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Director talks The History of Metal and Horror documentary

Heavy metal and horror films go together like two peas in a pod. But why has no one ever talked about this?

Well…now they have inn new documentary The History of Metal and Horror, from director Mike Schiff, who sat down with icons of both worlds to discuss what makes them special and so interwined.

Read our exclusive chat with Mike below –

I believe The History of Metal and Horror has been a long time coming, what can you tell us about how the project came to be?

In 2014, my friend (and producer), Rob Lucas invited me to Kirk Hammett’s Fear FestEvil convention in California. It was an event completely comprised of heavy metal and horror, including horror celebrities, horror memorabilia, and heavy metal music. After the weekend was over, I wondered if there had yet been a documentary made that explored the connection between heavy metal and horror. After doing some research, I discovered there hadn’t yet been one produced. So with the celebrity connections Rob and I had, we began interviewing several big stars from both genres. It took 6 1/2 years to complete, but I ended up with nearly 70 interviews.

Were you surprised no one had tackled this before, as horror and heavy metal do go very hand in hand?

It was definitely surprising. The connection has been there since the 70’s, but no one really made a film about it. I think the connection was very clear to fans of both genres, just not really discussed too often.

What was the first film you can recall seeing that had a rock star either starring in or being part of the soundtrack?

For me, it was the soundtrack to A Nightmare on Elm Street 3, with Dokken. I wasn’t really into buying popular music in the 80’s, but I loved horror film soundtracks. I began noticing the incorporation of heavy metal into horror films, and that helped me get into music overall.

Leading on from that question, what is your favourite horror film starring a rock star?

It would have to be John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness. Though he didn’t have a big role in the film, Alice Cooper stands out as having a strong presence. In my documentary, I include a little back and forth between John and Alice. They talk about Alice just showing up to the set, as he and John were friends. John then just threw him into a scene, without any previous plan to do so. Since Alice was known for impaling people with a microphone stand during his performances (theatrically), John asked him to do the same in the film with a broken bicycle. The rest is history.

You’ve got some big names signed on, for those that aren’t aware who were your favourite interviews?

They were all amazing. I’ve been a fan of so many of them, and interviewing them was so surreal. Alice Cooper chatted with us for nearly and hour, Corey Taylor pushed other interviews back to keep speaking with us, Dave Mustaine has us over to his house for his interview, Tom Savini was my childhood idol and has now become a friend, Rob Zombie was just so down to earth… I could go on and on. It was hard not to geek out at times, but after chatting with these people for a few minutes, it just felt like being with regular folk with amazing careers. The fact of the matter is, we’re all just a bunch of nerds.

Why do you think horror appeals to metal fans and vice versa?

Many people have a fascination with dark and aggressive themes. There’s an adrenaline rush that can be experienced while watching a horror film or listening to heavy metal music. It’s just like riding a roller coaster. There’s a feeling of danger, yet it’s thrilling. And we know that even though it feels dangerous, at the end, everything will be okay. I also think that heavy metal fans and horror fans are often the outcasts, especially during the teen years. They don’t really fit in with the popular crowd, and there is some resentment towards the “cool kids.” So they escape into heavy metal and horror and give a big “Fuck You” to the mainstream.

This documentary also takes a different approach to its structure with a narrative flowing throughout, was this always your plan?

Very early on, I wanted to make this a different kind of documentary. We’re all used to the standard formula of talking heads under b-roll with basic transitions. I wanted to incorporate a story that was a fusion of metal and horror, that also served as a chapter setup. It stars Michael Berryman as the host and a new, up and coming actor, Alex Rafala. I had a few story ideas along the way, but I settled on a post-apocalyptic theme towards the end of the process and it was the last thing I filmed after all the interviews.

What are the plans in terms of release, will you be hitting more film festivals or looking for a VOD/physical release soon?

I do have a few more festivals coming up, but I’m in talks about streaming and I will likely distribute the physical media myself. My goal is to try and have an official release within the next two months.

What is the next project you are planning to work on?

I’m in talks about another documentary, but ultimately I’d like to write and direct feature horror films. I have a few screenplays I’ve written, but they require a lot more money and effort, so I’m hoping my documentary work will make the journey into features a bit less painful.

Watch the trailer for The History of Metal and Horror below

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