NJ Film Fest documentary explores ‘The History of Metal and Horror’

history of metal and horror

Alice Cooper is one of the musicians interviewed in “The History of Metal and Horror.”

“Have you ever noticed how fans of metal, more often than not, are also fans of horror, and vice versa?” asks the host of “The History of Metal and Horror,” a documentary that will be available online, Feb. 18, as part of the spring 2022 edition of the New Jersey Film Festival. (Visit njfilmfest.com).

Yes, as a matter of fact, I have. And “The History of Metal and Horror” explores that subject just as thoroughly as any 100-minute movie could.

This is really, of course, a movie with two intertwined histories. Horror existed long before rock ‘n’ roll. And metal has other influences than just horror. But, as director Mike Schiff convincingly shows, horror is one of the primary influences on heavy metal, and heavy metal, in turn, has had a big influence on horror movies.

“I think it’s just about being extreme,” says Jonathan Davis of Korn, in the documentary. “Extreme gore. Extreme being scared. … Horror fans and metal fans are looking for that fix.”

“A good heavy metal song should be like a good horror movie,” says Kirk Hammett of Metallica. “Exciting to watch, or listen to, with a lot of dynamics. You’re not really sure where it’s gonna take you, but once you get there, you’re glad to be there.”

The documentary’s title may make it sound drier than it actually is. Yes, it does have a historical perspective, starting all the way back with the monsters of ancient myths. But much of it is made up of Hammett, Davis and many other musicians — including Alice Cooper, Rob Zombie, Corey Taylor of Slipknot, Dave Mustaine of Megadeth and Philip Anselmo of Pantera — casually talking about their favorite horror movies, and how those movies influenced their music.

“The first VHS tape I ever had was ‘Dawn of the Dead,’ ” says Rob Zombie. “And I just let it play, over and over, all day long. I must have watched it thousands of times. … I don’t know why that gave me such comfort, just having ‘Dawn of the Dead’ playing constantly. But it did.”

Several musicians describe being a member of a heavy metal band as the closest they can come to being a character in a horror movie.

Schiff devotes portions of the movie to subjects such as heavy metal album cover art; “Creature Features” and other TV series that introduced horror movies to kids; horror conventions; and attempts to censor heavy metal. In addition to the musicians, movie directors, actors, fans and experts are interviewed, and the host mentioned above is played by veteran horror film actor Michael Berryman.

Schiff also frames the film with a mini-horror movie, taking the premise so far that I wondered if I was watching the right film until about seven minutes in, when the documentary part began.

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