Laurel Vail Knows “What Metal Girls Are Into”
A trio of women wearing At the Gates, Goatwhore, and Woods of Ypres shirts are headed toward a metal festival seemingly in the middle of nowhere. They’re staying at a house not unlike something you would find on AirBnb. This is pretty standard stuff, except the dude renting out the place is kinda creepy. And… what is that in the freezer?
This is the premise of What Metal Girls Are Into, a short film equal parts horror and dark comedy written, directed, and produced by Laurel Vail. After moving to Los Angeles over a decade ago, Vail did sports graphics until she got the acting bug. She subsequently starred in two feature films, 2010’s comedy Leading Ladies and a horror flick Delivery: The Beast Within which came out in 2013. In 2016, she formed her own company Out of Spite Productions and funded the movie through a successful Indiegogo campaign.
“I’ve always really wanted to get more into making something of my own,” she recalls. “That’s always been kind of in the back of my head. In 2016, I just turned a corner. I kind of had a script, a draft of it, maybe a couple drafts of it by then, because I really wanted to get something done by the end of the year. Once I was really clear headed about it, I was able to make it happen. It was so much work, but I gave myself a deadline just to make myself do it, and I just got it done.”
Despite all her planning, Veil never set out to make a movie drenched in metal subculture. In fact, she admits that she was never much of a metalhead.
“I had to bring in a very good friend of mine and a metal expert,” she says of Emory LaserWolf who is credited as Metal Consultant (the only such credit on the entire IMDB website). “When I was writing it, for the situation to make sense, I needed these women to want to stay. And I was like well, they need to have a reason to stay, okay, they’re there for a music festival. They’re passionate fans."
“Then I also wanted to incorporate metal, I think that stems from seeing Mad Max: Fury Road because the guitarist on the truck with the drums and how much that drives the action. I really wanted to get that feeling.”
While making the movie, Vail began to understand what made metal music so appealing and found herself enjoying a lot of the music.
“I took the actresses to go see Children of Bodom and Abbath,” she remembers. “I went to Black Dahlia Murder with Goatwhore. Then, another time we went to a Blind Guardian show. I think the more melodic (metal) is kind of what I lean into. A lot of power metal, things that have more of a tune.”
Catherine Capozzi of Boston instrumental shred band Axemunkee provided the soundtrack; however the movie also includes snippets from Carcass, Benediction, and Castrator. “Melodic death metal is kind of what I was going for in the short,” she says.
Metal fans are notoriously tribal and are suspicious of interlopers. Vail was keenly aware of this.
“It was very important to me. I wanted them to feel real and really feel like metal fans. Emory helped me considerably to figure out not only the music that would work really well for certain parts of the film, but also he gave me and my actors playlists. We knew what our taste was within metal, that’s how deep it went,” she says.
Feedback from the metal community, according to the director, has been promising.
“I did have people come up afterward and tell me like, ‘I was so excited to hear this song,’ and in the Q&A (after a screening) asking if I was a metal fan. That is such a relief, because that is what I wanted. I wanted it to be something this community could relate to because they’re not really represented in movies very often, so I kind of wanted to give them that.”
As if being an outsider wasn’t enough, Vail pitched What Metal Girls Are Into as a “Feminist Thriller.” Being in Hollywood for as long as she has, she knew full well about the dark side of the movie industry. Her way to address this was to make her production company inclusive to women, a concept that predated featuring metal heroines in the first project.
She is not shocked that the same kind of turmoil and introspection taking place in the world of cinema thanks to Harvey Weinstein is also affecting the niche metal market as well. Nor is she ignorant on how metallic tropes such as violence towards women have stunted changing attitudes within the subculture.
“You have to pass a test; a woman can’t be a true fan,” she sighs. “You’re probably someone’s girlfriend who’s tagging along. I definitely heard, that was part of my training, my metal education, was the way that women do get treated as fans.”
“I feel like there is a shift happening,” she enthuses. “It makes sense it would fall into all sorts of subcultures and metal would be no different.”
What Metal Girls Are Into has been making the festival rounds since wrapping up last year. It won awards at the Idaho Horror Film Fest, "Best Short" at the American Horrors Film Festival in Lake Geneva, and "Best Short Film Director" at Chicago’s Cinepocalypse film festival. The director is hopeful that the exposure will possibly allow her to flesh the short into a feature (“If I make a feature, I'm hoping to get a little more time in with the villains”). Failing that, she can get it into short anthologies and streaming services, all of which might help her recoup the financial investment sunk into the film, but would definitely help her with future projects.
Don’t be surprised if the next movie also has metal elements.
“It’s got such a powerful driving force behind it,” she gushes. “I think because I love action, I definitely see myself continuing to incorporate [metal]. Maybe not make it the whole focus, but having elements of that. It’s just powerful.”