They get off on vampires and horror movies and brutal deaths. It's all part of the hell-hop scene.

Tom Flowers rarely appears in public without veneer fangs, white face powder, black eyeliner, fake blood dribbling down his chin and contact lenses that make his brown eyes look like a wild cat's.

Simply put, Tom Flowers is a vampire. He calls himself Havok and his fans "donors."

Inspired by the 1980s camp-horror flick The Lost Boys — and by fond memories of playing a vampire at a haunted house in St. Peters — the 24-year-old Flowers decided two years ago to become a full-time bloodsucker. Which begs the question: Why?

"I got bit by a bitch, woke up the next day and the sun hurt my eyes," he says. "And I didn't like the garlic in my spaghetti, so I knew what was up. The whole dark thing, the whole being able to live forever thing — it's just fucking kick-ass."

An emerging rapper who lives with his mother in an O'Fallon subdivision, Flowers seldom breaks character — not at the mall, not while smoking Newports with his crew at Culpepper's, and not for an instant at his Pageant concert in March.

On show night, Havok is high on Vicodin, owing to injuries suffered after falling asleep at the wheel and slamming into a tree a few weeks before the performance. He's with fellow rhymer Stogie, who wears a red handkerchief over his face and black batting gloves. An elaborate graveyard is behind them, with a half-dozen plywood headstones and a gothic column with a cross on top.

Some 1,300 young fans have come from all over the Midwest, making it one of the largest crowds in the history of this monthly event known as the Loop Underground. Some of the audience members' faces are painted like clowns', identifying them as "Juggalos" — or fans of Insane Clown Posse.

"I got bodies in the trunk, blood dripping off the license-plate cover. I bite 'em and I drain 'em and I dump 'em, and I go and find another," raps Havok.

Stogie answers: "They're some dead motherfuckers!"

Later, a lithe, stacked brunette struts onto the stage, decked out in a white tank top and jeans. She dresses Stogie in a black hoodie. Then, as she starts to leave, Havok grabs her ponytail and violently pulls her toward him. He bites her neck and a geyser of fake blood spills out. She falls to the stage, her arms draped in a Christ pose.

"That's what the fuck I'm talking about!" says Havok.

"What the fuck is wrong with you, man?" counters Stogie. "Why the fuck you always biting my bitches?"

"She's out here like that," Havok goes on. "I'm gonna bite that shit!"

"Somebody get this fucking bitch off the ground," Stogie concludes. A crewman carries her off the stage as the emcees launch into a song called "Get the Fuck Up."

Afterward, the brunette — Alive magazine model and Havok's ex-girlfriend, Rachel Hadfield — says she finds nothing objectionable about the act. "Vampires and sex completely go together. I just think it's a sexy idea to be bit by a vampire. I think it's the power thing, the control, and what comes from that. They're in love with you forever, and you live forever."

Borrowing from gangsta rap, death metal and horror movies, Havok and Stogie self-identify with a hardcore rap genre called hell-hop (or, at times, "horror-core," "murder rap" or "goth rap").

As popular in St. Louis as anywhere else in the nation, hell-hop's themes center on nihilism and misanthropy. The music took off after the late-'90s success of Insane Clown Posse. But in recent years ICP's popularity has waned, leaving millions of Juggalos pining for a new messiah.

Other St. Louis hell-hop acts — like Wet Grimlinz, Hellsent and Maddhouse Clique — don't dress like clowns or vampires, nor do they preach satanic messages. But their rage-fueled raps are rich with explicit tales of revenge, often culled from unfortunate personal experience. And they've managed to win over legions of young fans who identify with their grim lyricism.

"The last thing we ever want is violence," says Wet Grimlinz emcee P.R.E.A.C.H. — whose name stands for "Peacefully Respect Everyone Against Continuous Hate." "But we talk about the violence that goes on in St. Louis."

Havok offers a different take: "Anything that you see me do or hear me say is a reflection of me. I will never say something 'out there' just to say it. If I talk about killing somebody, then I'm in the mood to kill somebody!"

Hellhouse Entertainment rappers Jose "Mistah Creepy" Diaz, Danny "Demonic" Carbaugh and Joe "Muerte" Rodriguez are huge fans of such horror movies as Halloween, The Amityville Horror and Saw.

"Whoever came up with that is definitely talented, man," says Mistah Creepy of Saw, in which a villain named Jigsaw tries to manipulate people into cutting each other up.

Traumatic personal histories have also had a measured impact on the rappers' music. Demonic's father died a violent death, getting drunk and accidentally shooting himself in the head with a .22 pistol. Demonic was seven years old.

Muerte's family, meanwhile, was pure blue-collar, while many of his peers at Althoff Catholic High School in Belleville were raised with a silver spoon. "There were kids whose daddies are doctors and lawyers, while my dad's over in Fairmont throwing trash and shit," says the emcee, who, along with Demonic, forms the group Hellsent.

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