Tuesday, April 23, 2019

The 27 Club: Dying Young and Famous

It is quite a sinister hall of fame. Of course, it is a coincidence, but quite a few legendary recording artists died at the age of twenty-seven, including Robert Johnson, Jimi Hendrix, Amy Winehouse, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, and the Grateful Dead’s Ron “Pigpen” McKernan. It is a steep price to pay for success, but there are still musicians who are desperate to make that Faustian bargain in Patrick Fogarty’s The 27 Club, which releases today on VOD.

Lily Glance has more talent for burning bridges than for singing. She is also twenty-six years old—a prime candidate for the 27 Club. Conveniently, that happens to be the topic of film student Jason Reed’s thesis documentary. The torch-carrying roommate of her sister’s boyfriend should be easy for her to manipulate. He might even be worth the effort when he discovers the evil Necronomicon-like book that holds the secret of attaining infernally-derived fame. However, the former bandmates of the 27 Club victim who died in the prologue are also out to find it and they play rough.

The coolest thing about 27 Club is that it is dedicated to the memory of the late, great R&B-jump blues saxophonist Big Jay McNeely, but frustratingly his scenes were cut from the film for continuity reasons, because he died before they could be completed. We’ve seen this film. Trust us, “consistency” is not a word anyone will use to describe it. He’s Big Jay McNeely—make what you’ve got work.

Indeed, if all the questionable continuity were edited out of 27 Club, there would hardly be any film left. Is possession of the book necessary or not? Are the Faustian stars always demonically possessed or just occasionally? Do we care? Not really. At least it is entertaining to watch Todd Rundgren chew the scenery as Prof. Crawford, Reed’s rock & roll faculty advisor.

Maddisyn Carter plays Glance in a similarly vampy spirit, but Derrick Denicola plods along painfully as dopey Reed. Yet, perhaps the most awkward and exploitative moments come from the tacky interludes portraying real life 27-ers like Johnson, Winehouse, and Curt Cobain as they reflect on their mortality and legacies, shortly before their deaths.

The circumstances of the so-called 27 Club are eerie enough to inspire a good horror movie, but this isn’t it. Admittedly, Fogarty’s film is a more professional piece of work than Phoebe Dollar’s unwatchable Sunset Society, but it cannot touch Rob Stefaniuk’s Suck, the gold standard of rock & roll horror comedies. Not recommended, The 27 Club releases today on VOD platforms.