Ever since Black Sabbath borrowed their name from a Mario Bava anthology, heavy metal and horror movies have walked hand in decrepit hand. Now that the Spooky Season is blissfully upon us again, here are ten essential fright flicks that highlight the relationship between the kindred mediums
Trick Or Treat
Getting bullied is almost a rite of passage for many adolescent headbangers, and most of us have fantasized about getting back at our tormentors at one time or another. When teenage outcast Eddie “Ragman” Weinbauer is pushed too far, he calls upon the spirit of his recently deceased heavy metal hero Sammi Curr (who he summons by playing a record backwards, naturally) to keep the local jocks at bay. It’s innocent enough at first, but Curr has never been one for moderation and soon Ragman is forced into a race against time to stop his former idol before all hell breaks loose. Featuring a kick ass soundtrack by Fastway and cameos by Ozzy Osbourne and Gene Simmons, Trick Or Treat is essential viewing for any self-respecting ‘80s metal aficionado.
Rock ‘N’ Roll Nightmare
Jon Mikl Thor is just about the coolest motherfucker ever born. Having built a successful brand around the combination of absurdist feats of strength and live heavy metal, the King of Canadian Bodybuilding Headbangers made his first real foray into the world of cinema with the 1987 schlock masterpiece, Rock ‘N’ Roll Nightmare. The story of a rock band and their girlfriends who seclude themselves in a remote cabin to write new music who are unaware of the murderous demonic presence lurking the grounds is about as cliché as anything else from the era, but Thor’s hilarious sex scene and one of the wackiest twist endings in all of b-movie history make this flick one to remember.
More headbanging Canuxploitation courtesy of John Fasano, who also directed the aforementioned Rock ‘N’ Roll Nightmare. In the cult flick, an initially safe-looking group of rockers named Black Roses schedule what is certain to be a harmless three-show residency in the small town of Mill Basin. Little do the denizens know, the band are actually demons and exposure to their music is turning their local teenagers into homicidal maniacs. With original music by Carmine Appice’s post-Ozzy band King Kobra, Black Roses is about as much authentic ‘80s fun as you are likely to get this Halloween.
There are a few basic rules in life that are best to learn early and practice always. Don’t take candy from strangers. Don’t pick up hitchhikers on the side of the road by a Texas slaughterhouse. Don’t sneak off to have sex in an abandoned summer camp. Don’t read passages from a weird book bound in human skin aloud. Don’t, under any circumstances, play songs that you learned from a cursed record that was given to you by a lunatic metalhead who was potentially in league with a demonic cult! Our unwitting heroes from the band Deathgasm clearly never took note of that last rule, and it didn’t work out so fucking well for them in this horror-comedy gem out of New Zealand. If you dig the Evil Dead franchise and blistering metal, you are bound to get a kick out of this one.
Hard Rock Zombies
The name really says it all. When a band called Holy Moses is summoned by a record executive to play a concert in a small town where heavy metal is outlawed, they are quickly killed off by the Nazi cult who run things in the area. Fortunately for them, their demo included a song that can raise the dead and so a zombified Holy Moses is ready to rock in no time. One big problem: Whenever they play it just summons more fucking zombies! A bizarre mix of slapstick comedy, gore, and Nazisploitation courtesy of the always wonderful Cannon Group.
This one skews more rock and roll than metal, but no headbanging horror hound would ever dare turn up their nose at this high-voltage Japanese zombie monolith. The plot is simple enough: An alien virus causes a full-scale zombie outbreak, and only Japan’s preeminent garage rock band Guitar Wolf can stop them. It’s essentially a 90+ minute Guitar Wolf video, fuelled by their brand of propulsive punk and enough blood, guts, and firepower to satiate even the most cynical gore freaks.
The Devil’s Candy
Australian director Sean Byrne made a huge splash in the horror world in 2009 with his demented prom date from hell flick, The Loved Ones. It was a tough act to follow up, but his 2015 film The Devil’s Candy put to rest any fears of a sophomore slump. The film centers around metal enthusiast and struggling painter Jesse Hellman and his family, who find themselves surrounded by sinister supernatural forces upon moving into a new house.
Tackling issues as heavy as child murder and mental health collapse, The Devil’s Candy subverts typical horror tropes by making loud and abrasive music a force for good.
Shock ‘Em Dead
A film that features Faustian bargains, brutal murders, one of history’s most notorious porn stars in one of her first legit roles, and the fastest guitar playing imaginable? Sign me the fuck up! In Shock ‘Em Dead, real-life Nitro guitarist Michael Angelo Batio plays Angel Martin, a struggling musician who sells his soul in order to become a rock star. One big problem: He has to feed on the souls of others in order to survive. When Angel joins a metal band managed by Lindsay Roberts (played by the one and only Traci Lords), he sets his eyes on more than just her soul.
Gory and inventive well beyond its limited budget, Shock ‘Em Dead is a joy!
Second only to Monster Squad, Tibor Takács 1987 shocker The Gate is the ultimate Gen-X coming-of-age horror flick. When two young friends discover a geode unearthed by the removal of a tree, they are guided by otherworldly forces to unwittingly begin a ritual that would open a gateway to hell in a suburban backyard. Fortunately, one of the kids is schooled enough in heavy metal to reference a record with lyrics based on “The Dark Book”, which makes them aware of their folly and provides some guidance on how to close the gate before the ritual is completed. Sounds simple, right? Well, not at all!
The Gate is a fest of stop-motion animation and practical effects on top of a touching story of adolescent alienation, loneliness, and friendship. It rips.
Phantom Of The Paradise
The music might not be metal, but two years before Brian DePalma became a household name with Carrie, the young filmmaker created the greatest music-related genre flick ever committed to celluloid. A full-scale countercultural rock opera that successfully merges the central concepts of Faust and The Picture of Dorian Gray with The Phantom Of The Opera and ‘70s glam rock, Phantom Of The Paradise is a monumental cinematic undertaking and an aesthetic triumph that could never be duplicated in your wildest dreams.
Seriously, you just have to watch it.