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Paul von Stoetzel: 5 Albums/Films That Changed My Life

Despite reading a large amount of comic books, sci-fi, and Mack Bolan I didn’t find any books that really “influenced” me until my teens. It’s possibly sad but well, it’s true. During my developmental years it was music and movies that really made me give a shit about . . . well, anything. Despite wanting to hate every aspect of the world and embrace misanthropy I discovered films and bands that made me, against my will, find something to actually care about. Something that I felt connected to when I was alone watching or listening in my room, alone, which was almost all of the time like most of us who found solace and an emotional connection through art instead of personal contact. But let’s move past the boo fucking hoo and go onto my 5 things.

The Misfits- Walk Among Us (1982)
When I found this album I couldn’t believe music like this existed. No exaggeration. I was raised by a Mother who took me to Nightmare on Elm Street when I was 7 and a Father whose vhs copy of Plan 9 from Outer Space was on the same tape as Basket Case 1 and 2 so horror and B Movies were a big part of my childhood. When I found a band that made brutal, ugly songs about the films and subjects I loved as a 12 year old I truly felt that there (cliché alert) were people out there, past the lakes of the Midwest, who were into the same shit I was. I grew up an only child so feeling like an outcast really sucks when you don’t have any older siblings to show you that there is A LOT more out there than you could possibly know. The Misfits encapsulate a lot of what still influences me to this day; horror, owning your nerdiness, and doing what you do as hard as you fucking can. The Misfits early albums will always have a lasting impression for my love for the macabre while teaching me never to take myself too seriously.

Metallica- Master of Puppets (1986)
I still remember buying this album and “Walk Among Us” the same day, but it probably didn’t actually happen that way. They were two of the first cassettes I ever owned besides The Rolling Stones “Paint it Black” which the TV show Tour of Duty influenced me to purchase. “Master of Puppets” reminds me of when classier folks than I talk about hearing Beethoven for the first time. The mixture of fast, machine gun riffs, relentlessly fast rhythms with the orchestration of master craftsmen made me feel like metal could be guttural yet intelligent. I simultaneously wanted to tear my room apart while also dissecting every aspect of the lyrics and structural music breakdowns. “Puppets” was one of the first metal albums to embrace a clean orchestration while never losing the power and raw energy of their music or the brutally honest subject matter of their songs.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
This film fucked me up and left a mark deep enough that it affected me, despite my knowledge, until my mid-20’s film studies. I directed a documentary in 2008 where I used Wes Craven’s quote that horror movies are the “boot camp for the psyche”. Damn straight. Nightmare on Elm Street was the first horror film I saw in the theater and I am still amazed by the direction, strong characterization, and the birth of this certain horror icon. Freddy Kruger is unlike any other major horror character because he lives somewhere between dreams and reality yet he was a human before his fiery demise. Nightmare took a horror concept and mixed it with a classic surrealist execution which has, in my opinion, never been achieved since. And I’m talking old school Luis Bunuel surrealism, which is even referenced in the opening scene of “Nightmare” with the sheep that appear in Tina’s dream in reference to Bunuel’s Simone of the Desert. Slasher horror mixed with hardcore surrealism? Hell yes.

The Road Warrior (1981)
This is one of the films I am most proud of enjoying as a kid when I revisited it as an adult. The structure, plot, and production design are spot on as well as the casting and I even buy the story though the premise is arguably preposterous. This film is absolutely badass and as a sequel holds up great because you don’t need the end of the word backstory. Cut immediately to a chase sequence and some of the most grotesque yet functional production design I’ve ever seen. The sparse dialogue shows how a film can convey so much with basic performances and its lack of exposition is something as a kid I didn’t appreciate as well as the ultra-violent punk element that spoke to me. I didn’t understand either of these aspects at the tender age of 11, but I knew I liked it, as well as the apocalyptic feel the film easily achieved via the desolate Australian Outback. Is it a stronger film than its prequel? I think so. Hell, to be honest I truly believe that The Road Warrior is a flawless film, but that’s just me.

The Terminator (1984)
I wanted to write about Aliens. I mean I REALLY wanted to write about Aliens. But it would have been bullshit. If I went back to my over watched, poorly dubbed, vhs copies The Terminator was one of my most viewed films of my youth. I now watch this film and I am reminded of how much I love in camera effects as much as when I watch bad CGI, which I never really think is good, anyway. Besides the obviously amazing special effects, visceral shootouts, and chase sequences I appreciate this film for two big reasons; it’s so damn simple and because I think it’s the first great sci-fi/noir crossover if you don’t count Metropolis. The Terminator was a blockbuster, against the grain, non-studio film when “independent film” didn’t even exist as a term. I am not a fan of James Cameron as of lately but back in the day he epitomized the American auteur in regards to the inception and execution of The Terminator. And yeah, it’s a better flick than Blade Runner. Deal with it.

Paul von Stoetzel is the proprietor of Killing Joke Films and has directed and/or adapted numerous award winning plays and films in the Twin Cities including his feature documentaries, SNUFF: a Documentary about Killing on Camera and Scrap, which both gained major North American distribution. He has produced and/or directed over 20 short films and music videos in or around the Twin Cities area as he continues his education at The U of M for his MFA in Film. His most recent short film, the H.P. Lovecraft adaptation “The Curse of Yig”, is currently travelling the film festival circuit while he completes a dark noir short “How to Jail” adapted from novelist Dennis Tafoya for their literary adaptation collective Brute Force Films. For more about Brute Force Films, check their web site and Facebook page.