Anyone who’s ever been stuck in the pit during “Angel Of Death” knows that a Slayer concert can be twice as terrifying as the average Hollywood fright flick. Beyond their fearsome sonic assault, the thrash-metal veterans have long trafficked in horror-movie imagery—songs about the fires of hell, murderers and cannibals, vengeful spirits, and God hating us all. So when the opportunity arose to interview legendary Slayer guitarist Kerry King about his favorite scary movies, how could The A.V. Club say no?
King co-founded Slayer in 1981 with fellow songwriter and axeman Jeff Hanneman, who died of liver failure this past May. When not penning glorious odes to Satan, the two men would spend the long, late-night drives between cities watching movies—“World War II movies, horror movies, we watched Full Metal Jacket so many times, we could practically recite all of the dialogue.” Many of those tour-bus favorites found their way into King’s custom scary-movie marathon, the latest in what has become an annual October tradition around these parts. Mere days before embarking on a 24-city North American tour with Slayer—the band’s first without Hanneman—King discussed his theoretical 24-hour lineup with The A.V. Club. More of a diehard fan than an aficionado, the metal icon offered a mix of canonical classics and modern fare. As always, readers are encouraged to recreate this gauntlet of terror at home and share their experiences in the comments section.
Noon: Thir13en Ghosts (2001)
1:45 p.m.: House On Haunted Hill (1999)
The A.V. Club: Now is this the 1960 William Castle one or the 2001 remake?
Kerry King: 2001. That became a tour bus staple. It came out about the same time as the House On Haunted Hill remake. When you go to check out new horror movies, you hope for them to be good, but seven, eight times out of 10, they’re just not. Jeff and me used to stay up on the bus all night and watch stuff like this.
AVC: So with House On Haunted Hill, you’re talking about the remake as well?
KK: Yes, sir. That was another one where I was like, “Man, that was everything I wanted it to be.”
AVC: Geoffrey Rush is basically doing Vincent Price in that movie.
KK: Oh yeah, he was awesome—completely awesome.
AVC: It’s a frightening setting, too. An insane asylum would be the most terrifying place you could find yourself.
KK: Without a doubt. I don’t know if I ever saw the original one, but the way it was laid out with all the invitations and all these people that related to the insane asylum was really cool. I don’t want to use the word “twist,” but it was a cool wrinkle in that respect.
3:30 p.m.: 30 Days Of Night (2007)
AVC: In the post-Anne Rice age, vampires have become these kind of tortured, brooding aristocrats. It’s always fun to see a movie that treats them like ravenous, inhuman monsters.
KK: It’s really dark, that movie.
AVC: Yeah, both in terms of the content and the look of the film.
KK: Totally. Those were some sketchy vampires, some of the scarier ones that I can remember in recent years. One of my favorite parts was when that woman was begging for mercy and [Danny Huston’s head vampire] says, “God? No God.”
AVC: It has a real John Carpenter quality to it. You have these people stuck in this really isolated setting.
KK: Yeah. They weren’t going anywhere.
5:45 p.m.: Prince Of Darkness (1987)
AVC: Speaking of John Carpenter…
KK: Prince Of Darkness is one I threw in as an afterthought, because I tried to stay horror oriented. Some of the other ones that came to mind were Alien, but that felt more sci-fi. Se7en was more of a thriller even though there are gory things going on. But Prince Of Darkness was one that came to me at the end and I was like, “Oh, man!” I don’t remember exactly when it came out, but I remember Alice Cooper is in it and it was just a really cool concept for back then. He appeared in some cool and some shitty horror movies. [Laughs.] The green gel that was rolling around looked like a giant test tube; that was awesome.
AVC: The devil as a green… substance.
KK: An entity of some sort. It was very cool for back then.
7:30 p.m.: The Thing (1982)
AVC: Another John Carpenter one you’ve selected is the remake of The Thing.
KK: Oh, dude, that’s just one of the sickest movies of all time. And the newest one they remade, which I think is actually a prequel, did an outstanding job tying them together.
AVC: Though the practical effects in the ’80s one are better than the CGI effects in this one.
KK: That’s totally fair. But I went into that one thinking, “How are they going to make this an abortion?” And how they tied everything together at the end was awesome, with the dog running across Antarctica, like he did at the beginning of John Carpenter’s The Thing with Kurt Russell, was killer. The two-faced guy and how they kill him the same way you find him in the next movie? I thought that was genius.
9:30 p.m.: Dawn Of The Dead (2004)
AVC: Moving on to the Dawn Of The Dead remake. Do you prefer it to George A. Romero’s original?
KK: I liked it. Those early zombie-type movies where everyone is moving all slow I was never really a fan of. I like the gore, but once you got into something like 28 Days Later, it’s much more intense, you get much more of a rush out of it.
AVC: A lot of zombie fans hate the fast undead. You’re a fan?
KK: Yeah. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired enough for one of the walking ones to catch me. [Laughs.]
AVC: The Dawn remake opens with an amazing montage: All hell breaking loose across the world to that Johnny Cash song, “The Man Comes Around.”
KK: Yeah, that movie is cool, man. Ving Rhames had a great part. And when they’re picking off the celebrities from the rooftop? It was killer. I was all upset at the end because I was like, “Man, they should have showed them all going to the island and there’d be zombies on the island,” and the credits roll and they go back to more of the movie and they did exactly what I wanted.
11:20 p.m.: Legion (2010)
AVC: I’ve never actually seen Legion.
KK: Legion was cool, definitely a modern-day apocalyptic deal. I recommend that one. It’s got a cool concept: God sends an angel down to bring the apocalypse because he’s tired of man. And one of his angels was one of the sergeants in his army and he broke rank and refused to do it, so they took away his wings and he comes to Earth as their last defense.
AVC: Paul Bettany plays the renegade angel, right?
KK: The British-speaking guy? I think. Angels come down and that’s who brings the apocalypse: God and angels. A great concept.
1:10 a.m.: Re-Animator (1985)
AVC: One in the morning seems about the right time to sink into Re-Animator, one of the nuttiest films in this marathon.
KK: Re-Animator is one of those ones that touches on goofy, but the hardcore stuff is really hardcore. We saw that when we were young as could be; the first time any of us had that was on VHS. Jeffrey Combs’ character was great and, naturally, he became the House On Haunted Hill character, Dr. Richard Vannucutt. That one has crazy, crazy effects. You can say the same of From Beyond, but From Beyond is way further out than Re-Animator.
AVC: From Beyond is gorier, as I remember.
KK: It’s a little bit drugged-out. You’re like, “What the hell am I watching?”
AVC: The severed head stuff in Re-Animator is really amazing.
KK: For that time, it looked really real. But now it looks fake as hell. But being new to that kind of thing, especially at my age when it first came out, you’re looking at it like, “Man! That could actually be happening.” Of course I know it’s not real, but I like to immerse myself in a movie, and just accept what I’m seeing as believable. I think you get more out of it as a moviegoer.
3:00 a.m.: A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
AVC: This is the original?
KK: Yeah. That’s got to be ’82, I think?
KK: ’84? Well, then I was 20. But, I got to tell you, 20 for me is far more sheltered than 20 today, and I wasn’t ready for that one. I wasn’t ready for that first 15 minutes. Freddy Krueger is antagonizing this girl, Heather Langenkamp, and the other one, the blonde, whatever her name was. And you see Freddy cut himself open with his knife hand, you also see him walking down an alley and his arms growing to like 15-feet each.
AVC: Does that kind of imagery influence your music?
KK: Possibly. It’s hard to say. Because if I take something, you’ll never know where I got it from. There’s one that was too sci-fi for my list, The Sword And The Sorcerer. I haven’t seen it in like 20 years, but I remember a scene where Zeus is being reborn in a pool of blood and the walls are all human faces and they’re all lifeless and they come to life. Part of that became some of the words to “Spirit In Black” years later.
4:40 a.m.: Hostel: Part II (2007)
AVC: For anyone who needs a 5 a.m. wake-up, this should do nicely.
KK: Hostel II was cool. I like Hostel as well, but Hostel II seemed just more hardcore. The girl chops the dude’s cock off and feeds it to the dogs. It’s awesome.
AVC: One of the interesting things about the second one was that you see the villain’s perspective too.
KK: Oh, totally. And the one dude who originally wants no part of it warms up to the idea quickly.
AVC: Have you seen any of Eli Roth’s other stuff? He did Cabin Fever and, most recently, a cannibal throwback called The Green Inferno.
KK: Yeah, he was involved with one that was set in the Australian Outback, right? Was that Cabin Fever?
AVC: You’re probably thinking of Wolf Creek…
KK: That could be.
AVC: Which is really good!
KK: I know he was associated with it. But there was another one. But I’ve met him a couple of times around L.A. It was a cool moment sharing pleasantries, “Love your music,” “Love your movies.”
6:30 a.m.: The Exorcist (1973)
KK: That’s just got to be on any list. When they put it out again a few years ago with extra footage, where Linda Blair is like crawling down the stairs backwards and she gets to the bottom of the stairs and vomit starts spewing out of her mouth… If I had seen that in the ’70s, I would have probably never seen a horror movie ever again.
AVC: There’s a little bit of obscene comedy to it too. Some of the things she’s saying and even the masturbation with the crucifix scene, while very serious in the movie, are kind of obscenely funny.
KK: Maybe in this day and age. But when it came out, it was obscenely horrifying. What’s the year on that one?
KK: ’73? Jesus. That’s when you didn’t see any of that stuff. If I said “shit,” I would have gotten my ass handed to me. [Laughs.]
AVC: It definitely preys on people’s very real, devout belief in good and evil. More than any other mainstream horror film, that one seems to be taken very seriously by the God-fearing.
KK: Oh, sure. People will get very caught up in their beliefs and can’t understand it’s just a movie and there’s no other agenda.
8:45 a.m.: The Evil Dead (1981)
KK: The Evil Dead became a sort of horror/comedy franchise. But the first one, other than Ash just being a fumbling idiot that got thrown into everything, was really scary to me. I think I was 17 when that came out. When I said 20 back then was far more sheltered than 20 is now, fucking 17 was a fuckload more sheltered than it is now. I went into that movie and I almost left I was so scared. The only reason I didn’t was because I had a girl with me and I didn’t want to look like a puss. I remember the screams when those demons would get killed… They stabbed the one demon and it’s just bleeding for like five minutes and screaming the whole time and I’m like, “I don’t know how much more I can take of this.” The ending with the Claymation wasn’t too scary, but there are definitely some frightening elements. I saw the new remake and I almost fell asleep.
AVC: It wasn’t very good.
KK: Yeah, it pissed me off. I thought, “This could be awesome, this could be the scariest movie of this decade.” And it wasn’t even close.
AVC: All the Evil Dead movies have a little bit of comedy in them, but in the original, the horror is more pronounced.
KK: Yeah, it’s definitely swinging toward the horror side. And I really like Sam Raimi. He’s just that guy that’s got goofiness in him. I thought Drag Me To Hell was a great movie, but I didn’t put it in here because I was worried it hadn’t sat that long and there’s that goofiness factor, like when the goat starts talking. I’m like, “Come on!”
10:30 a.m.: Hellraiser (1987)
KK: I just like Pinhead. The first one came out and all I can remember were the trailers and they’d always end with, “We’ll tear your soul apart” in a far scarier voice than that. And I was like, “Oh, fucking jeez! He’s really going to do it!” [Laughs.] It happened to be on TV the other day and it made me remember the third one, where he actually went out and did what I thought he should have done in the first two, which is wreak havoc. He had his little minions out there helping him and I thought that’s more of what Hellraiser should be. But the headiness and the manipulation of the first one is awesome with the box, the chains, and the cenobites—great idea.