Music Box Films
All Access Rating: A-
|Twisted Sister - We Are|
Looking absolutely deranged with their outlandish costumes and garish makeup, the flamboyant, but gritty, glam-metal combo that brought drunks onstage to sing parts of the Velvet Underground's "Sweet Jane" and led boisterous chants of "disco sucks" in hot, sweaty venues couldn't catch a break.
Despite a rabid following growing exponentially in the club circuit around New York City, record labels passed on them time and time again, never doubting for a second they could possibly be wrong about this hot mess of a band. History would prove otherwise.
Directed by Andrew Horn, "We Are Twisted F***king Sister" is a rollicking, 134-minute documentary that never drags while providing an entertaining, in-depth account of Twisted Sister's decade-long struggle to make it big. Out in theaters as well, the DVD version includes a disc packed to the gills with bonus interview material. The main story doesn't need much embellishment, however.
While Dee Snider and Jay Jay French, among others, tell funny and revelatory old war stories – although one about a particularly racist club owner was troubling to say the least – loads of vintage footage of raucous live shows from the early days give a true and undiluted sense of the grassroots-level excitement they generated, as well as the palpable hostility the band faced. Viewers wind up in the trenches, pumping their fists along with the rabble with the knowledge that behind the scenes, not everything was peachy.
Unabashedly open about their ambitions and their ruthless intentions to mop the floor with any act they shared stages with, including poor Zebra, Snider and French are refreshingly candid about their thorny relationship, with Snider admitting to his alienation from the group and his desire to usurp power as Twisted Sister's leader. Snider was confrontational, whereas French established an easy rapport with audiences. They were different people. Yet on some level, even back then, they instinctively knew they needed each other to realize their dreams, and the film lets that sub-plot unfold naturally. What also emerges, from talks with managers, fans and other group members is a picture of a barnstorming bar band – loved by many, but also reviled in some quarters – that worked tirelessly and went to great lengths to get noticed, even to the point of exhaustion.
Just as importantly, what Horn does is give the unvarnished truth of how Twisted Sister became Twisted Sister, letting all the personalities in this dramatic comedy reminisce and confess to all sorts of misdeeds as the story unfolds about the band's difficult birth. In a sense, from the very beginning, they were entrepreneurs selling wild, rebellious rock 'n' roll and eventually their business took off. Along the way there were disappointments and deals that went south, but with a little help from an enthusiastic patron at Atlantic Records, they were able to get out of New York – to the chagrin of some supporters – and go national. Theirs is a story of dogged persistence, of chasing the American Dream really.
And if nothing else, "We Are Twisted F***ing Sister" is ... well, inspirational, but not in a "self-help book" kind of way. Empty platitudes are nowhere to be found here. Twisted Sister put in the hours. They, to borrow a phrase, stayed hungry. And when an opportunity presented itself, they weren't afraid to jump at it, even if there was nothing to catch their fall.
– Peter Lindblad