As part of 2019’s 13 Days of Halloween, we here at Games, Brrraaains & A Head-Banging Life thought it would be fun to see if some of the bands and artists we love had any interest in horror. It turns out quite a lot do so we turned it into an interview.
1. First things first…introduce yourself please!
Hello! I’m Mike, the vocalist and bassist for Mad Spanner. We have recently released our debut album ‘Life Absurd’ on Bandcamp and Spotify. We play songs about chicken phobias, defecating into plastic bags and killing houseflies and how it rests on your conscience, all performed with the madness of sincerity.
2. What are your top 3 favourite horror movies and why?
Funny Games, Susperia (2018) and The Thing. These are the 3 that came to mind though I know I’m forgetting some absolute gems.
I love that Funny Games subverts all the slasher tropes and manages to deliver a terrifying experience with barely any onscreen violence or gore. Everything happens just out of camera view so your left with your imagination which sometimes much more effective in getting under your skin. The fourth wall breaks and the sadistic, sometimes condescending tone to the viewer will divide opinion but this remains an excellent commentary on slasher films and peoples enjoyment of them.
Susperia (2018) blew me away and I wasted no time re-watching it a second and third time before watching the original soon later. I’ve always wanted to be part of a European performance troupe so I love that this is about a dance company set in wall era Berlin. Oh, and beneath it’s guise it’s run by a cove of witches in the midst of a power struggle! It’s deliciously tense as you follow the newest dancer ascend in the ranks where the mystery follows into a gripping horror where you can’t look away. I wont spoil anything other than you get to watch a hapless victim get folded into a pretzel. Watch it!
I only seen The Thing last year, at a late night viewing at Bloodstock new blood stage last year not knowing anything that was in store…I never expected a masterclass in body horror! the suspense is snare-tight and the effects are absolutely sensational and hold up extremely well. If I had to pick a favorite scene, it’s the transformation when the three are tied to their chairs…the panic in that scene had me howling in terrified laughter!
OH, big fan of Lars Von Triers ‘Antichrist’ too and would recommend that in a heartbeart!!
3. Do you remember your first experience with horror? Was it at a young age?
I suppose it was zombies…it has to be! I remember being gripped by the concept of being eaten alive, only to then become a fan of the brainless masses.
Tell ya what really freaked me out as a kid was when my dad made me watch Pink Floyds ‘The Wall’ film. I was mesmerized by the animation, but there scene with the faceless children walking through a conveyor belt into a mincing machine was pretty horrifying for a child! It was the first film to give me nightmares but I always came back to that VHS and I’ve been magnetized to dark imagery since.
4. What era of horror is your favourite & why?
Anything without CGI is ideal, so the era before that I feel comes across with much more authenticity with the prosthetic, stunts and creative solutions to budgeting dilemmas. I feel a lot of modern films rely CGI too much…I don’t mind a little but it can all too easily take me out of the experience. Those effects quickly become dated.
5. What frightens or creeps you out in horror?
What the film doesn’t tell or show you. Depending on the film it depends if they are pressing on the fear of the unknown or the distortion of the familiar, they can equally be unsettling in different ways. Another way a film can creep me out is when it holds a mirror to the darker side of humanity. in some ways, even non horror films can create that effect, such as ‘A Clockwork Orange’ or a recent comparison, ‘Joker’ – I left those films with more horror than I got from a jump scare.
6. Who is your horror inspiration? Be it a director/actor/author etc.
From music it would be Cannibal Corpse for the celebratory fun of the genre. From literature it be Clive Barkers ‘Book Of Blood’ series for the vivid imagination. From film it would be David Lynch, at least his dreamlike film ‘Ereaserhead’. I love the way and how honestly he channelled his fears of paternity into such an abstract and surreal film. Anything that is teasing something from the subconscious is going to stay with you.
7. Do you enjoy modern horror or do you look to the past for your fix?
I’ve got enough time in my life (hopefully!) to see all the classics, it means I always have something to watch when I’m looking for something for almost-guaranteed quality. It was only the last couple of years when I seen ‘The Thing’ and ‘Alien‘ and I’m still yet to see ‘Evil Dead’! I tend to steer away from horrors that are basically rehashing the same tired tropes to new generations of horror fans and try and seek out modern horrors with a unique angle.
8. What horror movie is universally beloved that you just don’t like?
Halloween! I think it’s fucking rubbish! Sure, I can see why it’s classic for it’s time that spawned all the tropes of the slasher sub-genre but they are all tropes I can’t bloody stand! I enjoyed laughing at it for all it’s kitch charm but I’m unlikely to ever watch it ever again.
9. If you could shoot one horror cliché/trope into the sun to never be used again. What would it be?
JUMP SCARES, Slam dunk answer! It’s fine for Alfred Hitchcock pioneering it as a simple way to wake up the audience at a point when the films pace lags but it’s been done to death and then some ever since! Filmaking has progressed, please filmmakers, stop using this cheap trick and make better films. And if you make a scene with the suspense leading to a fake jump scare and then hits you with a real one – you are the WORST. It doesn’t scare people, it startles people – there’s a massive difference! I can shout “BOO” behind someones ear and make them jump out of their skin, but that’s not being scary – it’s being annoying, and very quickly boring.
10. Same question but about type/style. What type or style of horror would you happily never watch again?
I suppose ‘found footage’ has had it’s time. I appreciate ‘The Blair Witch Project‘ for what they did with a minimal budget but I don’t see anything new coming from that type of horror but I’m happy to be proven wrong.
11. What gets you excited when watching horror?
When the elastic suspense lets go and everything lets loose in a panic frenzy! If done well, those scenes have me totally enraptured and it’s something I appreciate when I see it for the first time in a film.
12. Have you had any real life scary experiences? We’re talking supernatural or something that can’t be reasonably explained.
I’m reminded of Descartes (Cogito Ergo Sum) that our senses can be fooled, especially to illusion and our own bias. We can all spook ourselves very easily. I’m a human being prone to human error, and the lizard part of me will hear or see something that I may find a threat but the rational part of me can shrug off. The fascination with the supernatural and the other is innate since our nomadic ancestors and I enjoy the fictional stories we weave from our imagination, but I do not believe the supernatural is objectively real.
1. Favourite overall franchise (3 or more movies)?
Saw. They could have stuck with three where it makes the most sense…but where’s the money in that? Go ahead and milk that torture porn teet! It’s so ridiculously hilarious how exponentially convoluted and contrived the plot has become that I’m always throwing money at these films to see where the comedy leads!
2. Most memorable character death?
Russel Crowe’s character falling to his hilariously pathetic death-splat in Les Miserables. Yeah, NOTHING in any horror ever will come close to that only shining light in that 3+ hour singsong dirge.
3. Best horror twist?
A truck out of gas engulfed in the dreaded mist. Imminent Doom. Five people, only four bullets…Yeah, just bringing that gut-punch right back for anyone who knows what I’m talking about!
4. Favourite Stephen King book?
I’ve not read any, only watched his film adaptations. I love Clive Barker’s genius writing however, I always come return to it…makes me want to write old school death metal!
5. Best remake of a horror movie?
Susperia. If a director brings their own love of the original and completely re-imagines it in their own style, then it can be a mighty success and Susperia is a fantastic example of a re-make done right.
6. Worst remake of a horror movie?
I share what the game critic Yahtzee would call ‘the Guantanamo bay approach to expectations’ – expect everything is shit until it proves itself otherwise. Most remakes are nostalgic cash-grabs that elude everything that was so great about the original. I avoid them so I don’t have an opinion which is ‘worst’.
7. Favourite horror villain?
Hannibal Lecter by a mile!
8. It’s Halloween night…you settle down with some popcorn to watch…what?
Something classic I have yet to see, so probably ‘Evil Dead’ !
We’d like to thank Mike of Mad Spanner for taking the time to speak with us. You can find our more about the band by checking out their Facebook Page here.