Fiendishly frightening horror flicks. Bone-crushingly heavy metal music. A match made in heaven, or perhaps a deep, fiery circle of hell. Such are the rumors of this weekend’s Housecore Horror Film Festival (HHFF), a celebratory hybrid of the most sinister movies and bands on the planet, running from Thursday night to Sunday night at Emo’s, Antone’s, and the Dirty Dog.
By Bryan Rolli
The brainchild of former Pantera frontman Phil Anselmo and bestselling true crime author Corey Mitchell, the festival started as a mere idea in 2010. An avid horror and heavy metal fan himself, Mitchell first proposed the film festival to Anselmo in early 2010 when he began helping Anselmo with his autobiography, but they brushed it aside in the midst of their other projects. When the two reconvened in November 2011, Mitchell pushed for it again. “I couldn’t get rid of that idea, it just kept percolating, and I’m like, ‘Phil, we have to do this film festival,’ and he’s like, ‘F**k yeah, let’s do it.’
When Mitchell pitched the idea at the 2012 South By Southwest (SXSW) Festival, Austin Chronicle staff writer Richard Whittaker, who also served as a panel judge at SXSW, broke the story and the word spread like wildfire. “The minute the thing got out, I think Blabbermouth picked it up, and then all the metal sites picked it up, and all the horror sites. Also, every band and another was calling us up, and of course, Philip knows 95 percent of all the metal bands out there — they know him. I mean, he’s buddies with some of these people. He could literally just go, ‘Hey, I’ll find Charlie Benante from Anthrax; here, you want to talk to him? Okay, sure. Here’s Kerry King from Slayer, see what he’s up to,” Mitchell says.
Since the festival idea went public, Anselmo and Mitchell have been seeking the right type of sponsors to make it possible on a larger scale than initially envisioned. Alongside the plethora of films and bands, there will also be horror and heavy metal vendors, food trailers, zombie makeovers and a special visit from Matt Valentine and Michael Faust, makeup masters and former contestants on the reality TV show FACE/OFF.
Not content to recycle the same handful of horror films that bigger festivals like SXSW and Sundance will be screening — they already have plenty of exposure and distribution as it is — Mitchell and Anselmo say they want to showcase filmmakers from different backgrounds, whose movies Mitchell believes desrve more coverage. “A lot of the ones that we picked are way better than the ones that I saw at the film festival, and probably will never get distribution. Maybe now with Housecore they will, or maybe other people take notice of some of these flicks, and know that these are just some incredible, low-budget, indie, well-written, intelligent flicks that really deserve an audience,” Mitchell explains.
As for the music portion of the event, the festival will feature performances from bands that embody the marriage of horror and heavy metal, such as the Chicago-based band First Jason (www.FirstJason.com). Fronted by Ari Lehman, who played a young Jason Voorhees in the first installment of the legendary “Friday the 13th” franchise, the self-proclaimed “punk-metal-horror-comedy duo” pays homage to the archetypal slasher film. With songs, such as “Jason Never Dies!” and “Machete Is My Friend,” off of their debut album, “Jason Is Watching!,” the group firmly establishes their identity with an unique instrument — Lehman’s electric machete. “I do play the world’s only heavy metal keytar, which is the electric machete, which is basically an analog synth which has been duct-taped to a giant machete, with an LED Jason mask in the blade, and I play it through a Gallien-Krueger, big bass amp with 4×10 [speakers]. It’s just about as metal as you can get,” the child-star-turned-metal-monster proudly declares.
Accompanied by Nefarious, bassist for Chicago “murder metal” veterans Macabre, First Jason will take the Antone’s stage at 12:15 p.m. on Saturday, and they hope listeners come prepared for an eye-opening performance. “I would say a large percentage of your audience there are unaware of what’s about to happen, and I just recommend everybody comes, especially if you want to see the keyboard reborn on the metal stage,” Lehman says. “And I’m ready to go toe-to-toe with any guitar player. I can play faster and louder, and I can play with both hands at the same time,” he adds, in the spirit of good-natured competition.
Lehman is most excited to simply experience the festival as a music lover and make new discoveries. “In all honesty, I’m there with my ears open to learn. I’m there to bring my sound, but I’m really there to check it out and absorb and learn,” he explains. Having traveled the country and played with the acts, such as Chimaira and The Browning, Lehman sees a lot of encouragement from the metal scene right now and thinks HHFF will only further highlight the supportiveness of this audience: “I think we all got an opportunity here to kind of all come together and make this scene really thrive.”
For Mitchell, the Housecore Horror Film Festival is simply about him and Anselmo sharing their passions with the world. “It’s just a bigger stage for me and Phil to sit there and watch horror films together. It went from his house to hanging out with 2,000 friends and fans,” he says.