What happens when a guerrilla filmmaking art student recruits a local punk rock band to be in his movie? If you answered, “It spawns the most unique band on the planet, which becomes a hive for talented musicians and artists that has spanned three decades and is still going strong,” you would be correct! Scott Barber’s upcoming documentary, This is GWAR, tells the story of the band’s origin and the road they traveled to be where they are now. GWAR is known for wearing over-the-top costumes and performing live concerts where they spray copious amounts of blood (and other fluids) onto their adoring fans. This documentary shows the human side of a group of people who never seemed human by shedding light on what is underneath the masks and stage theatrics. This documentary tells it all, from their formation to their controversies to their triumphs, tragedies, and rebirths.
This Is GWAR is directed by Scott Barber (The Orange Years: The Nickelodeon Story) and features live and behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with many of the members and artists of the band. It also includes discussions and comments from Ethan Embry (Empire Records, The Devil’s Candy), Bam Margera (Jackass TV series), ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic, Alex Winter (Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, The Lost Boys), and many more. And hey, check out our interview with guitarist Michael Derks AKA BalSac the Jaws of Death!
I have to start by saying that I watched this documentary as a lifelong GWAR fan. I was already confident I would love this before pressing play. I first saw GWAR on Beavis and Butthead in sixth grade and instantly fell in love with the music and the aesthetics. Somehow I convinced my parents to buy me their album Scumdogs of the Universe, which I then hid from them so they wouldn’t see what was actually on it. I finally saw them live on their Beyond Hell tour and still have my fluid-stained shirt as a souvenir. I also made my own Scumdogs of the Universe Hawaiin shirt which is the crown jewel of my closet:
I am a biased GWAR fan
I am blown away by how in-depth this documentary is. In its two-hour runtime, it leaves no stone unturned and details the many lineup changes, inner struggles, clashing egos, and unforeseen tragedies that the band has gone through over the years. I went through a full range of emotions, and some moments even had me in tears. I don’t want to spoil anything, but be sure to have the tissues handy as there are a few spots where you might have “something in your eye.” (No, it’s not blood.) As outrageous as the band’s characters and sets are, the story of the people behind them is equally as compelling.
A non-biased viewer’s perspective
To, as Thanos would say, “‘Bring balance’ to the viewing experience,” I had my wife watch it with me. She hasn’t spent her life gobbling down communion at the altar of GWAR, so I wanted to get her perspective. As soon as it started, her eyes were glued to the screen. She enjoyed it just as much as I did.
“I thought they were just another rock band with a gimmick, but watching the documentary and seeing how they started, I realized they are so much more. Now I want to go check out some of their work. Also, I didn’t know that is what a cuttlefish looked like out of the water.” (Oderus Urungus was known for wearing a prosthetic phallus known as The Cuttlefish.)
This documentary is something that will resonate with fans and non-fans alike. The creativity and hard work that went into creating and continuing to evolve the band makes This Is GWAR an exciting story. A lot can be said about when passion, talent, and perseverance coalesce. It tells a powerful story that speaks to people from all walks of life.
Five Favorite Quotes From the Documentary
“Everyone in GWAR can shred. Maybe it’s a joke in the packaging, but the musicianship is very sincere.” Thomas Lennon (The State, Reno 911)
“It sounds like a really messy, mindless joke, I suppose, but in reality, it’s one the greatest social commentaries ever.” – Randall Blythe, vocalist of Lamb of God, on GWAR’s music
“That’s sort of the beauty of GWAR. As much as they say they’re here to destroy the human race, they’re actually here to save it.” – Adam Green, director of the Hatchet series
“I will defend our open-house policy of misfit artists until the end.” – Dave Brockie AKA Oderus Urungus, vocalist of GWAR
“They took Dave’s dick away in a bucket.” – Michael Bishop AKA Beefcake the Mighty/Blothar the Berzerker on David Brockie’s arrest in Charlotte, North Carolina, for indecency
This is GWAR premieres on Shudder on July 21, 2022.