The new video from thrash metal legends Anthrax, Blood Eagle Wings, is so ghoulishly gory you’ll never believe yer eerie eyeballs (and you can see it below, my creeps!) So naturally I had to send out an invite via carrier crow for the clips die-rector Jack Bennett to join us for a lil’ convo in the Crypt o’ XIII, and wadda ya know, here he is now!
Famous Monsters. Let’s get right down to brass tacks, Jack! How did the story for Blood Eagle Wingsevolve?
Jack Bennett. It just began with Scott Ian sending me the song and saying it was about how civilizations evolve throughout history on a foundation of violence. He only had two stipulations about the video; he didn’t want it to be performance-based, so no band playing the song, and there had to be someone actually blood eagle’d onscreen, which I had to look up. There are multiple, uh, styles of blood eagle described on all these sites about historical torture methods, but the version you see in the video is the one I responded to as a visual — the idea of someone dying with their ribs standing up out of their back like a crest and their lungs outside of their body. That was with me the entire time I was trying to figure out the rest, which became about how to visually represent that idea about civilizations evolving and turn it into a story instead of torture porn. I always knew that part near the end of the song, with that lonely dissonant guitar, was the going to be this brutal and somehow beautiful image of the finished blood eagle, and I think I worked backwards from that, using the song as a guide.
FM. The video features more effects than a half-dozen fright flicks. How challenging was it bringing them to the screen on the budget you had available?
JB. Would you believe I wasn’t even thinking about the challenge of that aspect of it? To me it was just really important that the video didn’t ever relax, that it kept building and never dwelled on the same visual for too long. And each one of those visuals had to be first-rate and never appear to be apologetic about a budget limitation. I had eight minutes for my little horror movie, but I wanted to make sure what you see increased exponentially with the song, and you didn’t have time to dwell on any one idea for too long. I guess if anything was challenging it was just wrangling all the elements and making sure we had time to shoot everything. All the effects people were committed and they made it easy on me. I wasn’t waiting for the effects for unreasonable periods of time on the set, and everybody was working with me; it was great. Jerry Constantine did the blood eagle, he also made all the masks including the Skull King, but that blood eagle on James Duval was a masterpiece. And he made Kaitlin Snyder‘s arm, the compound fracture that snaps open. The other torture effects were done by Josh and Sierra Russell, who did Matt Mercer‘s head being split by ropes, the body when Joe Haskins gets axed in the beginning, and the molten lead or copper or whatever it is that gets poured down Courtney Kimball‘s throat. Then KNB gave us a special cameo in the form of Greg Nicotero‘s head, which Theo Crane is impaling on a spike in one shot. Then Ian Hunter from New Deal Studios and Jesse Clarkson at Nascent Perspective Studios did the two cities, medieval and modern, and figured out how that effect of the one city rising up from the rubble of the other could be achieved practically. You’re right, that is a lot of effects. I don’t think there’s a single production in history that didn’t include people wishing they had a bigger budget, and I wish I could have paid everybody twice as much, but every effects artist on this one was very direct and honest with me about what I was getting for what I was paying and in each case we came to an acceptable number and you see the results onscreen. DP Brian Sowell deserves a lot of credit in that regard, too. That’s why you hire people who are that good at what they do — my job became shooting and cutting everything in a way that showcases their work and adds instead of detracts.
FM. Are their any plans to continue the Skull King’s story?
JB. The costume remains intact! Justin Michael Terry plays The Skull King, and I know he’d be up for doing more. He communicates so much character with body language, and it’s subtle and nuanced stuff. You can see the intelligence in the way this guy moves, it’s kind of incredible. You feel like you can see him thinking. When I wrote the treatment I just called the character “The Evil Cleric,” and I was imagining a wizened old guy in Aleister Crowley robes. That version still had demon wings, though. Scott asked if we could model the character after the artwork they released with the Evil Twin single. I think that’s Charlie Benante‘s design. So the King’s character has a lot to do with Evil Twin. I love that these guys in Anthrax work this way too, creating fantasy characters that become conduits for these ideas. It’s a skull-faced king whose signature song includes lyrics like “Savage that our planet is the venue for a festival of massacres.” I love the character and what Justin did with it. If the band wants more, they got it!
FM. What are some of your fav fright flicks and why do you dig them?
JB. Oh man. The first horror movie I saw any amount of was RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, which I saw the very end of early one morning on HBO before the rest of my family had woken up. There’s a fine line between childhood trauma and spiritual awakening. That’s still my favorite zombie movie. The first horror movie I ever saw beginning to end was CHRISTINE. As a little kid, I couldn’t even handle the idea of a scary movie. I saw CHRISTINE and something clicked. After that I was chasing down horror movies like a fiend. I love that the genre is this umbrella that anything can rest under — the same genre can be THE THING or DON’T LOOK NOW or EVIL DEAD 2 or TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. It can be lofty and arty or completely prurient and cheap-seats entertaining. I really like that indie horror filmmakers these days are trying to do something different, instead of just recycling ’80s flicks or being derivative, but I do have a hard time counting modern horror flicks among my favorites. I’ll give anything a chance but I think the most recent horror movies that I loved that much were LET THE RIGHT ONE IN and the original [REC], and those were already too long ago. Go home, Grandpa! I just miss the kinds of horror movies that keep peaking over their entire runtime. Horror movie structure now can sometimes feel safe to me. You have a scare scene then a scene that forwards the narrative, back and forth, and the scares never increase in intensity, they just hover at the same level and the experience of the movie becomes like a waveform, just up and down. The best horror flicks that I always loved felt like the noose was tightening over the course of the entire movie, they would build and build and continually spike instead of plateau. At the end of RE-ANIMATOR, with all the fun arch tongue in cheek stuff, you still look at the insanity of the last twenty minutes or so and say “how the hell did we get here?” I like horror movies that establish a recognizable reality and then spin it out of control. That’s equally true for art-horror like POSSESSION or scuzzy exploitation like BRAIN DAMAGE. Hey! Those both contain tentacle monsters! [Ed. Note: Always a soft spot for tentacle monsters. We like this guy.]
FM. Where can the Coffin Club follow you online?
JB. Follow my inane tweets @thatjackbennett or listen to my equally inane chattering on the Damn Dirty Geeks podcast, the brainchild of Frank Dietz with illustrious guests such as Monster Kids Greg Nicotero and Dana Gould among others. Also check out episodes of Bloodworks, my show with Scott Ian on Nerdist.com and YouTube, or watch old episodes of the original showBlood and Gutson same. Or just come up and say “hi” when you see me. I tweet when I’m going to be at a horror con or working on something new and I always like hearing from people, even when my responses are “thank you I’m really tired.”
FM. Fangs Jack, please don’t be a stranger around these putrid parts!
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