Film Pulse Score

Fantastic Fest 2021: THIS IS GWAR Review

  • Director: Scott Barber
  • Runtime: 110 Minutes

Even if you’re not familiar with their discography, you’ve probably at least seen some of the antics of metal band GWAR, specifically their wild stage shows. Scott Barber’s documentary, This is GWAR, aims to present the definitive history of the band, highlighting every milestone from its inception to the present day after its leader, Dave Brockie, sadly passes away.

This extensive, nearly two-hour-long doc chronicles the band’s humble beginnings as a punk art project, to the heavy-metal behemoth we recognize today. Through interviews with past and present band members, peers and proteges, and fans, This is GWAR is not only an audio-visual history of the band but an exploration into the people and ideas behind the latex masks and fluid-spewing devices. 

We delve into the creative minds behind the elaborate props and learn about their inspirations and the stories behind some of the most iconic creatures featured in the stage show, like the giant sand worm thing and the toilet monster. There’s plenty of backstage footage as well, showing the tremendous amount of effort and preparation it takes to set up a GWAR show, indicating the chaos is more organized than concert-goers may believe, given the insanity that unfolds.

The film is also a celebration of the band and its riotous attitude, consistently reminding us that art doesn’t have to be self-serious in order to get its point across. GWAR has always been a performance art collective from the beginning and it just so happens to be composed of extremely skilled musicians who are capable of making original and catchy tunes. 

Presented in a conventional talking-head format, the documentary, while well constructed, is nothing special in terms of visuals, playing it fairly safe. Despite this straightforward method of storytelling, even those, such as myself, who are not the biggest of GWAR fans will find this information to be easily digestible and wildly entertaining. The copious amount of archival footage goes a long way in fully fleshing out the GWAR ethos and, as one might expect, the band members are interesting characters in and of themselves, so their participation was also a must.

When Dave Brockie began fully developing GWAR as a band, he had a vision that it would continue on for years after he left this Earth, and it certainly seems like that could be coming to fruition, as members have proven that GWAR is defined more of as an idea than as specific people, and hopefully youngsters from many future generations will be attending GWAR shows and getting all sorts of bodily fluid splattered on them.

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