The new book “Heavy Metal Movies” is, as the subtitle proclaims, devoted to “Guitar Barbarians, Mutant Bimbos, & Cult Zombies Amok in the 666 Most Ear- and Eye-Ripping Big-Scream Films Ever!” It was also my most anticipated book of the year — look for a review soon. In the meantime, though, author Mike “McBeardo” McPadden took time out to answer some questions.
Derek Tatum: What was your criteria for inclusion as a “heavy metal movie?”
Mike “McBeardo” McPadden: Every movie had to have a link to heavy metal music and/or culture; while the link might not always seem direct, I still had to convincingly point out the steps on the trail. So that meant concert films (“The Song Remains the Same”), documentaries (“The Decline of Western Civilization Part II”), movies that are essentially about heavy metal music (“Airheads”), movies that feature heavy metal musicians (Alice Cooper in “Monster Dog,” “Prince of Darkness,” and “Wayne’s World”), movies with heavy metal characters (Bill and Ted), and movies with prominent heavy metal soundtracks (AC/DC’s work for “Maximum Overdrive”). Past those direct and overt connections, you get to movies that “look” and/or “feel” metal, or otherwise embody the heavy metal spirit: “Conan the Barbarian,” the “Mad Max” movies, George Romero’s zombie saga, 1980’s slasher films, Italian cannibal movies, and so on.
Derek: Of all these films, is there one undiscovered gem that stands out as one that deserves a wider cult audience?
Mike: My favorite re-discovery was “The Gate” from 1987. It was a hit at the time, but it’s since fallen through the cracks, so I’m hoping that my book can sort of revive it. I liked “The Gate” when I saw it 25 years ago, and it has aged into a neglected classic of fright films for kids. It’s bolstered by glorious stop-motion animation and forced perspective visual effects, and it has a quintessentially ’80s heavy metal plot: a couple of pre-adolescent goofballs play a heavy metal record backward that opens a portal to Hell in their backyard, and then they have to contend with all the demons that storm through it. It’s funny without being a parody, and just scary enough to earn its PG-13 rating. I imagine ten-year-olds would love it… as well as older horror/metal fans, too.
Derek: Which movie do you think best depicts the reality of heavy metal as a music genre?
Mike: “This Is Spinal Tap” is cited by every rock musician from the Rolling Stones to U2 to Judas Priest to Soundgarden to your local group on their first tour as being a brutally truthful depiction of life in the fraternity of band membership. I’ve been in bands and I concur: “Spinal Tap” gets everything correct, across the board—and that it does so in a specifically heavy metal context makes it hit even harder. It’s also my favorite comedy of all time.
Derek: Were there any movies that you thought long and hard about — but didn’t include?
Mike: I really wanted to include a movie that featured Sensurround — a 1970’s gimmick in which a giant speaker would rumble the seats with a really low bass. That concept is so metal! But only four movies were released in Sensurround—”Earthquake” (1974), “Midway” (1976), “Roller Coaster” (1978), and the 1979 big-screen release of the “Battlestar Galactica” TV pilot. Of those, “Roller Coaster” comes closest, and it does feature one of my all-time favorite bands, Sparks, performing one of their closest-to-metal songs (“Big Boy”), but… it was just too far of a stretch.
Derek: What would make for the ultimate heavy metal movie?
Mike: If it contained elements of every single criteria I used when compiling the book: a post-nuke documentary sword-and-sorcery saga with slashers, cannibals, witches, all-star cameos, Satan himself, and rip-roaring concert segments.
About the author:
Brooklyn-born Mike “McBeardo” McPadden is the head writer of the online phenomenon Mr. Skin. In addition to years of freelance journalism (“Esquire,” “Black Book,” “New York Press”), and more than a decade as a “Hustler” editor and correspondent, Mr. McPadden has also done time as a B-movie screenwriter. He lives in Chicago with his wife, xoJane.com editor Rachel McPadden.
Official website: Heavy Metal Movies