words by Yvonne Villasenor
If you bang your head to face-melting heavy metal, there’s a good chance you’re a fiend for frightening flicks. Although these worlds have different upbringings, their influence upon one another over time is beyond dispute.
“Heavy metal, for the most part, is made for the same reasons that horror movies are made,” Corey Taylor says. “It's to let loose, to free that fear, to free that tension.”
Metal and horror have such sights — and sounds — to show you. This match made in hell provides a killer experience no other genre combo can offer.
“The new slasher films sort of happened around the same time as metal did, so there was a connection there,” Alice Cooper says. “If you saw an action scene with Jason and Freddy Krueger fighting, it certainly wasn’t going to be violin music. It was going to be aggressive music. And it worked together. It just works together.”
The History of Metal and Horror tackles the sinister similarities between metal and horror with over 60 interviews featuring monumental metal musicians, such as Alice Cooper, Rob Zombie and Corey Taylor, to horror icons including John Carpenter, Doug Bradley and Tom Savini.
Additionally, the documentary features a short wraparound film hosted by veteran actor and horror icon Michael Berryman (The Hills Have Eyes, The Devil’s Rejects, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) who introduces each chapter and what will be covered.
The History of Metal and Horror has been accepted as an official selection at over 20 film festivals from around the world, winning several awards, including “Best Feature Documentary,” “Best Director,” “Best Editing,” “Best Soundtrack” and “Fearmaker of the Year.”
“Viewers of the film will get to hear about how the horror stars influenced the genre and what the metal fans love about it. They talk about their favorite films, how they were introduced to horror as children and what the fusion of metal and horror consists of,” director Mike Schiff says. “I expect most viewers to find out things they never knew about before.”
Schiff, who also served as the film’s writer, producer, director of photography and editor, has worked in film, video and television production since the ‘90s. He started his own production company, M.A.S. Productions, and has worked on music videos for bands, such as Charred Walls of the Damned and Fozzy.
His inspiration for making the documentary struck in 2014 when friend and producer Rob Lucas brought him onboard to work at Kirk Hammett’s Fear FestEvil convention. After seeing metal and horror stars in attendance, Schiff says he realized there was not yet a documentary that had been made that explored the overlap between metal and horror.
As a diehard fan of both genres, he decided to dive deep into the history of the diabolical duo and how they came to coexist.
Schiff says the first horror film that spawned his fanaticism for metal and horror was none other than A Nightmare on Elm Street.
“I was a horror fan prior to that, but Elm Street sealed the deal,” Schiff says. “I was big on horror film soundtracks, so they exposed me to Alice Cooper, Dokken and others.”
The documentary includes interviews with the biggest names in heavy metal and horror, as well as experts on the topics for a total run-time of 101 minutes.
“Luckily, between the relationships Rob and I had, we were able to get interviews with artists like Alice Cooper, John Carpenter, Kirk Hammett, Tom Savini, Corey Taylor, Doug Bradley, Chris Jericho and a few more,” he says. “After that, it was easier to get more on board.”
Bringing his idea to life like Dr. Frankenstein, Schiff shares standout moments for him while making the documentary.
“I was blown away by the opportunities to interview Alice Cooper for nearly an hour at his restaurant, being invited to Dave Mustaine’s house and having other interviews pushed back by Corey Taylor because he loves talking about horror so much,” he says.
He continues, “Some of the biggest challenges came with scheduling delays and canceled interviews due to various issues. One of the reasons why it also took so long to produce the film was because we often needed to wait until certain artists were available. I believe it took over a year to finally meet up with Rob Zombie.”
Viewers will also notice The History of Metal and Horror uses a different formula in the documentary compared to others — which typically consist of a lot of talking heads, B-roll, graphics and maybe a host to set things up and narrate, Schiff says. However, he wanted to try something different and incorporate a short film into the mix to set up the chapters.
“The doc technically still has a host, but he’s speaking to another character in the film instead of directly to the audience,” Schiff says. “Since I ultimately want to write and direct narrative films, this gave me an excuse to do something along those lines. Plus, I got to create some of my own special make-up effects, which was my first career choice as a teen.”
After having worked on countless interviews with prominent figures within the realms of metal and horror, we turned the tables on Schiff and asked: why do metal and horror pair so perfectly?
“There’s a part of the population that loves dark and aggressive sounds and imagery,” he says. “There’s a rush that comes from watching scary movies and listening to heavy songs. Fans of both metal and horror tend to also be outsiders who don’t share the same interests as most others around them. The fans tend to be a bit isolated with their interests, but the isolation disappears once they gather at metal shows and horror conventions.”