Nothing Left to Fear: Exclusive Interview with Slash and Anthony Leonardi III
Back in his early rock ‘n days with Guns ‘n Roses, lead guitarist Slash spent a lot of time at The Sunset Marquis Hotel. Set just off the fabled Sunset Strip, in the 80s this was the place to party hard after playing hard just steps away at the Roxy, Whiskey, or Gazzarri’s.
Nowadays it is still a celebrity hotspot, but it’s lost some of its tarnish and has been renovated to reflect its new status as a lux destination.
Not unlike the rocker himself, who has long since renovated his health, married, and become a dad and a successful businessman. Not that he’s thrown down his ax or quit wearing leathers, but when we caught up with him at the Sunset Marquis last week, Slash was quietly sipping coffee (probably decaf) and talking about his future as a filmmaker.
Nothing Left to Fear marks his venture into the realm of horror from the other side of the screen. The veteran guitarist both scored and produced the film, and he brought on Anthony Leonardi III, an established storyboard artist, to make his directorial debut.
The movie features names such as Clancy Brown and Anne Heche in meaty roles, but lesser-knowns Jennifer Stone and Rebekah Brandes stand out as a pair of teenaged sisters who are forced to fight evil forces lurking in their deceptively sleepy new neighborhood.
Read on to see what the director and producer feel make this movie different from all the rest of the recent offerings.
Dread Central: So I know that you both like horror films. But can you talk a little bit about what your first, most formative memories are of scary movies?
Anthony Leonardi III: I think mine was mainly the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
DC: So really brutal, unlike your movie.
AL: Yeah, but what I think stuck to me about that is when I heard that [it] was a horror movie, and then I saw it, there was no blood in it until the end. And I think just seeing it, going into a room with chicken bones hanging, like terrified me as a kid. Seeing something different than where I live…
AL: Yeah, hopefully. Just seeing that slaughter room. And then it just became horrific. I think that movie scarred me, and also The Funhouse. That was the worst. My mom made me watch Funhouse.
DC: Way to go, Mom. Why’d she do that?
AL: Because it scared her, so she showed us when we were like six and seven. So those are my two, and then there are all the other ones. But I think 70s horror really had the most impact on me, because it always started off like you were watching a normal movie. And then it turned into horror. And today I think the horror movies look like a horror movie right off the bat. They look... there’s bleach bypass and there’s this weird contrast. It just tries to be scary right off the bat, and then it never really goes scarier, it keeps that, maintains that.
Slash: That’s true.
AL: So I mean, that was something that influenced us, that we tried. Because when you watch the movie now, we try to make it even pretty in the beginning. We never try to make it look like a horror movie. So it’s more of the situation environment concept of horror.
DC: I understand, Slash, that your dad had introduced you to War of the Worlds early on? All audio, that’s what hooked you?
S: When I was a little kid, my first six or so years were spent in this little village in England. And one of the things, my dad took me to a lot of horror literature. H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, it was that kind of stuff. One of the things that he gave me was this box of cassettes, which was the entire narration of War of the Worlds; which is what they played on the radio when all of England thought it was being raided by aliens. So that was pretty cool, and it definitely turned me on. I remember thinking of the first scary movie that I saw. I always talk about Night of the Living Dead, because that’s what I saw when I first came to the States. But in England, there was this one movie that stuck with me called Trog, which was great, I loved. And then there was a lot of Pit in the Pendulum.
DC: Oh yeah, that one got me too. I was very young when my dad showed me that one, at night of course.
S: Yeah, with Vincent Price, [I love] stuff like that.
DC: The days where they took care to build a lot of suspense. Now, I’m curious to know too, especially from you, Slash, about the musical connection to horror. We’ve had Robert Johnson with Crossroads, Jimmy Page’s own fascination with Aleister Crowley, Alice Cooper the alter ego with his snakes and onstage effigies. Why do you think that horror and the dark side goes hand in hand with rock music?
S: I get asked that pretty often, I even asked before I got into producing horror movies.
DC: Hey, I’m nothing if not unoriginal. So I take it after all these years, you have a good answer?
S: And I’m not sure exactly the answer, but there’s something innately rebellious about the sort of myths of horrors. Horror’s its own, it’s never been totally mainstream. It’s always been a little off center, and you know, sort of dark, on its own little island to itself. I sort of see rock and roll in its purest sense being very similar. And rock and roll has, it leans towards the dark side of humanity, as far as like what people actually venture to say. That normal Top 40 doesn’t necessarily want to talk about—that’s the darker side of human nature. It just sort of coincides with what horror movies are about; which is basically portraying a lot of our innermost fears and a lot of our darkest thoughts. So maybe the two, it’s just that they bridge this sort of thing where they come together. Plus, rock and roll music fits with horror.
DC: It does. Horror films have been doing really well lately, what with the Conjuring, the Purge, and even Insidious Chapter Two killed at the box office.
AL: And it’s just recently.
DC: Right. Even so, producing films, especially horror films, is sort of a risky venture. I mean, what are your hopes and expectations? What made you guys decide ‘we’re just gonna go all in?’
S: Well he’s a director, he’s a lot more broadminded. He’s got a big future. I personally, the only interest in making movies is in horror/science fiction. I have no real interest in—the only other thing that’s appealed to me that’s come to my attention a couple times is a really good schlock humor/horror kind of combo.
DC: Get Lloyd Kaufman to direct it.
S: But other than that, drama, comedy, and action films, that kind of stuff, for the sake of those styles, doesn’t necessarily interest me, to put that kind of work in. But horror, horror does, and there are so many things I want to explore in that realm.
DC: But do you think that horror is a good jumping off point for some people? For instance, I know James Wan is doing the next Fast and Furious, and Rob Zombie’s doing a baseball movie, you know?
AL: Well, Cameron did Piranha 2. It’s always been a good jumping off point.
S: I don’t plan on jumping that far. I mean, because I’m only in this for the fun of it. It’s not, it’s only, I’m having, it’s too new for me, and it’s too much for the fun of it, to call it any kind of career move. I’m not going to hang up my guitar or anything like quit my day job. So this is really for the love of producing something that I would like to see. You know, doing things that other people aren’t doing, sort of maybe changing the way people look at horror films, if it’s possible—if you can make that much of an impact. And so, I don’t know where the extended future is, I don’t have any big, long-term aspirations right now for me. As far as I can see, it’s just trying to find the next movie with a good story and going after that.
DC: Now from a directorial standpoint, how do you feel about it? Because I know you have more of a diverse background than just horror.
AL: Yeah, for sure. I mean, it really comes to what stories interest me. I mean, I don’t think I’ll do a romantic comedy soon. I have, the different things I’m pushing right now are so all over—I’ve animated stuff. I’m just much more of a high concept storyteller. And you know, it was one of those things where I was reading a bunch of scripts, and this story affected me when I read it, so I went after it. It was funny, I didn’t even know Slash was involved. It just said Slasher Films, so I thought oh no, a company calling themselves Slasher, they’re only going to want slasher movies. And you know, I read it and we just moved into a new place. And I loved it, it brought me back to the short story The Lottery: you know, it’s like everything’s normal, and then something else happens. We just moved in, and I was reading this story. I loved the idea of moving into a house and then finding out the whole city knows about it. That terrified me. So I think if we can find something that, to go after this one, something that was more of a universal terror that other people would react to. That’s kind of what brought me into it.
S: I was just thinking, this was definitely something. It’s my first production. And we sort of did exactly what we wanted to. I don’t think we tried to conform to what is popular or expected, even in this genre.
DC: That’s right, you didn’t. Nothing Left to Fear is not a home-invasion, found footage, POV movie with a Shyamalan twist at the end. How ever did you guys manage that?
AL: Because you’re put in a fence with horror films, it’s become that. I mean, that’s why we like 70s horror so much. You didn’t know it was going to be a horror film necessarily off the bat, or you didn’t know a kid was getting possessed. It didn’t start out that way. So that, and this story kind of interested me. And every time we saw something in the script, you know, and then you have the studio telling you ‘you have to have this’. We would see it, and just try and go, just off center, just enough of the audience it would still, it would resonate but they would still not know where it was coming or something was going to happen. And I think with the screenings we’ve had, people haven’t been able to predict what was going to happen but still be entertained.
S: It’s cool but, you probably saw it [Nothing Left to Fear], it sort of gets you into this thing where you know you’re going into it—there’s the forbidding music going on. But you get into this sort of getting to know the family. And you almost, after a while, start to forget you’re actually watching a horror movie, you know. There’s a couple stabs here and there. But when it picks up, it grabs you sort of like, by surprise. It yanks you into this other reality. And I think it makes it that much more exciting.