Horror fans got a kick out of news that Metallica’s James Hetfield is playing Officer Bob in the Ted Bundy biopic Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, directed by Joe Berlinger. While this is the rocker’s first foray into acting, cinema is littered with examples of musicians who attempted to make this transition. In the 1980s, Mick Jagger, Sting, and David Bowie all made numerous appearances in movies, including horror flicks.
The trend continues today, but there’s something about metal musicians in movies that feels… funny. I mean, metal is a brutal, mean, and often ugly artform—and those who make a living in this arena often reflect these traits physically. The thought of these ambassadors of antiestablishment on movie sets, jumping to the whims of a director, feels kind of like a let-down!
Then again, horror is the perfect genre for these creators of cacophony, and more metal musicians have popped up in genre flicks than you probably realize. Below, in no particular order, are 10 frontmen who rock hard on stages and on celluloid. While we’d never suggest these guys quit their day jobs, their contributions to the horror genre are definitely appreciated.
To be clear, we’re talking about appearances where musicians are playing roles, not showing up in cameos as themselves.
Considering Alice Cooper’s sound and aesthetic are heavily inspired by classic horror movies, it seems natural that he’d make some notable appearances over his decades-long career. Some have been comic cameos, but Alice flexed his acting chops as Robert Englund’s adoptive father in Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare. It was a small role, but one that oozed pure evil, giving us insight into the origins of Freddy’s psychosis.
His appearance as a “street schitzo” in John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness is also worth noting. He even made it into the trailer; check him out above at the 0:34 mark!
Henry Rollins from Black Flag/The Rollins Band
On stage, Henry Rollins is a tightly wound ball of rage, a throbbing and percussive vocalist exuding a lifetime’s worth of frustration. But he was able to contain and channel that explosiveness into a measured yet intense performance in 2015’s vampire horror He Never Died. Rollins didn’t just appear in the film—he stars in it, meaning the film’s success hinged on his performance.
Both the film and the musician/actor garnered immense praise and Rollins will reteam with writer/director Jason Krawczyk when He Never Died Part 2 goes into production this summer.
Rollins actually has an extensive creative filmography, with small parts in numerous horror movies including Lost Highway, Feast, and Wrong Turn 2: Dead End.
Considering Marilyn Manson is known for his completely unhinged stage performances fueled by drugs and alcohol (a persona he maintains in between concerts), it’s hard to believe he’d have the discipline necessary to carry an actor’s weight in a film. But he proved himself a capable thespian—and I’m not talking about his bit-part as a sex fiend in Jawbreaker!
The shock-rocker played Pope in 2016’s Let Me Make You a Martyr, a complex and gritty horror movie written and directed by Corey Asraf and John Swab. The fact that Pope is a serial killer seems natural for a man named Manson, but the character is seething and controlled, requiring focused skill to communicate. Without a shred of his hallmark antics, Manson delivered a smoldering performance that dripped with arresting suspense.
Gene Simons from KISS and Ozzy Osbourne
As the fire-breathing, blood-spitting bass player and co-vocalist for KISS, Gene Simmons is the personification of horror. The same can be said for the incomparable, bat-decapitating madman Ozzy Osbourne. Both rockers have been destroying stages worldwide for over 4 decades and, somehow, found themselves with bit-parts in the same horror movie back in 1986.
Trick or Treat, directed by Charles Martin Smith, is a heavy metal-themed horror comedy that’s none too good. The appearances of Gene and Ozzy may be the only reason to seek out this clunker! Simmons is rather forgettable as a radio DJ named Nuke, but Osbourne is hysterical in an obviously ironic turn as a metal-hating evangelist.
Fred Durst from Limp Bizkit
He did it all for the nookie, riding high on the short-lived rap/rock craze of the late 1990s! But Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst’s offstage antics and a nasty reputation transformed him into a social pariah, a status reflected in tanking album sales. The singer’s been attempting to make a name for himself as an actor for over a decade now with little success to show for his efforts.
A notable exception is the horror drama Population 436, directed by Michelle MacLaren and released straight-to-DVD in 2006. It’s a Southern Gothic with hints of folk horror (something rare in American films), taking place in a town that maintains an exact population for nefarious reasons. Like Hetfield in Extremely Wicked, Durst plays a lawman and the irony is obvious. Still, Durst delivers a decent performance as a conflicted pillar of an insular community.
The only non-vocalist on this list, Flea is nonetheless one of the most famous bass players in modern rock. He’s also been popping up in movies for decades beginning with an uncredited appearance in 1983’s The Outsiders; other notable Flea films include Suburbia, Dudes, Point Break, Mototama, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
As far as horror goes, Flea had a tiny part as Bob Summerfield in Gus Van Sant’s ill-advised, shot-for-shot remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. He also played Jester the Alien in the obscure sci-fi Stranded, directed by Fleming B. Fuller and released in 1987; this film only exists on VHS, making it a sought-after rarity.
With his untamed mane, wild makeup, and sharp teeth Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider no doubt invaded the nightmares of more than a few kids who grew up in the 1980s. But he took an ambitious leap into horror movies in earnest with 1998’s Strangeland as the schizophrenic, highly modified sadist Captain Howdy. Snider didn’t merely accept a role, he wrote the film; and though it’s often overlooked by mainstream horror fans, Strangeland has a sizable cult following.
He’s connected to another horror film, although you could watch it 100 times and never realize it. In Adam Green’s chilling chair-lift thriller Frozen, Snider’s the guy who yells (from offscreen) “Last chair is through!” That means this guy’s responsible for a lot of heartache!
Linkin Park were Kings of Nu Metal for over a decade and the soaring vocals of Chester Bennington were a huge component of the band’s winning formula. Though his career was spotted by publicized battles with alcohol and drug addiction, his 2017 suicide shocked millions of fans worldwide; at 41, he still had a long career ahead of him, in music or acting.
Bennington planed Evan, a member of the skinhead gang murdered by Jigsaw protégé Mark Hoffman in Saw: The Final Chapter. Directed by Kevin Greutert, it’s one of the most brutal and over-the-top installments of the franchise, and Evan’s death sees the thug super-glued into a devious trap.
Most horror fans know Corey Taylor as the pyro-psychotic vocalist for the nightmarish outfit Slipknot (where he’s simply known as Number Eight). Though he’s donned many terrifying and unnerving masks for his onstage antics over the years, he went latex-free for a role in Fear Clinic, where he appeared alongside genre icon Robert England and Fiona Dourif (Cult of Chucky, Curse of Chucky).
Taylor also had a bit-part as Frankie in Sharknado 4: The 4th Awakens, although at this rate, everyone with an IMDb page will have appeared in a Sharknado movie by the end of the decade!