A couple Halloweens back my buddy John and I put together a Heavy Metal Horror-themed party, replete with screenings of genre classics like Trick or Treat, Black Roses, and Rock 'n' Roll Nightmare… well, not like those movies. It was exactly those three movies. I think Hard Rock Zombies might have been on Netflix streaming at the time, but the point is that pickings were already slim and it was just a single-night party, so we decided to stick to movies that one or both of us actually owned on DVD. We also attempted to carry the theme over to our craft beer offerings, but had to settle for bottle labels that featured any kind of horror vibe at all.
Redoing that same party now – and who's to say the shit won't jump off again in 2014? – we'd be keeping it real with Maiden's Trooper ale and a copy of Mike McPadden's new Heavy Metal Movies for inspiration. Granted, the latter does not restrict itself to heavy metal horror movies per se – if John and I's Google efforts offer any indication, there aren't enough of those to fill more than a top 10 list – but its scope encompasses that micro-genre and much, much more.
In fact, the tangents between many of these movies and heavy metal as a musical genre are so slight that McPadden (justifiably) felt inclined to include category headers as shorthand for why the individual films made the cut. These range from no-brainers like "Backward Messages" and "Concert Footage" to bizarre screamers such as "Insect Overlords" and "David Yow's Penis" (!).
So yeah, it's not so much imperative that there is a literal heavy metal connection within the plotline/characters, basically any theme that might creep its way into metal lyrics are all on the table. Even then some of the inclusions are kind of iffy (Apocalypse Now makes the cut due to "Literal Napalm Death"), but frankly the writing is engaging enough that you'll rarely find yourself nitpicking over the fact that nearly any horror or post-apocalpytic action movie could have been included here (shit, most of them are).
Granted, there are a fair number of entries like Apocalypse Now or even Deep Throat that offer no real justification beyond "hey, metal bands like sex and violence", but McPadden also corners his fair share of obscure references which prove that metal has both inspired and been inspired by the cinematic horror experience for as many decades as the two have co-existed.
Longer, really, as there was nothing to stop the nascent metal bands from taking cues from films that were already their parent's age at the time. Black Sabbath's first album came out in 1970, but the film that triggered the change in band name (from Earth, and Dylan Carlson thanks thee) emerged a full seven years earlier. That film's director, Mario Bava, is frequently cited as the inventor of the slasher genre. As author McPadden writes of Bava's 1971 classic, Twitch of the Death Nerve:
One girl immediately skinny-dips and gets a hooked blade in her throat. A dude in the house takes the same blade to the face. The two remaining teens fuck in an upstairs bedrooms until a killer thrusts a speak through both their bodies at once […] The total death count is thirteen. Make of that what you will."
The key value in this book is not so much in the research as the actual, lived-in expertise and insight that McPadden brings to the table. The man has a keen eye for cinematic crossover appeal when it comes to headbangers, not to mention cameos and appearances by actual heavy metal alumni and soundtrack inclusions in films that otherwise feature no other distinct metal themes (ie. Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors). One can argue that the scope of the book is overly inclusive, but it's this very expansiveness that ensures that Heavy Metal Movies will forever be the final word in its field.
Heavy Metal Movies can be purchased online direct from the publisher, Bazillion Points.
Be sure to check out Metalsucks' related coverage, The 66.6 Most Metal Movie Scenes of All Time, featuring author Mike McPadden's participation.