Kirk Hammett's top 10 cult horror movies

(Image credit: Future – Jesse Wild/Guitarist Magazine)

I just have to throw out there that this changes depending on how I’m feeling, or whatever I’m into at the time,” begins Metallica's Kirk Hammett, by way of explanation for his unorthodox list of must-see chillers. 

“I’m constantly looking out for new, cool, different stuff in this genre, because there’s a lot of repetition and formula.” So what is Kirk’s benchmark for choosing a great horror movie? 

“Sometimes I look at these films as time investments: what do I want to invest my time in?” he ponders. 

“Do I want something really scary, or something campy, or something action-packed, or something psychological? That’s how I tend to think when picking horror movies.”

Kirk has a reputation as an obsessive collector of vintage horror memorabilia – his collection has been on display in museums, airports, his own book and his own horror festival, Kirk Von Hammett’s Fear FestEvil (opens in new tab)

He has also famously emblazoned his guitars with artwork from Universal’s classic monster films of the 1930s and 40s, so you might be surprised by how many recent cuts Kirk has chosen for our exclusive list. 

“The reason for that is I’ve spoken a lot about older films,” reasons Kirk, “and there’s a lot of films out there that I love and respect and need to get the attention they deserve. So that’s pretty much why I picked these!” We’ll let the man himself take it from here…

Repulsion (1965)

A young woman descends into a psychological journey of sexually politicised mayhem.

“I saw this a long time ago in a movie theatre. I thought it was so creepy and I just revisited it this afternoon because I remembered how crazy it is! It’s a movie that every horror fan should see because it’s under the radar, it doesn’t get talked about as much, but it’s creepy as all heck. 

"It’s about a woman losing her mind, and her eventual spiral into complete insanity. It’s a great investment of 90 minutes or so! The underlying tension of the whole film never lets up, there’s so much anxiety, you’re so on edge being in the mind of this woman who’s totally nutso.”

Repulsion (1965) (opens in new tab)

Repulsion (1965) (opens in new tab)

Roman Polanski's psychological drama was his first English-language feature. A young Belgian woman (Catherine Deneuve) is left alone in a Kensington apartment when her sister goes away. She becomes increasingly unstable, experiencing hallucinations which have their roots in her fear of male sexuality. When two aggressive men turn up, her tortured nightmares spill into real life violence.

In The Mouth Of Madness (1994)

John Carpenter’s Lovecraftian terror that goes Full Meta when an author’s books get a little too realistic.

In The Mouth Of Madness is another movie that I just love. It’s from John Carpenter, an incredible movie based on Lovecraftian horror. I just love movies that involve books that are forbidden, that contain secrets that can bring down the entire world! 

"This movie does that, but a little bit differently: it’s about an author who writes these horror books and the books start becoming real, he starts seeing characters from his books. It leads to a crazy final scenario in this mansion – I’m all into haunted houses and dark, foreboding mansions, spooky castles with creatures in it… I just love all that stuff!”

In The Mouth Of Madness (1994) (opens in new tab)

In The Mouth Of Madness (1994) (opens in new tab)

Imagine a novel so overwhelmingly hypnotic, so tremendously horrifying that it paralyzes its audience with fear and turns even its most sensible readers insane. When the author disappears, an insurance investigator hired to find the writer discovers far more than he could ever imagine in this spellbinding thriller. Directed by John Carpenter ("Escape from New York," "They Live").

Ghost Story (1981)

A group of men reunite after it appears a grizzly old incident has come back to haunt them.

“I don’t really believe in ghosts, but I do believe in ghost stories! This is a really great movie, based on an epic book by Peter Straub, so the tale itself has a lot of depth. It’s about a little girl, and it’s as spooky as hell. Peter Straub is one of my favourite horror authors, and the book, for me, is one of the scariest books I have ever read, neck-and-neck with The Shining

"It made a great film – with Fred Astaire, no less! – but I’m still waiting for someone to really step up and make the proper full version. There’s this one scene which involves an old Ford Model T… I don’t want to give away too much here, but that’s one of the better scenes!”

Ghost Story (1981) (opens in new tab)

Ghost Story (1981) (opens in new tab)

Four elderly, affluent friends form The Chowder Society, meeting regularly to drink brandy, smoke cigars and share chilling ghost stories. Following the suspicious death of one of the member's sons and the subsequent apparition of a mysterious young woman, the old friends are forced to confront a terrible secret from their past. What follows is the most terrifying ghost story of all, one in which they have all played a part.

A Quiet Place (2018)

This post-apocalyptic nightmare sees a family try to survive in a world dominated by a horrifying new species.

“There are some really great, highly original horror films coming out that I need to speak on, and this is one of them. I thought A Quiet Place was just the greatest freakin’ movie. It had a completely different concept; it was an assault on a person’s ability to make sound. 

"That movie is like how it would be if it was suddenly dangerous to communicate, to make sounds or whatever. Honestly, this is such a great film. There’s these creatures that come to earth and hunt anything they can find that makes a sound, so if you just whisper, or burp or something, these flying creatures will swoop down and snack! You need to watch it!”

A Quiet Place (2018) (opens in new tab)

A Quiet Place (2018) (opens in new tab)

In the modern horror thriller A Quiet Place, a family of four must navigate their lives in silence after mysterious creatures that hunt by sound threaten their survival. If they hear you, they hunt you.

Tusk (2014)

 Kevin Smith’s bizarre comedy horror with a penchant for big, toothy sea-mammals.

“Since we’re on the subject of weird characters, this is another really great movie that I saw recently and I can’t really get over. It’s a Kevin Smith movie about a guy who’s obsessed with walruses, and he turns this guy into a walrus! Ha ha ha! 

"And you know, the more unbelievable it is, even though it’s so out-there, I just love that kind of thing. Tusk is just a crazy film that everyone has to see.”

Tusk (2014) (opens in new tab)

Tusk (2014) (opens in new tab)

A chilling horror tale about the perils of storytelling, Tusk follows a brash American podcaster (Justin Long - Live Free or Die Hard) as he braves the Canadian wilds to interview an old man (Michael Parks - Kill Bill) with an incredible past — only to discover the man's dark secret involves a walrus.

The VVitch (2015)

A bleak and suspense-filled period piece that introduced the world to the most metal goat ever.

“To me this is one of the most important horror movies to come out in a long time, because it captures exactly what I want to see in a horror movie. It’s that sense of foreboding, like you’re not really sure what’s coming next. It’s bleak, the soundtrack is really great, and a lot of dialogue comes from actual witch trials from that time period. 

"I love stuff like that, it makes it seem that much more real. I like it when you get offbeat characters in horror movies, and the goat named Black Phillip, I think, was one of the better horror characters – I love that, it’s such a great, original idea.”

The Witch (2015) (opens in new tab)

The Witch (2015) (opens in new tab)

New England, 1630: William and Katherine lead a devout Christian life, homesteading on the edge of an impassible wilderness, with five children. When their newborn son mysteriously vanishes and their crops fail, the family begins to turn on one another. "The Witch" is a chilling portrait of a family unraveling within their own fears and anxieties, leaving them prey for an inescapable evil.

The Ritual (2017)

Four British buds decide to go backpacking across in Sweden… and you won’t believe what happens next!

“Can I talk about a Netflix (opens in new tab) film? One of the best horror films I’ve seen this year
was on Netflix. Things are changing rapidly in the horror genre because it’s now so popular; it’s a great time to be a horror fan. I think Netflix realises that, and has made a bunch of great horror and sci-fi films. 

"The Ritual involves a group of guys who go out on a trip in the woods; it’s a great scenario for something creepy to happen, and of course, something creepy happens! Spoiler alert! There’s a creature in the film that’s so freakin’ cool, and very original in terms of how it acts and moves, how it’s presented.”

The Ritual (2017) (opens in new tab)

The Ritual (2017) (opens in new tab)

Four old college friends – Luke (Rafe Spall), Hutch (Robert James-Collier), Phil (Arsher Ali) and Dom (Sam Troughton) – decide to take a hiking trip deep in the Swedish wilderness in order to bond and reminisce about old times. However, the inexperienced hikers soon find themselves hopelessly lost, and as their fragile friendships begin to crack and old resentments surface they become increasingly desperate to escape the woods. But they are not alone. Someone, or something, malevolent is watching them, intent on making them face their deepest fears and ensuring they never leave. They should have gone to Vegas…

The Evil Within (2017)

A man suffering from strange nightmares throughout his life finds that things are, indeed, as real as they seem.

“This one is just so weird: it has this surrealistic quality to it that involves dreams and other dimensions, and it is so frigging crazy! One of the best films I’ve seen this year. It’s about this kid who gets into contact with this evil spirit, and he gets into this weird relationship with the evil spirit where he has to do things to take advantage of what this evil spirit has to offer…”

The Evil Within (2017) (opens in new tab)

The Evil Within (2017) (opens in new tab)

Dennis Peterson (Frederick Koehler) is mentally challenged teen who lives with his older brother John (Sean Patrick Flanery). While John struggles between caring for Dennis and maintaining a relationship with his increasingly impatient girlfriend Lydia (Diana Meyer(, Dennis finds a friend in his own reflection in an antique mirror. But in reality, the reflection is soon revealed to be an evil entity (Michael Berryman, The Hills have Eyes) who is more charming, smarter and stronger than Dennis, and instructs him to do horrific thing in order to 'fix' his brain. Dennis embarks on a murderous rampage, collecting the bodies in his basement. A police investigation targeted at the Peterson's pressures Dennis to make his final play .. with devastating results.

Re-Animator (1985)

This iron-clad cult classic sees two medical students messing with nature’s course… and the consequences are grim.

“I have to say this one! One of my all-time favourite films that I think everyone should see. I suggest that to all my friends. If they ask me what’s a good horror film – that’s a good horror film! I love it to death. 

"I can’t wait until my kids are old enough for me to show it to them, I’m counting the days, actually. It’s horrific, it’s funny, it’s HP Lovecraft… you just can’t go wrong with Re-Animator. I saw it when it came out in the movie theatre, and bro, everyone in the theatre was making so much noise – hooting, hollering, laughing… it was just the best.” 

Re-Animator (1985) (opens in new tab)

Re-Animator (1985) (opens in new tab)

Brilliant, if somewhat deranged, medical student Herbert West arrives at Miskatonic Medical School and immediately sneers at his professor's outdated views on death. West has his own outlandish theories and has concocted a serum that will bring the dead back to life. Roping in fellow Dan Cain their shocking experiments work all too well with horrific and very messy results.

The Love Witch (2017)

This sumptuous, funny, Technicolour-tuned visual feast takes the dynamic of love and desire and flips it on its head.

“This just came out under the radar. It’s kind of a campy horror. This movie actually reminds me of a Hammer film – it looks like a Hammer film, has all the vibes of a Hammer film, but again it’s more psychological than anything else. There’s the girl, she’s an actual witch, and she thinks she’s doing all that she’s doing for love, but it’s actually something else…” 

The Love Witch (2017) (opens in new tab)

The Love Witch (2017) (opens in new tab)

Anna Biller directs this comedy horror starring Samantha Robinson, Jeffrey Vincent Parise and Laura Waddell which pays homage to the Technicolor thrillers of the 1960s and 70s. A young and beautiful witch named Elaine (Robinson) uses her magic to devise spells and craft concoctions which will grant her what she desires: a man who loves her. Inconveniently however, her creations work too well and every man she seduces ends up dead. She finally finds the perfect man for her, but her willful desire to feel loved may send her over the edge and into a heady brew of passion, madness and death.

Chris has been writing about heavy metal since 2000, specialising in true/cult/epic/power/trad/NWOBHM and doom metal at now-defunct extreme music magazine Terrorizer. Since joining the Metal Hammer famileh in 2010 he developed a parallel career in kids' TV, winning a Writer's Guild of Great Britain Award for BBC1 series Little Howard's Big Question as well as writing episodes of Danger Mouse, Horrible Histories, Dennis & Gnasher Unleashed and The Furchester Hotel. His hobbies include drumming (slowly), exploring ancient woodland and watching ancient sitcoms.