Metallica's Kirk Hammett brings classic horror memorabilia showcase to Toronto

The macabre horror imagery that helped shape the imagination of one of heavy metal’s titans has landed in Canada.

'It’s Alive!' Exhibition now open at the ROM for sole Canadian stop

A life-size figure of Bela Lugosi is part of a new exhibition at The Royal Ontario Museum that features works from Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett's collection of classic horror and sci-fi movie posters and memorabilia. (Michael Dwyer/The Associated Press)

The macabre horror imagery that helped shape the imagination of one of heavy metal's titans has landed in Canada.

Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett opened up the vaults of his massive personal collection of science fiction and horror memorabilia for a new exhibit called It's Alive!, which is running right now at the Royal Ontario Museum for its only stop in Canada.

"I love the art, I love the imagery, I love what they invoke in me, and I love being surrounded by my movie posters and playing my guitar," Hammett said on CBC Toronto's Here and Now Wednesday.

"A lot of the pieces are pieces that mean a lot to me personally."

Hammett, who is known the world over for his lead guitar lines on iconic songs like For Whom the Bell Tolls and Master of Puppets, has a collection that could make the most ardent horror fans drool.

Hammett gave an overview of his collection during a talk at the ROM Tuesday night. (Jack Plunkett/Invision/The Associated Press)

Much of the exhibit centres on classic movie posters, spanning from 1921s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari to 1979's Alien.

"It's the culmination of about 30 years of collecting," Hammett said.

He says he first felt a pull to horror imagery at just five years old, when he became entranced with the 1962 sci-fi thriller The Day of The Triffids. From there, a tireless need to collect started to take root.

"As an adult, I just went deep into it," he said.

Many of the early 20th century posters featured at the exhibit, which was organized by the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Mass. and curated by art historian Daniel Finamore, were made using a printing process called lithography.

That process was used to create many of the pre-1970 posters in the exhibit, which also features life-size sculptures of horror icons Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff, and some of Hammett's ESP guitars, which are adorned with the same imagery.

He said the poster for 1932's horror classic The Mummy is likely his favourite — and that ended up on one of his guitars in 1995.

One of Hammett's guitars, which features a print from 'The Mummy,' is seen on display at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Mass. (Michael Dwyer/The Associated Press)

The exhibit is also designed to help visitors understand the historical context of the times when these posters were created, providing a look at key moments in 20th century history like the Cold War, the Second World War and the Great Depression.

"It's amazing how horror movies reflect the fears and anxieties that we're kind of going through right now," Hammett said.

It's Alive: Classic Sci-Fi and Horror Art from the Kirk Hammett Collection runs until Jan. 5 at the ROM.


Adam Carter


Adam Carter is a Newfoundlander who now calls Toronto home. You can follow him on Twitter @AdamCarterCBC or drop him an email at