Recollections of a Teenage Monster: HEAVY METAL ZOMBIES
I’m Byron C. Miller, horror filmmaker, musician, and fan! Since preschool, I’ve had a love for the horror genre and a great need to tell scary stories. I was teaming up with friends to build mini haunts for the unsuspecting babysitter and filming little monster movies with my dad’s VHS camcorder. Then middle school took it to a new level… In 6th Grade I decided my future: to be a horror filmmaker!
Between middle school and early high school (89 to 93), I came up with 51 movie ideas, adding each one to “The List”. Now I want to share those crazy stories with you! Join me on a nostalgic trip back to my monster kid, middle school life. Each entry will cover a movie from “The List” – not just what I remember about the imagined film but my inspiration and my life at the time. Crazy movie ideas. Slice of life. Nostalgia.
Welcome to Volume 1 of Recollections of a Teenage Monster!
My parents are cool: They let me watch Horror films and bought me Fangoria magazines as early as pre-school. From late night horror hosts to every weekend spent at the theater or drive-in, my love for cinema and horror grew at a feverish pace! I saw The Return of the Living Dead 2 multiple times in the theater and owned the rock/metal soundtrack on cassette. It was only fitting that the first time I put pen to paper it was for the zombies. Heavy Metal Zombies was the first “script” I wrote. I didn’t understand formatting yet (I was 11 give or take) so it was more like a madman’s notebook describing every scene. It kills me that I no longer have the handwritten draft but I remember a great deal about the film and its sequels.
I wanted to create something with the punk/metal/comic book attitude of the Return of the Living Dead films, combined with the fun Satanic Panic/Evil Rock Star movies like Black Roses and Trick or Treat (Long live Sammi Curr!). My story centers around a heavy metal rocker named Slash. He’s at the top of the world! Sold out arena shows! Crazy parties! Satanic murder! Wait, what?
We open on the encore of a sold out show. The theatrical band gives it their all and the crowd goes wild! Slash takes a bow and quickly exits to his private trailer. It’s your standard, over-the-top rockstar crash pad until Slash pulls the Scooby Doo lever revealing a secret room. Corpses, candles, pentagrams, spell books, and presumably a lot of air freshener adorn this foul place.
Our rocker begins some light spell reading when suddenly cops are everywhere! Surrounding his trailer! Guns drawn! Using vague but ingenious detective work, ambitious rookie cop, John Cooper, tracked the pattern of missing persons straight to Slash. As they give him the old cop countdown, Slash does something strange… He carves some rad demonic symbols in his guitar and plays part of his number one hit song (something like “A.D.I. Horror of It All” by Anthrax). Hiding his guitar Slash pulls out a crazy looking knife and rushes out of his trailer, full charge at the cops. Bam Bam Bam! Slash goes out in a hail of bullets….
Did I mention that my dad was a cop? For many years my father worked at the local sheriff’s office, and then the police department. I remember his police gear, his guns, his cool badge, going to target practice. It was awesome! Even after he left the force, we still watched a healthy amount of action, cop films. All of this lead my child brain to one obvious conclusion: all heroes in movies had to be cops! You’ll notice this over and over again in most of my childhood scripts. But back to our story… Five years later!
Slash is buried in the town that he died in, that’s normal right? Anyway, rookie cop John Cooper has moved up in the world, and is now the town sheriff and a family man with teenage kids of his own. It was a really busy five years. I was 11 give me a break. Friday night rolls around and all the kids are going to the big metal show at the stadium that’s conveniently located on the outskirts of town. Meanwhile, two members of Slash’s band go to the giant, Thriller Video looking, cemetery with Slash’s special guitar which was certainly not impounded as evidence. Following Slash’s “If I ever die” request, they plug in a portable amp and begin to play the number one song. A few bars in, electricity erupts from the satanic carving, shooting into Slash’s mausoleum. Out of the fog steps the resurrected rocker, looking like a bizarre hybrid of the villains from the VHS cover art of Fulci’s Zombie and the rocker from W.A.S.P in Charles Band’s Dungeonmaster.
He quickly attacks his old mates, pissed that they took so long. One of the guys rips half of Slash’s face off, you know, so he can look extra cool. Finishing off his old pals, Slash grabs his evil magic guitar which can suddenly produce sound with no amp. Slash plays that epic guitar riff from his song. Electricity shoots out into all of the graves and into the corpses of his dead buddies. Things get crazy as the dead begin to rise, transforming from their normal clothing to heavy metal gear and head banging through the cemetery (11 years old when I wrote this). It’s like the graveyard scenes from Thriller on speed. Zombies explode from the earth! Smash tomb stones with their fists. Go absolutely ape shit!
This love of shock rockers and heavy metal didn’t come from thin air. My mom was a big Alice Cooper fan, something I didn’t realize until I myself became a big fan in middle school. I remember renting one of his concert videos and watching it with my mom. We had a blast and Cooper’s showmanship and horror references blew my mind! My parents were always into music, going to concerts, dance clubs on the weekend, and even co-owning a nightclub for a while. This was also the age of the birth of MTV, back when it was just music videos! I remember watching the Thriller video when it premiered and loving it! This love for music and 70s and 80s theatrical rock ‘n’ rollers definitely made its mark on my psyche. Which reminds me…
Slash leads his zombie army into the town. They march past the power plant and another guitar riff takes out the town’s electricity.
The trap is set.
Now for some zombie chaos montage action! We see suburbia under siege by seemingly un-killable zombies; Drinkin’ beer, eatin’ brains, smashin’ windows, and literally punching through steel doors to invade homes. Sheriff Cooper races around town trying to help where he can. Suddenly, he slams on the breaks in shock! Slash stands in the center of the road staring Cooper down. Our hero floors it and just before impact, another magic guitar strum sends lighting into the car, blowing up the engine. Cooper jumps out just in time, landing on his feet and firing on Slash. Unlike Slash’s torn face, the bullet wounds quickly heal. Slash, having not seen many Bond films, lays out his plan to destroy Cooper and the town. He will go to that metal show and give the kids a performance that will transform them all into Heavy Metal Zombies! He leaves Cooper stranded in the darkness. On foot, Cooper makes it home in time to stop his kids from going to the concert. He gathers what’s left of the cops to drive out to the stadium and stop Slash.
At the concert, the teens excitedly watch some Metal band when suddenly, the lights go out. The band is dragged off, murdered, and replaced with Slash and his key zombies. They play a full version of his hit song and we see the entire crowd turn into zombies while the rest of the ghouls from the cemetery pile in and watch the show. The cops realize they’re too late to save the teens so they seal all the doors, cover everything with gas and explosives and blow it up!!!! Just like in Gremlins! Also just like that film, Stripe, er I mean Slash, escapes.
You might notice the myriad of inspiration on hand. You see, growing up in the 80s we had cable and a VCR. In many ways this was better than Netflix or streaming. Every weekend I went to one of the many video stores and picked out 3 to 5 films to watch. I was also allowed to watch whatever I wanted, uncut on HBO. Furthermore, going to the movies was pretty cheap and we were at the theater or drive-in every weekend. I watched hundreds of films every year! Having to go out and find them made them more important. I paid attention; I learned who the filmmakers and actors were. I read movie magazines. I needed to know more! I was a sponge and my storyteller mind blended and repurposed moments from hundreds of films. The finale here is very much Gremlins meets Black Roses meets Witchboard meets Critters 2 meets my crazy brain! This brings us to…
Sheriff Cooper chases Slash down and they duke it out! Cooper, proving to be no match for Slash, is about to get Zombified when he scrambles to his gun and shoots the guitar! A hole in the guitar equals a hole in Slash! Cooper keeps shooting and finally pulls the guitar from the weakened Slash. He douses that shit in lighter fluid and burns it up! Slash does an epic zombie meltdown and finally turns to dust. Cooper is relieved. He might’ve lost most of the towns’ teenage population, and a few whole neighborhoods but he stopped it!
…or did he?
We’re backstage at the blown up stadium. We push past burning ruble to a sound board with a cassette deck. A fireman passes, knocking the deck to the floor. A cassette tape falls out of the wreckage. No ordinary cassette, this one has those familiar devil symbols carved into it…
I smell sequel!
The first Elm Street film my parents took me to see was Part 3, Dream Warriors. It was phenomenal, and part of one truth of 80s cinema; there had to be a sequel! They didn’t do quite as many remakes back then, they just made a million sequels instead, most of which played out like remakes. If you look at “The List” almost every idea has a number of planned sequels along with it. I put a lot of love into Heavy Metal Zombies; played it as a game with my friends, acted it out when I was home alone, and mused about the crazy series it would become. I imagined interviews in Fangoria Magazine, discussing the series with my favorite talk show host Arsenio Hall! Slash would be my Freddy!
“The List” says Heavy Metal Zombies 1, 2 …?
My memories of Part 2 are vague. I know that Cooper would be divorced, broken, living in the big city, and cursed with wild nightmares of Slash. I know the tape would end up with some record executive. I know that Slash and the Zombies lay siege to the city and only Cooper can save the day. Maybe there would be a Trick or Treat style race against time to stop the cassette from getting played for a large audience? Save the world from getting zombified? Whatever it was, it was gonna be awesome!
My parents are cool, and I’m glad they let me be the crazy monster kid. However being a weirdo isn’t always fun. Sometimes we get bullied. You know what happens when you bully a monster kid? We dream up a crazy trilogy of revenge on the shitters of the world! Tune in next time for my Maniac* trilogy!
*No relation to the William Lustig classic. I didn’t see that one until I was full grown.