime-coated documentary about the Nickelodeon channel, The Orange Years (2020). He might be too invested in audiences getting covered in fluids but someone’s gotta do the job.

6/10

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