Everyone knows the band Slayer, known for their thrash-metal sound and their hardcore performances. Director BJ McDonnell who has worked on films such as The Conjuring III, and the Collector franchise, has worked with the band many times, including directing the music videos for “You Against You,” “Repentless” and “Pride in Prejudice.”
Now, McDonnell’s film Slayer: The Repentless Killogy is set to open in theaters across the US as part of an event that will include the concert filmed at their August 5, 2017, in Los Angeles as well as a cinema-exclusive welcome from the band captured during the South American leg of their Final World Tour.
I sat down with McDonnall who filled me in on the film, the band, and his hopes to one day expand on the brutal story that began with one music video.
Horror Fuel: “Wow, you have worked on so many incredible projects, The Conjuring III, Zombieland: Double Tap, “American Horror Story,” Ant-Man, the Hatchett franchise, The Devil’s Rejects. I mean wow!”
BJ McDonnell: “Thank. Yes, I’m quite the workaholic.”
Horror Fuel: “It does appear that way.”
BJ McDonnell: “A lot of people say I work too much. It’s always good to be creative.”
Horror Fuel: “The Slayer videos you did are fantastic.”
BJ McDonnell: “Thank you very much. It really was blood, sweat and tears getting them made. We called in a lot of favors for those videos. They were a lot to make. It was cool to do what we really wanted and make the videos what we wanted. It was awesome.
Horror Fuel: “I like the contrast between the scenes of the story and the band. It’s almost like the band is in a dream state, especially in the video where it jumps between the scenes with Danny Trejo and the band in the snow.”
BJ McDonnell: “Oh yeah, the Repentless video. That’s the one that started it all. Once we decided that we were going to do a sequel and a prequel video – my whole thing with my partner Gerardo Martinez of Nuclear Records was big on keeping up with the blood and gore, but we wanted to make them different. We wanted to do a John Wick action type thing with our character Wyatt. And then in our third one, we wanted it to be more of a suspense-thriller. The videos capture the same feeling of brutality and gore. They each had a little something different though. I’m happy with that. With the band, after we did the jail video it was scorching hot out here, the director of photography, Eric Leach, and I was like ‘We’ve got to get Slayer in the snow. That would be the best thing ever.’ So we picked a place in Wrightwood, California by Mt. High Snow Resort. The day before we did there was no snow. Luckily, the night before we shot we had a huge snowstorm. We almost didn’t make the video happen. We were having a hard time getting up there. The band, we almost lost all their gear. The truck that had all their gear almost slid off the side of the road on the mountain. It was quite a deal, but we got the band there and all the stuff there, then we started shooting. It was so fast because we lost so much time, there was a huge car wreck on the fifteen freeway that we got stopped at for hours. We were lucky we actually got that video made. It was super down to the wire.”
Horror Fuel: “When you’re dealing with mother nature, you never know. It sounds like a mess. It was worth it though.”
BJ McDonnell: “It was frigid, freezing cold. The cool thing about the guys, the band, is that they are real troopers. When it comes down to doing stuff they’re down. No matter how hot it was or cold it was, they believed we were making something awesome. They just did it. They were a pleasure to work with, total pros. They wanted to make a good video just like we wanted to make a good video.
Horror Fuel: “Well, you accomplished that. Not to mention, you kind of have a who’s who of horror in the videos. Tyler Mane, Derek Mears, Bill Moseley, Danny Trejo, some of the best of the best.”
BJ McDonnell: “That wasn’t really our intention at first. Basically, when we did it, the first video Repentless, I called in a bunch of favors from people I’ve worked with before in the past. It was just like, ‘Hey, we’re doing this Slayer video, we’d love if you would come down.’ It just got to the point where we had so many people that were totally into the project. They showed up and we realized that we had so many different horror people there, people that were recognizable in the video. With the second video, You Against You, Jorma Taccone from The Lonely Island is in it for a brief second and after he saw the video he said that if we ever do another Slayer video he wanted to be in it. When I called him up and said ‘We’re going to do it, dude,” he drove right on down to the desert. He has a part in that video where he gets killed. It was a lot of fun! It’s a lot of favors that make those videos what the are, along with a lot of good crew people and a lot of talent.”
Horror Fuel: “I love hearing interesting stories like that about how things come to be.
Please tell us about this film of yours, Slayer: The Repentless Killogy.”
BJ McDonnell: “The film is actually an idea that Gerardo and I wanted to do another segway for the next Slayer album. When we wrote the Killogy, it was basically all the videos put together in chronological order with a narrative that no one has seen yet with our character Wyatt who is the main guy in our videos. This is more of a story with him after Pride in Prejudice. It follows him and it was supposed to introduce a few other characters for the next album. We wrote the thing, we shot the whole thing and right during the editing, they announced that they were breaking up. We were like, ‘Oh Man!’ It’s pretty cool. We’re pretty happy with it. I hope somebody wants to do a full feature and find out what happens, which I would love to do.
Horror Fuel: “I would love to see that.”
BJ McDonnell: “Oh yeah, that would be awesome to make. We were planning to do the next album and go down a major darker, much darker path than the videos. We had it all mapped out and then that happened. But the videos are cool. It’s them with a narrative and then the whole live concert. I’m pretty happy with the way it came out. It looks awesome, it sounds awesome. It’s exciting that people can take home the videos along with the live concert. Who doesn’t want a live Slayer concert in their living room?
Nuclear Blast is selling the Blu-rays. You can order the Blu-ray or DVD and have it delivered right to your house. We never actually thought that we were going to put this in theaters. This was just something that was going to segway into the next album. It’s pretty awesome. You never get to see something like that, Metallica has done it, but it’s pretty awesome to go into the theater to see a film and a full concert like that. Maybe the video introduces to people who haven’t seen Slayer yet. It’s a pretty neat idea. I’m really happy with the way it came out.”
Horror Fuel: “It’s awesome and I’m sure seeing something like this in a theater with a big screen and a big sound system is amazing.”
BJ McDonnell: “It’s going to be awesome! It sounds great. I’ve seen it so many times just through editing. It’s fantastic. Wayne Isham was there during the live concert to control the cameras and all that. He does a fantastic job with that whole part.”
Horror Fuel: “The trailer is great. Between the story, the music, and the cast, it has to be good.”
BJ McDonnell: “Like I said, it didn’t start out as horror, more of a brutal action film. You can’t ask for better fans than those of the horror genre. They are always people willing to jump in and the community is like no other. The horror crowd is just amazing.”
Horror Fuel: “Yes they are. The Metal crowd is pretty hardcore themselves. I’ve noticed the two groups often overlap. Plus, you’ve got many of the genre’s favorites. Bill, Derek, Tyler, all three are great guys. Jesus, Tyler and Derek are huge. You really notice that in the trailer.”
BJ McDonnell: “Derek is one of the biggest, fast guys I’ve ever met, he really is. When we did Hatchet III, he was so big and so fast in his movements that it’s crazy. The guy is funny, he’s talented. I love seeing his success and I love watching him go further and further in his career.”
Horror Fuel: “I am too. It’s funny, I have pictures with Derek and Tyler and I come to their waists, I’m only 5 feet tall [laughter].”
BJ McDonnell: “They’re both massive. I met Tyler when we did Devil’s Rejects years ago and I was like, ‘God this guy is huge!’ When Zombie was talking about making him Michael in one of his films, it was the whole thing about Michael being a bull in a china shop, unstoppable. Tyler was fantastic in that part. He’s massive.”
Horror Fuel: “So, where can people find a list of where they can see this thing in theaters?”
BJ McDonnell: “It’s at Slayer.film. It’s for one night only and you find out what theaters are showing it. I’m pretty amazed at the number of theaters that are going to show it. It’s crazy. Sometimes you get horror movies that only open in like New York or LA. This is going to be all over the place. I’m really excited that people get to go see it, no matter people show up to theaters. I’m just happy that it’s going to be in theaters and they get to see it on the big screen. Slayer.film is where people can go to and type their city in and find out where they can see it. ‘
Horror Fuel: “I’m so excited for you and I can’t wait to see it myself.”
BJ McDonnell: “It’s gonna be cool.”
Horror Fuel: “What else have you been working on?”
BJ McDonnell: “I just got done working with Marcus Dunstan on The Collector part III. I just got finished on that.”
Horror Fuel: “Oh, I’m so excited about The Collected. I love the franchise.”
BJ McDonnell: “I was the camera operator on the first two. He and I are good buddies. It’s great collaborating with him. As of now, I’m looking for projects. I’m all for horror or action, anything like that. Me and buddy Jason are working on some ideas right now. Up till now, I’ve been so busy working on Slayer stuff that I’m just coming up for air. I would love to work on a Slayer feature film. I would love to continue what we started with that.”
Horror Fuel: “I look forward to seeing your future projects. You have some real talent. And would definitely love to see you make the feature based on the videos.”
BJ McDonnell: “We’ll see what happens in the future.”
After talking with BJ there were a few things that were perfectly clear, he loves the band and would love to make his film into a feature. Just going off the trailer, I can tell you now that I want to see more. I want to see the story unfold and continue. It’s brutal and gory, something every horror and metal fan would want to see.
Be sure to follow BJ McDonnell on Instagram for updates on his projects, behind-the-scenes images and more.