The connection between rock music — especially the heavier varieties — and horror movies has always been a vibrant one, with fans of both easily migrating back and forth between the two and the former often co-opting the imagery of the latter. It was, after all, a Mario Bava movie that inspired four Birmingham lads to name their band Black Sabbath before they went on to make rock history with songs about rampaging robots, occult rituals and nuclear devastation.

In recent years, rock musicians have been drawn to the genre again — but as filmmakers themselves. Rob Zombie has five films under his belt as a director, while artists like Marilyn Manson and the members of Slipknot have dabbled in the field. Now it’s Slash’s turn. The legendary ex-guitarist for Guns N’ Roses, who’s currently enjoying a solo career, launched his own production company two years ago called Slasher Films to pursue his genuine, lifelong passion for horror.

The first result is Nothing Left to Fear, directed by Anthony Leonardi III (a production artist making his feature directorial debut) and starring Anne Heche, James Tupper and Clancy Brown. Set in the town of Stull, Kansas — the subject of real life legends that claim it sits on one of the seven gates of Hell — the story follows a pastor and his family who come to Stull to lead the local congregation, but find out they’ve been led there for much more sinister reasons.

Cinephiled sat down recently in Los Angeles with Slash and Leonardi to discuss Nothing Left to Fear, the connections between hard rock and horror and their favorite monsters.

Don Kaye: This is a first-time thing for both of you — first time producing for Slash, first time directing
for Anthony. What’s this experience been like?

Anthony Leonardi III: I mean it’s the first accomplished feature, but I’ve been working in film since probably 2000. So I’ve been in it for a long time. So none of it was shocking except for actually getting a film that didn’t collapse before shooting. This was a unique experience from any other film that I’ve either worked on or been in the directorial spot for. We did the whole thing in 20 days, which is really fast — usually that’s a movie you do in one location with no creature effects and no action. But we kind of threw everything in there. So to do it in 20 days, I think that was the biggest challenge of the shoot.

And for you, Slash, your first time producing a film — it’s interesting because I’ve talked to Lars
Ulrich (of Metallica), who has just produced their movie, and he says that producing a movie is way
harder than making a record.

Slash: Well, I agree with Lars in a sense ’cause there’s way more moving parts. I mean I’ve been making records for a long time and, you know, you get used to it and it is complex, but making a film, producing a film is definitely more complex. It’s a slow process raising money. In this situation where we really started from scratch raising money is very difficult. But I mean I really enjoyed it because a) I have such a passion for what it is that I want to do in film, and b) I love being involved in the process of development and finding the right people, getting all the right components together to hopefully make a great movie. So I have to say I enjoyed it immensely. I don’t really have a lot of complaints about it.

How hands-on were you with all the different steps of the process? ‘Cause you also have another
career going as well.

Slash: Yeah. Trust me, I know that. They were both going on very simultaneously too, so I was working on making a record, and at the same time producing a film. But for the most part this was all done out of Los Angeles, so it wasn’t like I had to fly back-and-forth too often. The only sticky part was when the tour started and the film, the production of the film, as far as filming, had been backed up into my tour. So I couldn’t actually be on location for the filming, which was really a drag. I managed to show up for one day and one night and the rest of it was all dailies. So that’s complicated because you get done doing a gig, you take the bus to the next hotel, which is, you know, four or five in the morning, get the computer out, download all the dailies, look at them, make comments or whatnot. And that was going on for a while.

How was shooting in Louisiana?

Anthony Leonardi III: I mean it was great to shoot in Louisiana and I really liked it. The hardest part was we have a movie that takes place in Kansas, and when I first came on, I, in my head, thought about Kansas and the horror of Kansas being all the negative space and that being a really big thing to me. So then we were told we had to go shoot it in Louisiana, which is the complete opposite of that. So it was really tricky finding the right town that felt like an All-American town, but didn’t feel like a southern town. It didn’t have like swamps and moss. And we found a really beautiful little town called Covington that we shot in. But other than that it was a great experience.


What attracted both of you about the script as horror fans and as filmmakers? And were you aware of
the Stull legend before this?

Slash: I had never heard of it either. The writer, Jonathan Mills, after he delivered the script it was like, this is a real place, you’ve got to check it out online. But anyway, I just liked the script originally because I loved the sort of innocent family being lured into this sort of homey rural community before you find out the more sinister reason for inviting them there. And then I loved the monster character, you know, ’cause I’m really drawn to monsters — that’s what I’m looking for in the next one, is really focusing on some sort of surreal creature. So I really liked the monster and I loved the simplicity of it. And I thought for this type of movie it actually was pretty original.

Anthony Leonardi III: What drew me was that it didn’t feel like a horror movie off the bat. It felt a little more like a classic family drama and then it becomes a horror story — like the short story “The Lottery.” Having things that start off and grab us as an audience and then the horror element comes in, with characters that we care for, is what drew me into it.

Since you mentioned monsters, what were your favorite movie monsters when you were a kid?

Slash: It’s a long list, but distinguished. I was turned on to anything that Boris Karloff did. I loved Charles Laughton as Quasimodo. I loved The Wolf Man with Lon Chaney Jr. All the monster movies, Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Fly. I was always really, really excited, and still am to this day, about the London After Midnight character with the pointy teeth and the hat, which I never saw. Freaks was one we always talk about because I remember it as a kid. I used to have these books of horror, like big hardcover books with all the movies in them, and I’d look for stuff I hadn’t seen. Then I moved on to Alien, which was a favorite. We talk about The Thing all the time. But after you had Michael Myers and Freddy Krueger and Jason, everything started to get very diluted. But up until then I was pretty much drawn to any monster that looked good, that looked scary.

Anthony Leonardi III:  Yeah, I mean I’m the same way. Growing up as a kid I used to draw a lot of monsters. So anything, I mean Frankenstein was one of my favorites, you know, the original. And then Freaks and then The Thing had a huge impact on me. Even the movie Legend, the monsters in Legend are so awesome. I was fascinated by that stuff. So I was always a big, big creature guy.

Slash:  As a kid — I have no idea the origin of this, I think it was just innately part of my nature — but from as little as I can remember I was always drawn to monsters and dinosaurs and spiders and snakes and Komodo dragons and just all that stuff, black cats, you know. So that’s something that I’ve just never grown out of.

I don’t know if it’s something in the mindset of people who are drawn to hard rock, but a lot of them
are drawn to horror movies as well. And now you see guys like Corey Taylor of Slipknot wanting to
produce movies, Lars wants to produce movies, and of course Rob Zombie has directed five pictures. Is there something about the way people’s brains are wired that these interests tend to dovetail?

Slash: I really have not spoken to anybody about this as far as my sort of peers are concerned, except for Rob Zombie at one point. We had a brief conversation about it. But it’s a creative thing. I didn’t set out one day and go hey, you know, I’d really like to produce movies and make some phone calls. It was sort of dropped into my lap by another producer. And I really wasn’t sure, I didn’t know if I had the attitude for it. But from a creative point of view I was all over it. And so I just sort of jumped in and found that it didn’t feel all that different than the way I feel when I’m making music. So maybe it’s just the creative element of doing something that you really, really, really like, something you have a passion for.

Anthony Leonardi III: I think the interesting thing is that horror was kind of like for the rebel viewers and the rebel filmmakers. That was kind of the place where you could go and experiment and you were looked at differently. And I think a lot of us thrived on that stuff. It’s like drawing monsters. I mean people would paint beautiful portraits and then I would draw weird monsters as a kid. And I think it’s just that innate rebel mentality that connects the two (rock and horror) together. I think it still does and I think it always has. But who knows what the directors back in the day were listening to when they were making Frankenstein and all that stuff?

Slash, you started watching horror at a very young age and now you have two boys. Have you introduced them to horror movies yet?

Slash: One of them, who’s 11, is not necessarily, or at least visibly interested in this kind of stuff too much. But the other one loves it, is the same as I was except he is a little bit more chicken than I was at his age. My parents just threw me into it. I didn’t really have much choice anyway. But with my nine-year-old, he really loves the monsters and he loves to draw. He draws this kind of stuff all the time. So I recognize that.

Nothing Left to Fear is out now on VOD and DVD.