ComingSoon spoke with Powerman 5000 founder and singer Spider One about his upcoming horror film Allegoria. Spider discussed the fandom that comes with horror and sci-fi, and what it’s like to direct a feature film. Directed by Spider One, the movie will be available through video-on-demand services and streaming on Shudder on August 2.
“A timid actress, a tortured painter, a pretentious writer, a psychotic sculptor, and a rock band all become entangled when their insecurities manifest themselves into monsters and ghouls,” reads the film’s official synopsis.
Tyler Treese: You’ve had such a varied career, obviously so much success in music, but you haven’t been afraid to try different stuff. So how long have you been thinking, “I want to give, directing a try?”
Spider One: I mean, probably unconsciously since I was 10 years old. You know, it’s funny. I think I’ve done directing in different ways, music videos over the years. I was involved [in] producing a TV show for a while, but I just … I don’t know, I guess sometimes you just need to give yourself permission, you know? Growing up in a small town in Massachusetts, I think I was always taught that success and doing these kinds of things were for other people — these special, magical people that were from Hollywood or something. So it took me a lot of years to actually go, “you know what? I think I could do this too.” My experience over the years in the band and everything has been invaluable. Finally, we just decided to pull the trigger and make a movie.
I love the film’s interweaving anthology structure here. What made you go with that approach versus one longer continuous feature?
It kind of found its own way, you know? The first thing I shot was the first story in the film, which is the acting story, and quite honestly with no real plan after that. So I shot that and I was really happy with it. I couldn’t shake the idea, this concept of art and horror. And so I started to realize, well, there’s more to this there’s other art forms we could explore. There are other ways we can tackle this concept. That’s when the idea for turning it into a feature began. Then I started to put the puzzle pieces together, like, “Okay, well if we had a painter, what would the painter’s relationship be to the actress? Okay, if we had a writer, what would his relationship to be?” And it was a really fun challenge to not only create sort of an anthology, but a nontraditional anthology where the characters and scenarios actually connect, and as a viewer of the film, it’s great. I’ve seen the film twice now with an audience. And it’s great to hear those “a-ha” moments from the crowd when like, “oh, I get it now.” So yeah, it was a really fun process to put together.
You talk to some artists and you can see how, the way they focus on art, It can like be all-encompassing at times and people certainly sacrifice so much for their art. So do you feel like horror kind of naturally just fits in there?
I’m surprised it hasn’t been explored more because, I’ve mentioned this a few times, the descriptive terms that we use for artists are horror terms. We describe artists as being tortured, as suffering for their art, as selling their souls. These are horror concepts. It makes sense to, [as] they go hand in hand. I always say that the creative person in your art … it really controls you, you don’t control it. You could wake up at two in the morning with a song idea and have to get up and write it down, and if these aren’t levels of possession, I don’t know what is. So for me, the natural connection to terror and horror were right in front of me the whole time.
I love the pacing of the film. There’s no fluff, it’s not overly drawn out. It’s a quick 70 minutes of solid scenes, and you build to the scare. Talk to me about your approach to pacing and straying away from unnecessary padding. I feel like some directors feel like they have to reach 90 minutes, for example.
We just let the film be what it was. Yeah, you’re right. I guess it airs on the short end of the spectrum. I feel like it, to me when I watch it, feels correct. My style of directing is to … because my aesthetic comes from films of the 70s, where there wasn’t the ability to get terribly fancy with anything. There weren’t drones and all this stuff, so things were kept relatively simple. My favorite directors are directors that would stay on a shot for a long time and not unnecessary cutting. That’s just built into me from [a] whole life of watching those kind of movies. So I tried to take that and be very conscious of it in making Allegoria, and it’s almost a simplicity to it in a lot of the framing … a lot of center framing. A non-distracting approach to directing shot selection is just something that I’ve tried to be aware of. I appreciate that that sort of came through for you.
You have some great shots of John Ennis in that first part of the film. He is such a great talent and I’ve always thought he was just a really great actor that has so much range. He’s able to do comedy and very serious roles. How was it working with him? He really sets the tone of the film so well off the bat.
John’s amazing, and such a great person, and John is known for comedy. So I think it was exciting, for me and for him, to get to play such an abrasive [and] arguably terrible person. The movie opened, he’s just such a force of nature when he opens his mouth in that first scene that, for me, I think you get hooked. I can’t wait to work with him again and put him in another role that is completely the opposite of this one. John and everybody in the cast … I’m so lucky to have worked with this caliber of acting for my first movie. I feel really fortunate that I was able to convince these people to give it a shot for my first movie … to come on board and lend their talents to this thing.
One thing I’ve really liked about your music is that you’re not afraid to experiment. You don’t just stick to one sound, you might try punk rock, industrial, electronic. You’re free to experiment, but it still always sounds definitively you. When it comes to films, are you going to focus on horror, or could we see like other types of movies from you?
I don’t think there’s any rule. At heart, I am a nerd from day one. I grew up loving horror, sci-fi, and comic books. This is my wheelhouse. So I think in whatever I do, [I’ll] probably at least have some sensibility in those worlds. And I do also enjoy … like, when I created the band, I wanted to not just have a band. I wanted to have a band that felt like if you were a fan of the band, you felt like a bit of a community, like “oh yeah, I like that stuff too,” and reference that movie in that song. So I do enjoy the community that surrounds horror and sci-fi. I think there’s something really exciting about making movies for people that are so passionate about them. They live in the consciousness of those people forever, as opposed to making a detective drama or something that someone may enjoy, but then they move on, you know? I have no idea where eventually things will lead me, but for now, I love playing in this genre space.
Your older brother Rob Zombie has found a lot of success in filmmaking as well. Did he give you any advice when it comes to directing or was it just best to find your footing yourself?
We talk a lot about everything we’re doing, but I think that there’s a certain … as much as we communicate about the things that we’re working on, or even things that we see that we like or dislike, there is a certain “stay in our lane” kind of mentality too, which I think is great because although we are very, very similar people, creatively … you can see that there is a different end aesthetic that comes out, right? Obviously people are going to make that comparison and I think it will be, hopefully, exciting to them to see that I’ve made a very different kind of movie than what Rob is known for, although Rob’s made many different kinds of movies.
I think that it comes with the territory that there’s gonna be that comparison. His advice to me is just observing the way he’s gone about his own career and how uncompromising he is and what he does. I think there’s very few people like that. I think a lot of people will just bend to whatever will get them to gig. Rob’s always been the kind of guy that says, “I’m going to do what I want to do. I’m going to do it how I want to do it. Consequences be damned.” I couldn’t think of a better example to follow than that.
Your song “Bombshell” was famously used as the theme for the Dudley Boyz in WWE. Pro-Wrestling has used so many of your songs over the years. Are you a wrestling fan? Did you ever meet the Dudleys?
No. I mean, it’s so funny how we got sucked into that world so deeply for a lot of our songs. We’ve done songs for wrestling video games, and it’s just hilarious. I was a wrestling fan as a kid. Honestly, I would watch it, but as an adult, I’ve kind of grown apart from it. But when I was a kid I used to watch all that stuff.