Two days before Christmas in 1985, a pair of young Judas Priest fans from Reno, NV went to a Lutheran church playground and attempted suicide with a 12-gauge shotgun under the chin. One of them died instantly while the other survived with facial disfigurement but died from an overdose of painkillers three years later. Their parents brought a civil action suit against the members of Judas Priest, alleging that their sons had been compelled to kill themselves after hearing what they believed to be a subliminal message hidden in a cover of Spooky Tooth’s 1969 song “Better by You, Better than Me” that Priest recorded for their 1978 album Stained Class.
Since the origins of rock & roll, any music that wasn’t family-friendly sock-hop fodder sung by Bing Crosby or Peggy Lee was considered to be the work of agents of the dark lord Satan, and groups of self-righteous religious nuts and power-mad authority figures assembled protests and burned thousands upon thousands of copies of these records in effigy. Horror filmmakers in the latter half of that narcissism-fueled decade cashed in on the raging hysteria by producing several low or medium-budget features with hard rock and/or heavy metal tunes not just occupying space on the soundtrack albums, but actually figuring prominently in the plots.
Horror and metal have always enjoyed a cozy relationship that endures to this day. Since no celebration of Halloween is complete without a juicy fright flick marathon to enjoy with that bag of candy you pilfered from your nieces and nephews, here’s my list of the 5 best heavy metal horror classics to ever grace a theater screen or the shelves at your neighborhood mom & pop video store that closed down ages ago and was replaced with a Verizon Wireless retailer.