A Band Called Death (2013) - Rotten Tomatoes

A Band Called Death (2013)



Critic Consensus: A Band Called Death is not only a fascinating portrait of a pioneering rock group, but also a tribute to family ties and perseverance in the face of hardship.

Movie Info

Before Bad Brains, the Sex Pistols or even the Ramones, there was a band called Death. Punk before punk existed, three teenage brothers in the early '70s formed a band in their spare bedroom, began playing a few local gigs and even pressed a single in the hopes of getting signed. But this was the era of Motown and emerging disco. Record companies found Death's music - and band name - too intimidating, and the group were never given a fair shot, disbanding before they even completed one album. Equal parts electrifying rockumentary and epic family love story, A Band Called Death chronicles the incredible fairy-tale journey of what happened almost three decades later, when a dusty 1974 demo tape made its way out of the attic and found an audience several generations younger. Playing music impossibly ahead of its time, Death is now being credited as the first black punk band (hell...the first punk band!), and are finally receiving their long overdue recognition as true rock pioneers. (c) Drafthousemore
Rating: Unrated
Genre: Musical & Performing Arts, Documentary
Directed By: ,
In Theaters:
On DVD: Aug 13, 2013
Box Office: $0.1M
Drafthouse Films - Official Site


Show More Cast

News & Interviews for A Band Called Death

Critic Reviews for A Band Called Death

All Critics (48) | Top Critics (17)

An especially pointed variation on one of music's most oft-told tales: A band formed ahead of its time sits in muffled obscurity while others reap the harvest of what it first planted.

Full Review… | August 16, 2013
Globe and Mail
Top Critic

Fortunately, Bobby and Dannis, the surviving brothers, prove genial company.

Full Review… | July 12, 2013
Boston Globe
Top Critic

If the brothers seem a little drunk on their own myth, they're also genuinely humbled by the band's rediscovery and warmed by the fact that their kids have carried on the family tradition.

Full Review… | July 3, 2013
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

A Band Called Death shines the light on a previously unexplored corner of musical history and does it in an accessible, straightforward manner.

Full Review… | July 3, 2013
Fort Worth Star-Telegram/DFW.com
Top Critic

Their story can feel almost too ready-made for the telling, but it's well worth a listen.

Full Review… | June 28, 2013
New York Times
Top Critic

Death lives!

Full Review… | February 4, 2014
SF Weekly

Audience Reviews for A Band Called Death


Or A Film Called Death...

How appropriate for this film about the near-forgotten punk rock band, Death, that the entire film is haunted by death. It was something I wasn't really expecting. I was expecting a pretty straight forward music documentary about a band that time nearly forgot, like Searching for Sugarman or Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me, but what I got out of a Band Called Death is a movie about death and spirituality. And the result is a film that is better than either of the other films mentioned.

It starts off like Big Star, a film about a band that's future looked incredibly promising, but how its success was tragically short-lived. The third act is similar to Searching for Sugarman, a film about how the songs of this band resurfaced years after their inception. But what sets this film apart is the middle section about the death of one of the founding members of the band, who was also the brother to the other two members.

It becomes this tragic story about how when dreams die, it slowly kills a part of a person. And how despair can only exist when hope is alive. The film spends a lot of time on pondering these issues through the story of David, and I found myself incredibly moved by this story. It really gives the film an edge that typical music documentaries don't have.

If you're a fan of 70s rock, you need to see this film, and even if you're not, do yourself a favor and see this movie. Even if you have to get through the first 30 minutes (which I love, but you may not), the middle section of the film is emotionally powerful.

Suffers from the fact that SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN came out so recently prior, but that doesn't really dampen how great this doc is as well. A touching story told in a very intimate, personal fashion. Solid doc, and great music!


Fine. "A Band Called Death" isn't anything new. (See: last year's terrific "Searching for Sugar Man", the near-perfect "Anvil! The Story of Anvil"; others.) But what it lacks in originality it makes up for in spirit. Real death hovers over "A Band Called Death", that of guitarist David Hackney, who pioneered the punk band Death with his brothers Bobby and Dannis after seeing an Alice Cooper show in the early '70s.

David was the trio's real fighter for authenticity. Much of the beginning of the movie is about how tough a sell it was to record labels for a band to be billed as "Death", something with the internet and shit nowadays is almost inconceivable that a group named after the negative end of mortality would ever run into that sort of problem. Still David refused to change the name, and his brothers stuck by him, before the other two siblings turned to recording reggae, R&B and even Christian music under various aliases. David died of lung cancer in 2000 after a serious bout with alcoholism. One of his brothers called him a "genius type", and that ultimately the demons got to him.

The best parts of "A Band Called Death" are those in which Bobby and Dannis, in rediscovering years later David's passions -- through anger, family and tears -- come to better understand their brother as a person through his decisions as an artist, as more than someone they simply felt the need to stand alongside out of commitment. "A Band Called Death" is both heartbreaking and -warming because it stands alongside him, too. It's almost fitting that his unfortunate demise occasionally robs the movie from being able to go deeper, grander and darker than death.

A Band Called Death Quotes

There are no approved quotes yet for this movie.

Discussion Forum

Discuss A Band Called Death on our Movie forum!