Along with punk, metal is a genre that often finds itself closely aligned with horror movies. These genres are on the outside of the mainstream and full of misunderstandings. Movies, music, and art in general is a means for us to explore dark ideas and emotions through characters, stories, and imagery at a distance but where do those ideas come from? Who are the people that are the vehicles for these ideas?
Jesse (Embry) is one of those people. He is a painter struggling for work and seems to have hit a block when it comes to inspiration. He has taken a commission for a bank that has him painting butterflies, much to his daughter, Zooey’s (Glasco), disgust. Like her Dad, she is a little metalhead wearing band t-shirts and idolizing Metallica’s Kirk Hammett. Wanting a change of pace, Jesse, Astrid (Appleby), and Zooey move to the Texas countryside and buy a home this is listed at a dramatically low price. The reason for that is because an older couple died in there years ago and has sat vacant since. What the realtor fails to mention is they were actually murdered by their son, Ray (Vance), who was tortured by voices in his head that compelled him to kill children and then his parents. The only way he could quiet the voices is with a guitar played extremely loud. As the family moves in, Jesse begins hearing those same voices and they seem to be working through him. It all starts as he follows the voices into Zooey’s room where she’s covered up all the happy little teddy bears that she finds repulsive. Under a poster for the Swedish metal band Ghost, who use lots of Satanic lyrics and imagery in their songs and stage shows, is a stained shadow of a cross. This room used to belong to Ray and the cross was there and turned upside down the night he murdered his parents. That image is Jesse’s first painting and he doesn’t remember even doing it. What then begins to happen is the voices start commanding Jesse to paint over his commission for the bank and the butterflies are being replaced by screaming children burning in flames. Astrid comes up behind him as he’s painting furiously and he cannot hear her, the voices are blocking out everything. Finally getting his attention she asks why their daughter is in the painting and he has no answer. Being so consumed by your art that you neglect the outside world is something many artists can understand. Add to that Jesse’s responsibilities as a Dad and you can see how this would cause problems for the family. To make matters even worse, Ray has been released from the mental hospital he was sent to after killing his parents and he wants to come home. He even shows up on the doorstep of his old home saying that he “needs to come home”. Jesse and Astrid force him to leave and call the police. Stuck in a dingy hotel room with an evangelist on the TV talking about the devil, Ray can no longer resist the voices who are telling him they want Zooey.
This film hits hard for me as a parent and I can see some of myself in Ethan Embry’s Jesse. Pruitt Taylor Vance’s performance as Ray is creepy, terrifying, and somewhat sad as he was ignored by a system that should have kept him locked away. There are a few scenes of real horror when he abducts a little boy in broad daylight and another where he returns to his room to lay next to Zooey as she sleeps that set me on edge because shit like that actually happens. The paintings featured in the film are by Stephen Krasner and the evolution of the center piece to the final product is quite striking. Additional music for the movie was done by Sunn O))). They are an experimental/doom metal band from Seattle and their sound is put to good use by director Sean Byrne. I highly recommend pairing this flick with Joe Begos’s Bliss as a horror metal double feature .