IMDB-researching this was much more fun than watching the movie itself. The gushing praise for the film should be in a textbook on ringer reviews and the fact that this is the first line of Traci Lords's bio—"Traci Lords is a study of a determined and complex woman with a very controversial background"—does not ever stop being incredible. SHOCK 'EM DEAD is heavy metal horror, released in 1991, when this kind of metal was dying very quickly indeed. For some reason, this feels more dated and less fun than similar flicks like 1988's BLACK ROSES and 1986's TRICK OR TREAT.
I'd be curious to see how it was received in 1991, the same year in which Nevermind hit. The story of loser Martin, who strikes a deal with a voodoo woman to become the world's greatest rock star, but loses his soul in the process, SHOCK feels more like an "Up All Night" sex comedy with mild violence than any kind of horror film. Same characters and stupid clothes from that era, same cramped sets and small jacuzzis. And the music is much more embarrassing than Fastway's awesome TRICK OR TREAT soundtrack or the various true metal on BLACK ROSES. This is tepid AOR, with titles like "Virgin Girl" and "Hairy Cherry".
The music business scenes also seem really weird and ancient, with "band showcases" and lots of talk about six-figure advances. Oh, yeah, and Traci Lords is in this, albeit not enough to warrant occupying the entire VHS cover. She plays the bassist's girlfriend, who captures Martin's fancy after his rock star transformation into Vinnie Vincent or something. She also stays fully clothed, which means that her acting ability is the only gift she gives this film and therefore ugh. Traci wasn't bad in the NOT OF THIS EARTH remake and she's not terrible here, but her performance definitely ain't enough to salvage this thing.
"Bland" is a pretty fair term to use for the whole thing. It's not the worst movie ever, although it might be the worst heavy metal horror film ever (ROCK N ROLL NIGHTMARE is a little more memorable than this...can't think of anything else that might trump it for sheer boredom or putridness).