*originally posted July 14th / 2019*
It is cool enough that I’m out here in Europe this summer playing some pretty amazingly fun shows with my bandmates. It’s even cooler that an old friend of mine, not to mention a great musician and fellow horror fiend, is doing exactly the same thing on our bill with his band Ghost. Tobias Forge and myself have geeked out about horror in the past, so this is a perfect opportunity for us to continue geeking and share some of that with you! What we didn’t reckon for was that there wouldn’t be nearly enough time to cover everything we wanted to talk about, so this is the first of two discussions, with the second to happen in late August. For now though, settle in my fearless freaky horror friends and (hopefully!) enjoy us nerding out part one!
Kirk Hammett: Can I just say one thing? What Black Sabbath was to that time era and to movies like Black Sabbath and all those crazy Hammer and early ‘70s horror films, I think the modern equivalent is Ghost and movies like The Conjuring and The Nun and Annabelle. I think Ghost is connected to all these great modern horror movies that are coming out. I might be just totally full of it, but that parallel that I’m drawing really is cool because I love this band, I love those movies and it’s a way of like bringing ‘em all together and celebrating all I love which is, you know, the dark!
Tobias Forge: I guess that would be very natural, and quite logical to think that. Going further, if we parallel-compare the horror genre with metal, not only are they alike, but they are also alike because you have the creators of what instigated the horror genre that eventually led to a myriad of filmmakers essentially paying tribute to a lot of those older films. Same way that metal was created by people originally playing blues and funk music who then stumbled into making metal, and then all the metal bands that came after that are in a way, unfortunately dogmatically, sometimes just paying tribute to other bands.
I come from a death metal underground, and it’s basically full of horror name dropping! I know that a lot of classic films made back in the ‘60s and ‘70s, especially in the ‘70s, were inspired by previous horror/thriller makers. Obviously Hitchcock influenced others, Terrance Fisher…
KH: …Tod Browning…
TF: Absolutely! Fast forward to the ‘80s, and especially in the ‘90s and the 2000s. I think a lot of contemporary filmmakers who grew up in the VHS digital violence era, such as myself, caused the genre in its totality to maybe suffer from being too much of a homage. All the time there’s weird, eclectic little references, and then you sort of outsmart yourself and the whole project by just making it too true to the genre in a way. Whereas I think a lot of the groundbreaking films were made by people who didn’t necessarily do a whole lot of horror films, but were filmmakers in general. Stanley Kubrick is the classic example of that with The Shining.
KH: I was actually watching it myself (again, I’ve seen it many, many times) about a month ago. The most interesting thing with The Shining [movie] is that Stephen King doesn’t like it. And you know, I totally get that because having read the book and seen the movie more times than I read the book, they’re two different entities. But they totally somehow relate in the weirdest way, they both hold their own ground as artistic statements. Yeah, you’re getting a different story with the movie, but it’s shot so well and is so creepy [that] it touches on the atmosphere, environment and range of emotions Stephen King was shooting for, I believe. And it doesn’t follow the plot, it goes somewhere completely different with a completely different end, but it’s a great fucking movie and Jack Nicholson is just amazing in it. I mean, it goes without saying.
TF: One thing that I think is for me another key to not only that film but Kubrick’s films in general, [is that] as a good filmmaker, I think you need to pay attention to everything from dialogue to special effects to realism. Angles, details.
That makes me put him on a pedestal, whereas I think this is the problem a little bit with the horror film genre horror, it came to be a mass producing sort of genre, where a lot of the filmmakers are not necessarily interested in [that].
KH: And it’s the writing…
TF: There’re so many things…
KH: The costuming. It’s just crazy.
TF: Yes. The entire craft. And obviously he was -as everyone remotely interested in film knows – he [Kubrick] was a stickler for details, and I very much admire that. Where you have a lot of films, especially in the horror genre, that are entertaining but a filmmaker who maybe technically can make a film but is more interested in the special effects, or the nudity. And you see them phoning in a lot of the things “in between,” especially dialogue and the credibility of the character. Whereas Kubrick was so spot on.
KH: I think that point of the filmmaker as an artist not always embedded in making an obvious horror movie is so key. My attention lately has been gone to that book and movie Lord of the Flies, because I have two young boys and somehow or another we got on the subject of that book. I was telling them how I read it when I was ten years old and [how] it’s really an important book for them to read because it shows the importance of culture, social norms, rules and regulations, what it means to live in a civilized society and what happens when all that just disappears. How things tend to turn to savagery. I realized that when I saw that film I was about ten or eleven, [and] it scared the living shit out of me as much as any horror movie I’d seen at that point. Especially the whole thing with Piggy and the monster. It was intense. So I would have to say, Lord of the Flies, the original one from ’63, [the] black and white version is intense and a real suspenseful horror film in disguise. It’s not even in disguise, it is a horror film to me.
TF: Especially if you see it as a kid, it’s terrifying just because…
KH: …because you think, “Oh, that can happen to me!”
TF: It definitely touches upon…
TF: I know, going to camp, being at school.
KH: Adulthood, you know?
TF: Ironically that film, even though I’ve seen the old film, the remake of it came right about when I was about ten, in maybe ’89? That was the first one I saw, and then I saw the older one because it was on TV not very far in time after that. And it’s one of those films I don’t want to see again, because it made me feel so bad. I have a lot of those.
KH: Yeah, there’s a few films that I feel that [about] way too. Another unintentional horror film that scared the living hell out of me when I was a kid, [was] Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs. An intense film. Almost, almost a slasher film. You know, predates that whole genre, but the violence in that film hits on such a deep emotional level that, yeah, that’s one I won’t watch again.
TF: Can I just throw in there a film I wanted to flag that genuinely made me fucking squirm, was a film from the ‘70s called Alice, Sweet Alice.
KH: Oh, I remember that one, yeah!
TF: It was an American film and I guess technically it’s a little bit of a slasher, but as [with] many films that I like, they don’t contain a ton of motives. It’s set outside New York, New Jersey maybe, mid-‘70s. Weather’s shit all the time. The environment is kinda like, uggh. And it’s just one of those films that also makes me… I like it. I like my memory of it. But I don’t want to see it again because it’s like so creepy. It smells.
KH: Yeah, it smells and you can’t really get it off. I know that feeling.
KH: Okay, let’s talk about the devil for a minute. The whole thing with the devil, how I see old Beelzebub, is actually the God bot. He was actually the god Pan, the pagan god Pan that the Christians took and basically used as the model for Satan, you know, a horned person with goat’s legs [and] whatever. So that in itself kinda muddies the waters for me, because every time I see a picture of Satan, I’m like, “Cool, fucking Satan” but in the back of my mind [it’s] Pan or Bacchus. That’s why I wear Satanic shirts all the time; I’m not wearing it for the sake of Satan, I’m wearing it for the sake of Pan or Bacchus, that’s what I’m really doing. And so having said that, for me, the ultimate devil movie, the ultimate Satan movie of all time that really hit me fucking deep and I thought I was gonna burn in hell after watching it, is The Exorcist. I mean, that is like the ultimate fucking devil shit. What can I say, I was a Catholic schoolboy when I saw it. I thought he was coming for me next. I thought I was gonna be possessed because of all the bad shit I did when I was a Catholic schoolboy. I just, I thought I had a big mark on my head. For six months after seeing that film I had to sleep with the lights on.
TF: I have a few favorite cult films, The Exorcist being one. I love the fact that even though the devil is present, he/she only really appears at one moment, really. He is not this ever present sort of monster that they would’ve done in many films today, this CGI sort of person that does way too much [in the way of] interaction.
KH: You have a total point there, and horror films are totally guilty of exactly that, Satan interacting way more than is realistic.
TF: Yeah, and that’s something that I really like about The Omen as well. The Omen I, II, III, up until the ending of …III, is one of my favorite sort of series when it comes to pure satanic horror. Up until the ending, because that’s when someone [was] just like, “Wait a minute, are we selling this point that this devil is-?” No, no, no, no, no! God’s hand just came down, and that’s the ending. It’s like the biggest fucking cock-block ever!
KH: Yeah. It’s like running into a brick wall. You have a point there. But you know, I think they had to do that or else we’d be seeing The Omen 12, The Omen 13, The Omen 14…
TF: Well, there was four.
KH: I remember seeing the ad for it, but you know, by that point it’s like, Omen IV?! Ah, you know…when sequels start going up past three, usually other groups and other parties [have] come in, other different creative entities, or a studio’s trying to keep something afloat or revive it somehow.
TF: However I must throw one “four” in there that is actually my favorite of a series, and that’s actually Friday the 13th IV.
It picks you up right after number three, it starts horrifically and it has all the good components of that whole series, in my opinion. I think three is cool but Four was like that multiplied. And that’s when you had all the ingredients, Jason had his mask, he wasn’t too fucked up, and, yeah. I think that there is a four.
So OK, at this point time was starting to run away from us and we had gig stuff to get on with, so we agreed to pick up this chat in August and as we were about to get up, someone in the room asked if truth was stranger than fiction, so being good sports, we thought we’d answer that!
KH: You never know what’s gonna be true. With fiction, it’s kinda like everything is fiction in the world of fiction, but in truth, something might look true but it’s false, or something might look false and it’s true, and that’s the paradox right there. You never know what’s true until you actually break the veneer and like look. And these days, because of things like the internet, you can’t take anything at face value anymore. You cannot. It’s foolish to. It’s always good to crack the veneer [and] look a little bit deeper at what you’re actually seeing, so I would have to say that you in most cases, it’s hard to find out what the truth is. But yes, there’s been times when I’ve read or seen or found out stuff that’s been true, and no one could dream up this shit in any sort of movie or book.
TF: Just taking two examples that are currently in my head, comparing truth to fiction, especially comparing it to cinema, if you take a film like, have you seen Vice? It has nothing to do with “horror” but it’s horrific.
KH: Yeah, it’s horrific. Especially what he did to his body just to play that part.
TF: Yeah, just from a film crafting point, it’s done very well and Sam Rockwell is the best George Bush, Jr. I’ve ever seen. But imagine if that was just a made-up script. It would’ve been… you can’t make that shit up. It would’ve been a completely stupid movie! But it’s not made up, so it’s a fucking horrendous story that you need to see, it’s a fantastic film.
KH: That’s a really good point.
TF: And [in] that way, I think that the truth is definitely stranger and more horrific than fiction. Speaking of horror, I was thinking about this just today because today we are in Manchester. I took a train up from London to here, and when I was about 12 there was this horrific story that I read about that completely blew my mind, that I’m sure a lot of people especially in England remember and that was the murder of James Bulger, the little two-year-old. I think he was at the time. Four? The four-year-old at the time. And just being close to train tracks, going through England, thinking about him, it’s one of the worst things I can ever imagine. It’s heartbreaking, horrible. And even though there has been a film made about the subject, I haven’t dared to see [it] because I just can’t find myself doing it. I guess that says something about the truth being so horrifying, and to also realize that it was two kids that did this. That just makes me cry for the world and humanity, and that’s way worse than any horror film that I’ve ever seen.
As I already said a few times, to be continued!