Fear is the most primitive emotion in existence that seems to control our actions and define the way we relate to the world, each other, and ourselves. Horror films have been playing on our psychological conceptions of fear, since the earliest days of modern cinema. They engage with our minds to create dark landscapes of human sentiment, evoking death and dismay. And this is precisely why Slash, a roaring rock' roll icon, has found himself falling down the existential rabbit hole of cinematic horror with his brave new media adventure -- a motion picture titled Nothing Left to Fear, that the veteran guitarist both scored and produced (alongside Rob Eric and Michael Williams).
Nestled in the back of his dimly lit home recording studio in Los Angeles, Slash took a break from his constant touring to discuss his creative influences in horror, the overarching presence of fear in society and the process of making a film. Though his rock star handle is Slash (born Saul Hudson) and his production company is called Slasher Films, his debut cinematic effort is ironically not a slasher film. Far from it. Written by Jonathan Mills and directed by Anthony Leonardi III, Nothing Left to Fear is a study in character, storytelling and suspense. "It's a simple story where less is more," he explains. "It's not an action movie. We're exploring the environment of the macabre -- of what's in the dark. What we can't see. That's what's intriguing about it. Chainsaws are just brutal. I wanted to expose the weird twisted nature of the characters and society. I wanted to do something that goes back to what I think is really scary."
Growing up in England, Slash was introduced to the distinct subculture of horror at a very young age. "My mom and dad got me into horror films as early as I can remember," he reflects. "My dad started giving me horror literature like Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft and Ray Bradbury. When he read me a story, it would become really intense. He played me the Orson Welles War of the Worlds tapes. They blew my mind." This was just the beginning. When the young musician moved to L.A. his mom turned him onto a wide array of visionary filmmakers that included Stanley Kubrick, Alfred Hitchcock and George A. Romero. "These directors were creating classics, really well told stories with tangible characters and villains that were something that would keep you up all night," reflects Slash, who confesses a deep affection for Night of the Living Dead, The Omen and Godzilla. He also recalls spending hours in front of the TV watching old Twilight Zone and Outer Limits episodes.
"When I was in high school I read The Shinning in one night and it scared the shit out of me," he recalls. But as much as I love Kubrick -- Clockwork Orange being one of my favorite films of all time -- the movie doesn't approach King's narrative. It wasn't nearly as scary. The book had so much detail and it was all just spine-chilling. The movie kind of just jumps into your lap. Sometimes a book can be so much more frightening than anything visual because it allows your own mind to take over. Which is why I think with films, subtlety is key."
During his early days in Los Angeles, Slash would wander through many of Hollywood's legendary horror haunts, looking for horror magazines and books and making frequent visits to the House of Wax. "My relationship with horror was established well before I picked up a guitar at age 15," he says. "My natural tastes have always been dark, not that I'm a dark person, but I'm drawn to things that aren't necessarily soft and fluffy. When I was a kid, I bought a Grateful Dead record because of the skull on the cover, not knowing what kind of music was inside."
This devotion and attraction to shadow has informed Slash's artistic journey from his earliest days as a fan and performer. "When I got into music I was naturally drawn to rock n' roll even though I loved a lot of light, airy folk music as well," he muses. "My real passion has always been the more dark, sexy kind of rock. 'Whole Lotta Love' is one of the nastiest, most sensuous songs ever recorded. Black Sabbath brought the texture of horror to music in a melodic, fantastical way. Rock n' roll and the darker side of things just naturally go together, in heavy metal especially. Even the Stones have dabbled in the darkness. The heavier the music, the more they paint with that satanic brush."
Guns N' Roses' deliciously bloody cover of the Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil" that appeared on the soundtrack to Interview With a Vampire was an early fusing of Slash's two favorite worlds. In 1994, he played a radio DJ named Hank in an episode of Tales from the Crypt and Slash composed a piece of music for Curdled, the 1996 black comedy produced by Quentin Tarantino. Slash also composed the score to This Is Not a Movie, released in 2011. He and Seattle based singer/songwriter, Mark Lanegan, recorded "So Long Sin City" for the Mexican made indie production. "I dig that film," he says "It's a left-field story that deals heavily with esoteric topics."
Nothing Left to Fear -- produced by Slasher Films (a subsidiary of Green Harbor Productions) -- is the story of an average family headed by a father/pastor who is invited by a retiring man of the cloth to Stull, Kansas, a small, intensely haunted town located 40 miles west of Kansas City in Douglas County. Stull is dubiously known as one of the "seven gateways to Hell." Pope John Paul II reportedly refused to fly over this area of the state and the rock band, The Cure, wouldn't play there. Paranormal urban legend notwithstanding, the screenplay was inspired by the creepy town though the film was shot in Covington, Louisiana. The retiring priest is played by Clancy Brown, who Slash sought out for the role, because of his moving portrayals in Shawshank Redemption and Cowboys and Indians. Ann Heche plays Wendy, the mother and James Tupper is her husband. Jennifer Stone -- known for her flighty role in the Disney Channel series, Wizards of Waverly Place -- was cast as Mary the demon, a quite darker role.
The picture is intended to play on our psychological concepts of fear and specifically, what we don't understand about what's lurking right around the corner. "It's not just a gore fest like many horror flicks in the '80s," says Slash. "It's more like an emotional roller coaster. There's something about being scared that we all love -- the aesthetics of Halloween (the holiday not the movie franchise), films like Carrie and Frankenstein -- and the construction of a story that builds to a certain level of suspense and attention in a dark environment."
Involved in the filmmaking process from casting to post-production, Slash also developed an original score for the film in conjunction with renowned composer, Nick O'Toole. Often on the road during the process, Slash's ideas would spur from drawings and still shots from the film. He would then use pro-tools on his computer to sync the music with the film. His partner in musical crime, Myles Kennedy, also contributed to the project by writing the lyrics for the particularly moody and chilling title track. "It's an amazingly haunting piece," enthuses Slash. "There's no bass and drum -- just guitar and vocals. Nothing like you've heard before from us. It was an interesting process. I learned that writing with a visual in mind is a completely different experience. There are no rules, no boundaries or arrangement limitations."
For an artist who has achieved so much success and notoriety in his chosen field of rock n' roll, Slash fearlessly embraces this new medium of expression and has great hopes that this bolder foray into film is well received. Fear has always been the prime fascination of the fearless. "Fear is one of the most powerful yet negative and restraining emotions that we possess," he says. "People are both consciously and unconsciously driven by fear. It's a very unfortunate situation. There's fear that keeps you healthy and then fear that keeps from experiencing the richness of life. It's a necessary evil. It has extremes. Everyone has their own version of it."
Nothing Left to Fear is set for release in select theaters on October 4th, 2013. The Nothing Left to Fear Original Motion Picture Soundtrack in set for release the same day.