Rory Culkin on horror movies, black metal and what the Culkins watch at Christmas

Rory Culkin is the younger brother of Succession star Kieran and Home Alone star Macaulay with a vast filmography of his own that includes the likes of Signs, Mean Creek, Scream 4 and You Can Count On Me.

His latest is a creepy, dark, slow-burn chiller entitled The Last Thing Mary Saw. It's a period film set within a puritanical religious community that reacts harshly to a forbidden romance, which may or may not unleash something truly evil.

"It's about the investigation into a strange occurrence in the countryside of New York in the 1840s. It's a really cool, really interesting story," Culkin tells Newshub.

"The concept is pretty scary - how people interpret religion can be terrifying. But then, the further you get into the film, it becomes a question of if it's these people interpreting religion or actually being a part of something which is even scarier.

"I don't want to give much away, because it lives in its mystery."

The film is streaming on specialist horror service Shudder and was covered extensively by horror websites when it premiered at Fantasia Festival, but Culkin initially didn't even consider it a horror movie.

"It's funny because reading the script, I didn't look at this as a horror movie, it was just a really fascinating idea," he says.

"I kind of like that lines are blurring in the horror genre. I like the hybrids from filmmakers like Ari Aster. The Last Thing Mary Saw has been compared to The Witch and I think it is similar to that."

Culkin says Aster - the guy behind modern horror classics Hereditary and Midsommar - is a friend and someone he'd love to work with.

"I was going to work with Ari, like 10 years ago or more, on a really cool script for a movie that never got made," says Culkin.

"I was blown away by his short, The Strange Thing About the Johnsons. I was just so grossed out and weirded out by it and I had to meet with the guy. But we keep in touch, you know, every once in a while. I'm a big, big fan of what he's doing."

Rory Culkin as Mayhem's Euronymous in Lords of Chaos.
Rory Culkin as Mayhem's Euronymous in Lords of Chaos. Photo credit: Scott Free Films

One of Culkin's biggest roles to date is playing Norwegian black metal icon Euronymous in 2016 film Lords of Chaos.

The shocking true story followed band Mayhem and depicted the murder, suicide and church burnings that made them famous. 

"I put a lot of time and effort into that one and Euronymous has stayed with me. I mean, I never used to wear turtlenecks and have stupid moustaches, but look at me now," he says, while wearing a turtleneck and sporting a moustache.

"This is all Euronymous's influence. I kept all of the wardrobe - I have his bullet belt and spikes, a bunch of stuff for no reason other than it's cool to have around. But I really loved that project. That's what I'm proud of."

Mayhem is a polarising band within metal fandom and Lords of Chaos the film, too, is both passionately beloved and fiercely hated by black metal followers.

"You can't please everyone. The metal guys that I've met in person are really into it," says Culkin.

"There were members of Mayhem that came to set and even when publicly they would trash the movie, privately they were very excited about it. That's part of the genre, that's even part of the point we were trying to make - these people are almost like professional wrestlers. They are characters. 

"I mean, they have names like 'Necrobutcher'. But they can't be Necrobutcher all the time. These were guys, they were just people who put on cool characters. The fans that take it too seriously need to, I don't know - relax. Just have fun. It's a good movie, check it out."

Culkin points out the irony in some objections to the film - but that irony is, funnily enough, part of the reason he loves black metal.

"I remember there was an interview of black metal artist backstage before one of his concerts and he was saying he didn't like the movie. Which is fair. But he was saying: 'I just didn't like how cheesy it was'. I was watching this interview and the guy looks like a Sith Lord, because his face is all painted before he goes on stage," he says.

"Does he not realise there's even a hint of cheesiness and what he does? And I respect it, I love the genre. I love professional wrestling too, but I acknowledge that there is some flair. But that's also what's fascinating, too, is that they're not really self-aware."

Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone.
Rory's brother Macaulay is the star of one of the most iconic Christmas films ever made. Photo credit: 20th Century Fox

As one of three brothers myself, I often wonder about famous families of Hollywood siblings. This being my first interview with a Culkin, I had to ask Rory about his bros.

Do they still get together at Christmas and if so, what movie do they watch?

"Yeah, I got together with Kieran and his children this past Christmas. He has a little kid so now we're watching little kid stuff, whatever she wants to watch. But the year before we got into making Predator a tradition. For some reason, Predator really hits on Christmas."

He said they generally don't watch their own films together, but as well as the 1987 Schwarzenegger classic there is one Culkin movie that's good for festive viewings.

"I actually do enjoy Home Alone on Christmas - I like the first one, the second one is losing me over the years, but the first one is solid."

The Last Thing Mary Saw is streaming in New Zealand now via Shudder while Lords of Chaos is available via Amazon Prime Video.