Horror movies and heavy music just go together ever since Black Sabbath pioneered the idea of heavy blues-based music with themes of evil, the occult and strange occurrences (did Ozzy ever find out what it was that stood before him?). We’ve had Alice Cooper, KISS and Marilyn Manson use special effects to enhance their rock shows using a horror aesthetic and the number of bands that used horror motifs in the album artwork and videos is too numerous to mention (but Google The Misfits and go from there).
What you need on Halloween is a soundtrack. Horror movies know this, and themes from the scores of Halloween, Jaws, The Omen, The Exorcist and Poltergeist became recognisable in their own right. However, as alternative music became an increasingly profitable commercial enterprise in the 1990s, it became hip to compile heavy music to support Hollywood’s Halloween horror releases. Sometimes they grab the latest bands and biggest hits, other times it is a great chance to explore some rarities from your favourite artists.
Here are 13 standout tracks off 13 Horror movies with a guide to help you anticipate the neighbours’ reaction when you play them loud on all hallows eve…
#13 – Dawn of the Dead. Key Track: Richard Cheese covers ‘Down with the Sickness’
Zak Snyder updated the George Romero classic for the nu-metal era with faster zombies and bigger action set pieces. Some of the charm and subtlety was lost along the way, but the use of music and cinematography makes the whole film feel like a music video. Ving Rhames is a badass though.
Having a montage in the mall set to ‘Down With The Sickness’ sounds pretty spot on for Snyder though (he would later awkwardly use Lenoard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ for a sex scene in Watchmen). But they didn’t use an original for Dawn of the Dead, preferring the laid back style of Richard Cheese & Lounge Against the Machine to emphasise the careless attitude the survivors had adopted. The original by Disturbed appears in the film’s terrifying conclusion.
Neighbours’ Reaction: False sense of security!
#12 – Jennifer’s Body. Key Track: Panic At The Disco – ‘New Perspective’
The film was a post-Transformers vehicle for Megan Fox, and it turned out she wasn’t up for leading a supernatural horror black comedy. Written by Juno’s Diablo Cody, Amanda Seyfried is the hero, Adam Brody shows up and there’s a small part for Chris Pratt too. I guess there is an audience for this, though it tanked at the box office, it has found some notoriety as a strong feminist cult horror film. Jennifer (Fox) becomes possessed and tries to murder and eat people. Music is actually a big part of the film with indie and goth/emo characters part of the plot.
The soundtrack was pretty hip to 2009, combining indie, emo, punk and power pop: Florence + The Machine, Hayley Williams, Low Soldier (who are in the film), All Time Low, and Cobra Starship. The film is named after a Hole song but ‘Violet’ makes the album instead of the titular track. Panic! At The Disco had the single, pretty standard Panic with cheeky/contemplative lyrics and a great chorus. The video features clips from the film and the fellas walking through a high school locker bay.
Neighbours’ Reaction: They will leave your doorstep tapping their toe.
#11 – Saw. Key Track: Fear Factory – ‘Bite the Hand that Bleeds’
The first Saw movie was an instant classic, upping the gore stakes and serious tension via the moral dilemma of choosing between confessing one’s sins and suffering immense torture. Jigsaw would become the first notable horror icon since Scream’s Ghostface and would spew a number of increasingly worse sequels (another time honoured horror movie tradition). The original was directed by James Wan and written by Leigh Wannell, with Carey Ewles, Danny Glover and the splendid Shawnee Smith.
With a score provided by ex-NIN and White Zombie collaborator Charlie Clouser, the industrial feel of that bathroom was enhanced by drones, heavy beats and sharp piano. Fear Factory turned over their Archetype album track ‘Bite The Hand That Bleeds’ as the soundtrack’s single. The band are featured in a scene reminiscent of the film.
Neighbours’ Reaction: Won’t look you in the eye at Xmas Street Party
#10 – Dracula 2000. Key Track: Slayer – ‘Bloodline’
Dracula 2000 tried to cash in on the trend of updating everything to include new millennium branding. Not kidding, Harvey Weinstein bought the script for the title and had it totally reworked. The film is flat out awful. Gerad Butler doesn’t talk about playing Dracula often, despite the fact they also roped in Christopher Plummer and a number of other early 2000-era names. In true B-grade style it did spawn direct-to-video sequels.
Like a lot on this list though the album is a banger. Rare and exclusive tracks from many of the 2000 heavy hitters such as Disturbed, Pantera and System of a Down, alongside singles from Linkin Park (‘One Step Closer’), Powerman 5000, Monster Magnet, Static X and Saliva. Slayer also used the opportunity to try out new producer Matt Hyde for their contribution ‘Bloodline’, and would roll Hyde and the song into their next album. Arguably they were the only ones to capture the plot of the movie too. The video has blood, a lot of blood. One might even say it is raining blood.
Neighbours’ Reaction: Cautiously backing away from the front door
#9 – A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child. Key Track: Bruce Dickinson – ‘Bring Your Daughter… To The Slaughter.’
The fifth film in the Freddie Kruger series finds him returning to haunt the dreams of Alice from the previous film. He kills a lot of her friends while they sleep, and sometimes not, returning in the form of a baby and a lot of weird shit happens that is kind of scary but also a bit too cartoonish. Even though Freddie is destroyed, there is a sequel amusingly titled Freddie’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, which is in turn followed by a Scream influenced sequel Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. So take “destroyed” with a grain of salt.
The soundtrack itself isn’t a lot to get excited about either, but is notable for containing the original version of Iron Maiden’s only UK Number 1 single: Bring Your Daughter… To the Slaughter, as performed by Bruce Dickinson as a solo artist. Despite the horrific title it actually fits well with the increasingly camp theme of the Elm Street movies, and rocks even harder. Maiden fans will notice the differences to the full band version, mostly in the vocal delivery. The soundtrack also has WASP and Samantha Fox (who I guess was the 1989 version of Dua Lipa?), which go together as well as you would expect.
Neighbours’ Reaction: Invitations to parties at your place will go unanswered.
#8 – The Crow. Key Track: Stone Temple Pilots – ‘Big Empty’
The Crow reached infamy after star Brandon Lee was accidentally killed when he was shot by a prop gun. It would prove to be a star making performance when finally released. He makes a fantastic anti-hero, full of pathos and quotable lines, as he avenges his girlfriends murder with supernatural powers from beyond the grave. It’s here because it actually takes place on Halloween Eve – October 30th, known in Detroit as Devil’s Night.
The soundtrack is considered one of the standard bearers for 1990s compilations, combining moody pop (The Cure), hardcore/punk covers (Pantera and Rollins Band), Rage Against The Machine, Helmet and a bunch of industrial goth (led by Nine Inch Nails covering Joy Division). Most tracks were (at the time) exclusive to this album, though Stone Temple Pilots would find room for ‘Big Empty’ on their own release. It perfectly captures the gloomy mood.
Neighbours’ Reaction: Sounds like a band they listened to in high school
#7 – I Know What You Did Last Summer. Key Track: Korn- ‘Proud’
Following Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer cashed in by following the formula of eager young actors being chased by a mysterious villain (the twist being he’s Captain Hook). It cannot be understated how massive the cast was at the time – Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Geller, Ryan Phillipe and Freddie Prinze Jnr were a superteam of teen hotties.
The soundtrack was a total mixed bag: Type O Negative alongside The Offspring, Kula Shaker, L7 and Soul Asylum. It was Korn who really dropped the gem though – the previously unreleased track, ‘Proud’. It’s a classic late 90s Korn stomper with slappy bass, downtuned guitars and a frantic riff.
Neighbours’ Reaction: The kids won’t get it, but the parents are gonna love it
#6 – Hellraiser III – Hell on Earth. Key Track: Motörhead – ‘Hellraiser’
The Hellraiser franchise is notable for its mix of mythology, sci fi aesthetic and being particularly gory, crafted by Clive Barker. The scores are suitably creepy but notably the third movie featured Motorhead covering an Ozzy Osbourne song that was penned by Motorhead mainman Lemmy Kilmesiter.
It doesn’t fit with the film at all but it remains full of swagger. Pinhead wouldn’t dare come for Lemmy. The video features clips from the film and is suitably spooky. The band looks cool though.
Neighbours’ Reaction: If they ask “It’s a bit loud isn’t it?” answer appropriately.
#5 – House of 1000 Corpses. Key Track: Rob Zombie – Pussy Liquor
Rob Zombie’s directorial debut was a low budget, gritty and gory affair, starring a number of noted B-actors and his wife. It would prove to be the first in a trilogy and Zombie would direct a pair of Halloween remakes too.
Led by the title track, Zombie’s soundtrack features his own songs, dialogue snippets for context, a duet with Lionel Ritchie and tracks by The Ramones. Of the Zombie tracks, the dirty little groover ‘Pussy Liquor’ stands out for capturing the dark, sexy nature of the film. The false start of Baby leading a cheerleader chant will hook you in and you’ll stay for the groove.
Neighbours’ Reaction: Will join you for a dance until they realise the lyrics are about murder. If they ask to stay longer you should be afraid.
#4 – Scream. Key track: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – ‘Red Right Hand’
Scream effectively reinvigorated the slasher genre by lovingly parodying its familiar tropes and offering up some serious frights, including the iconic opening scene with Drew Barrymore and a visually great villain in Ghostface. It was kind of a big deal on MTV as it was written by Dawson’s Creek creator Kevin Williamson, and directed by horror legend Wes Craven.
The soundtrack made an effort to put together a number of indie and alternative artists, some covering the likes of Blue Oyster Cult and Alice Cooper, with Nick Cave and the Bad Seed’s hit becoming an anthem for the franchise in subsequent movies.
Neighbours’ Reaction: You’ll notice parents holding their kid’s hands a little tighter.
#3 – Queen of the Damned. Key track: Chester Bennington – ‘System’
Queen of the Damned was an amalgamation of two Anne Rice novels as a sort-of sequel to Tom Cruise’s Interview with the Vampire. It made the press because it marked the final film role for RnB star Aaliyah, who died near the end of filming. Also notably, the songs the vampire Lestat lip syncs to were written and performed by Korn’s Jonothan Davis. It is by far the highlight of an otherwise lifeless film.
Unfortunately, due to record company issues, Davis wasn’t permitted to perform on the released soundtrack so he called some friends: Marilyn Manson, Wayne Static and David Drainman among them. Each has a gothic/nu metal vibe, removed from Korn, and Davis has been known to play tracks from this in his solo shows. The soundtrack is filled out by hits from Disturbed, Deftones, Papa Roach and Tricky. Chester Bennington was amongst those Davis subbed in and he never sounded as creepy as he did over snare rumbles and simple piano.
Neighbours’ Reaction: Will know they are getting a trick if they knock
#2 – Halloween. Key track: Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross – ‘Halloween (remix)’
Halloween’s Michael Myers is arguably THE slasher film villain, thanks in no part to the consistent sequels and then remakes. Every generation has a film called Halloween: the original 1978 John Carpenter, Rob Zombie’s 2007 remake and David Gordon Green’s 2018 sequel remake (it is a sequel to the original but is also named Halloween). There are eight other films in the series, with two sequels to the 2018 film still on the way.
Carpenter’s original simple keyboard theme is truly iconic as it ascends in intensity every time The Shape (Myers) is close. For an anniversary box set, soundtrack maestros Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (AKA Nine Inch Nails) remixed the theme and sent that repetitive keyboard riff into a new pit of industrial despair; full of synths, glitches and beats. Just when you think it is fading out after five minutes, that riff comes back faster, slowly increasing in volume until the beats carry it into your skull.
Neighbours’ Reaction: Little kids will start crying. Do not answer the door dressed as in a white mask and wig unless you want the police called.
#1 – Demon Night. Key track: Machine Head – ‘My Misery (Demon Night)’
The film was a bizarre supernatural horror released under the Tales From The Crypt banner. Somehow they convinced Billy Zane, Jada Pinkett Smith and Hayden Thomas Church to star in it a tale about a demonic being, The Collector, who is searching for a divine key that will give him power, since it contains the blood of Jesus Christ. People try to stop him. Horror ensues.
The soundtrack though is a belter. An exclusive edit of Pantera’s ‘Cemetery Gates’ gets the attention but there’s rarities from Ministry, Megadeth, Sepultura and Machine Head, plus Filter, Biohazard, Melvins and Rollins Band. Check out Machine Head’s contribution ‘My Misery’ that manages to work in the film’s title. It is pretty standard for early Machine Head, with slow verses and a heavy groove metal chorus. The riff is pretty good.
Neighbours’ Reaction: They’ll be OK if you ask them to headbang as a trick before handing over the Skittles.
Horrific list by KJ Draven