“Break a paparazzo’s camera; smash up a hotel room”
Before he moved to Los Angeles to live the dream, I had the pleasure of seeing Jack Hunter perform the Richard Burton role in a local Buffalo production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? His turn contained a perfect amount of gravitas while the intimate setting of Irish Classical Theatre’s ‘in the round’ layout allowed all to see the nuance in his detailed characterization. So, when learning he starred in a short film donning the KISS-like make-up of a bygone era’s heavy metal act, I enthusiastically set aside the time to watch what he had to offer in the cinematic medium.
Cultivating the scratchy voice of a rock star giving his all the past two decades at gigs wherever he could find one, Hunter is able to infuse some bite into his Tarantula Moonrocket to displace the sobering realization that the spotlight had extinguished. Still retaining the ego and confidence necessary to be the ‘God’ gracing his best-selling album Heavy Metal Valhalla, he refuses to be deterred by the changing generation or the years weighing him down. With wrinkles creating sharp valleys underneath the black and white paint of his face, the opportunity to chat up a young receptionist (Jennifer Stefanisko) won’t be passed up—even if she’s completely oblivious to the stardom that once was.
Directed by Ross Cohen from a script by Ryan Dee Gilmour, Tarantula Moonrocket is an intriguing look at the struggles of rebirth. Lost in a world more interested in fawning over metrosexuals with eyeliner than the assured machismo his contemporaries held, our star is treading water as the new guild attempts to drown him. Trying his best to get his new album Sex Invasion From Mars out to the public, the label is more inclined to bury the image and not lose more money than they already have. Willing to play hardball by leaving to find new representation, the sad truth that Dark Summer Records owns not only the music but also the name and likeness to his persona leaves defeat his only option.
This is where the film strips away any initial humor at seeing a middle-aged man walking the streets painted like a freak. We begin to see the man behind the mask—the compassionate soul that has played second fiddle to a façade bubbling over with sexuality, aggression, and fame. Unwilling to take the advice of his agent (Elain Rinehart) to drum up salacious press or join a reality show, the idea rock and roll is and always has been a fabrication gives pause. Asked to be a contestant on “Celebrity Drunk Tank” despite not being an alcoholic, one must wonder how many of the real washed up celebs on cable television are simply faking their self-destruction for money.
Tarantula Moonrocket finds a way to breach the impenetrable shell surrounding so many of the fragile creatures we put on pedestals each and every day. Marc Chaiet‘s brutal honesty as new label head shows the cutthroat nature corporate culture; Warren Sweeney‘s defeated Cav describes compromising dream with reality to stay relevant and employed; and Tyler McClain‘s attractive barista helps portray humanity’s ability to look beyond the manufactured and see the troubled, lonely soul beneath. She provides the musician with the stunning knowledge that it may finally be time to resurrect the person he was before artifice took control.
Complete with some great heavy metal beats from Karl Preusser, the aesthetic gives a This is Spinal Tap allure under a more serious light. Hunter excels in the character and fleshes out the persona to make his lecherous ways honest and unironic despite how easy comedy would have been considering the age gap. He still believes in his talent and holds onto the lie that the fans will come. We must grow up at some point, though, and accept maturity and modesty as a means for responsible living above the fading pipe dreams of past glory. We hide behind masks to cope with inadequacy or failure, but true happiness won’t occur until we let go and accept who we really are.
courtesy of Jack Hunter.