[Big Question] What is your favorite horror movie soundtrack?

October 2019 is a celebration of horror and music

The Big Question is where multiple Daily Grindhouse contributors and friends offer their answers to some burning question. In observance of Rocktoberfest 2019, all of October’s questions will be about the intersection of horror and music. Check in every Friday afternoon in October to see what some of your favorite writers have to say. The results…may surprise you.

Today’s big question is…

What is your favorite horror movie soundtrack?

*Please note: this isn’t favorite horror movie score but favorite horror movie soundtrack (collection of songs either made before the movie or expressly for the film, etc.)

Samantha SchorschUNDERWORLD: EVOLUTION

I shamelessly adore pretty much every soundtrack from the era of early 2000s shitty goth vampire movies (QUEEN OF THE DAMNED, DRACULA 2000) but for me, UNDERWORLD: EVOLUTION is supreme champion. I’ve never watched a movie so mediocre and forgettable with such an incredibly curated soundtrack that I’ve discussed more with strangers than the film itself. A blend of original tracks and off the wall remixes of the goth, metal, and emo standards of the time are fantastic nostalgia and also just plain fucking cool. My favorite track on the album is Chester Bennington and Julien-K’s collab “Morning After” which was never used on film but carries the vibe and tone of the UNDERWORLD series flawlessly.


Rob Dean — THE GUEST

There are a lot of contenders for this one—the rock’n’roll bops of CHRISTINE, or the pretty eclectic and fairly strong TALES FROM THE CRYPT PRESENTS DEMON KNIGHT—but ultimately I went with the synth-heavy melodrama of 2014’s THE GUEST. While Steve Moore’s own synth score is strong in this throwback movie directed by Adam Wingard and written by Simon Barrett, it’s the incredible doom ‘n’ gloom synthpop with jangly guitars and dramatic lyrics that echoes high school turbulence and ‘80s films without being direct references, which is perfect for this film blending of THE STEPFATHER meets THE TERMINATOR. The outstanding track is “Haunted When The Minutes Drag” by Love and Rockets, used to perfection in this scene:


Anya Stanley — SCREAM 2

The ’90s were a wild time, my friends. The dying gasps of the horror movie soundtrack, aimed primarily at hip teens, were nonetheless of quality and resonance. SCREAM 2 was the horror film soundtrack I played the most in my days of shopping from the dELiA*s catalog and trying to find my own THE CRAFT-esque coven. The soundtrack is what the best ones are: a snapshot in time. Foo Fighters, Kottonmouth Kings, Collective Soul, a goofy Less Than Jake ska cover, all the requisite teen staples. But my favorite track is the one that the film came right out of the gate with, in a banger of an opening sequence featuring Jada Pinkett Smith and Omar Epps: D’Angelo’s cover of Prince’s “She’s Always In My Hair.” I’m instantly transported back to 1997. Come along with me. We’ve got Surge soda.


Nathan Smith — SCREAM 3

When first posed the question, “what is your favorite horror movie soundtrack,” a million different albums swirled about in my head. Since nowadays, I only listen to scores and there are a multitude of soundtracks that I listened to but didn’t retain as a kid (DEMON KNIGHT, I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER – which has some top-notch tunery), I went with what high-school era me would’ve went with as the best soundtrack, one I listened to on repeat for days on end – SCREAM 3.

Look, I know SCREAM 3 is not the best movie, but the soundtrack had some great tunes for the nu-metal, FM radio crowd. Listening to the soundtrack finds you swimming in a sludge of Static X, Sevendust, and Coal Chamber (you know the bands that set a thousand JNCOs aflutter). There’s also the great “Spiders,” by System of a Down, the “did anyone listen to what this song’s about” choice of Slipknot’s “Wait and Bleed,” the solid song “Sunburn” by Fuel and god help me, a pretty good song by Creed, “What If?” – their second best song in a Dimension film.


Jedidiah Ayres — LOST HIGHWAY

In between the terrific cuts of Barry Adamson, Angelo Badalamenti and Trent Reznor score, LOST HIGHWAY drops tasty pop tracks from Lou Reed and David Bowie, gets heavy with Rammstein and Marilyn Manson, bridges the gap between early guitar-heroics Smashing Pumpkins and the electronic midlife crisis period with “Eye” (if Billy Corgan had put three songs that good on Adore, it could’ve been a classic) and includes easily my favorite Nine Inch Nails song, “The Perfect Drug.” Sure, I’m not the biggest NIN fan, but that thing is wonderful with its mix of industrial and acoustic textures and dreamy melody. It’s the “Cry Little Sister” of the ’90s as far as I’m concerned.


Ale GonzalezPRACTICAL MAGIC 

Because I am nothing if not predictable, I’ve come to sing the praises of the very perfect soundtrack to PRACTICAL MAGIC. I know “perfect” is a loaded word, but what else can be said of a track listing that consists of Joni Mitchell, absolute queen Stevie Nicks, Nick Drake, and yes, even Elvis? The soundtrack is so perfectly autumnal, each song on it becoming synonymous with the fall time and all things witchy. What works so well about this soundtrack goes far beyond its incredible songs — it’s how intimately paired with their scenes they are.

Probably my favorite of all is Nicole Kidman driving across state lines to Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You,” belting the song to herself as the dusk becomes the night. The songs chosen for each scene just conjure warmth and intimacy that can only be associated with the season, instantly transporting me to the fall when I listen to the soundtrack even in the height of spring. PRACTICAL MAGIC’s soundtrack acts as a warm fuzzy blanket when I need it most, and for that reason, it is my favorite soundtrack of the spooky season.


Jon AbramsPHENOMENA/CREEPERS

The score by Claudio Simonetti and Goblin is one of my favorites they ever did—if not my very favorite. It’s perfect for Argento’s movie: ethereal and eerie and beautiful and warm and unsettling and dreamlike and all that sweetheart kinda jazz. But we’re not talking about the score, right? We’re talking about the soundtrack. The soundtrack to PHENOMENA is *NOT* perfect for the film. What is Motörhead doing in this story of an angelic teenage girl who communes with bees by day and sleepwalks at night? I dig Motörhead, but they don’t feel like they belong, nor do Iron Maiden, nor does Andi Sex Gang (I mean, whatever that is, it just sounds wrong.) When the hard guitar riffs hit this movie, they’re intrusive, the way the murders are to the innocence of the main character and to the lushness of the windswept and grassy vistas of the film’s SOUND OF MUSIC-style setting. The incongruity is probably one reason this film isn’t as generally beloved as other Argento works.

But I like the incongruity. Everything’s just a little off. It’s not just because this movie is over thirty years old. I bet it felt a little off even in 1985/6. And one track that does totally fit is “The Valley” by The Rolling Stones’ bassist Bill Wyman in conjunction with guitarist Terry Taylor. If Goblin is the orchestral sound of this film by night, “The Valley” sets the tone by day. There’s intermittent beauty and serenity throughout this movie, but never in a way that allows young Jennifer—or the viewer—to get comfortable for more than a brief moment.


Paul Freitag-FeyTHE HIDDEN

I’m going to throw my hat in the ring for Jack Sholder’s movie that everyone thinks about as a nifty genre flick but may have ignored how much of a jam the soundtrack is.  Sure, you’ve got reliables like Concrete Blonde, who contribute three tracks including the always-welcome “Still in Hollywood,” but it’s the lesser-known bands that really put it over the top.  It’s a batch of mid-’80s alternative rock that works perfectly with the “don’t-give-a-shit” id of the body-hopping alien in the feature, and from Hunters & Collectors’ “Is There Anybody In There” to The Truth’s “Weapons of Love,” each track rocks in its own unique way but still makes a great coherent whole. The big tragedy is that Mendy Lee’s “Bad Girl,” which plays while Claudia Christian does her striptease number, and is the perfect blend of Vanity 6-influenced sexy dance pop and pure sleaze, isn’t included on the official soundtrack, but that’s what bootlegs are for.


Rockie JuarezMAD MONSTER PARTY 

MAD MONSTER PARTY is a 1967 stop-motion animated musical from celebrated animators Rankin/Bass Productions that does not, in my humble opinion, receive enough love for how creative and inspired it is. Thanks to a fellow coworker at Vulcan Video popping this movie on around Halloween, I stared at the screen in a complete trance, taken away by its batshit story and wonderful voice work from the likes of Boris Karloff and Phyllis Diller. The opening song, “Mad Monster Party” written by Maury Laws & Jules Bass and performed by Ethel Ennis, did a complete number on me. Beautifully sung by Ennis with “Monster Mash”-style lyrics, the song perfectly conveys the vibe of the animated feature.

The rest of the soundtrack thankfully follows suit by injecting Halloween themes as well as advancing the spooky and surprisingly endearing story. Tracks include “You’re Different,” “One Step Ahead” and, my favorite, “Do The Mummy.” With all animation, tons of planning is triple checked beforehand so no mistakes are made midway through production meaning each choice in MAD MONSTER PARTY was deliberate and precise in execution. This makes the soundtrack absolutely pop and is definitely worth seeking out—especially if you are a Halloween junkie. This also may be the only soundtrack on this awesome list coming from an animated film so you have no choice but to track it down, right? Don’t quote me but I think there is a law about this kind of thing and I’d hate for you to get pinched.


Melissa KayTHE CROW

Even though I worship at the altar of ’80s synthwave, I’d be remiss if I didn’t automatically choose THE CROW soundtrack as my numero uno. Like many millennials around my (extremely old) age, I grew up enslaved to a lot of ’90s soundtracks that acted as a gateway drug to all my current likes and dislikes—SCREAM, THE FACULTY, BRIDE OF CHUCKY, etc—but THE CROW will always tower above the rest. It’s got all the best bands of the ’90s: Nine Inch Nails, Rage Against the Machine, The Cure, Pantera, Stone Temple Pilots (STP for the cool kids), Violent Femmes…the list goes on and on. Tell me one person who doesn’t get chills when leather-adorned Brandon Lee parkours across rooftops to “Dead Souls” and I’ll show you a cop. I say this without an inch of hyperbole: the music (and the movie) is utter perfection

This soundtrack, is, of course, not a surprising choice to anyone who knows me because it is 100% responsible for the Melissa you’ve to come to know today. Without it, I’d probably still be singing the praises of something like ONCE BITTENwhich, let’s be real, comes in at a close second.


Justin YandellBRIDE OF CHUCKY

BRIDE OF CHUCKY has a helluva soundtrack and I’m not just saying that because it’s On Brand for me. It was a big departure for a franchise that previously had only instrumental scores, and a part of the series’s reclamation of relevance in a post-SCREAM world. Besides being a tonal leap forward for the Chucky franchise, the soundtrack itself was well-curated. It has two Rob Zombie tracks on it, including the pitch-perfect “Living Dead Girl,” and it also introduced a large number of people to The Kidneythieves’ cover of Willie Nelson and Patsy Cline’s ‘Crazy’ – a song that remains in my regular rotation to this day.


Andrew CampbellANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE

Most live-action musicals originate on the stage before being adapted for the big screen.  Films like MOULIN ROUGE and LA LA LAND are noted exceptions, but my favorite original musical just happens to be a horror film – ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE.  Think HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL but Scottish and with more blood, more cursing and less Zac Efron.  You’re not going to get complex melodies and orchestral movements, just a dozen Broadway-quality earworms laden with synthesizers and drum machines. “Break Away” is a pop gem and a mission statement for this film about a group of teens struggling with where their lives will go after graduation and avoiding being devoured by their zombie classmates.  “It’s That Time of Year” is your classic horny-for-Santa throwback to Eartha Kitt’s “Santa Baby” laced with such subtle double-entendres as imploring Old Saint Nick to unload his sack.


Stephanie CrawfordTHE CROW: CITY OF ANGELS 

While I’m not proud of my soundtrack choice being from a non-stellar, horror-lite sequel, I gotta come clean here. The second coming of the Crow’s soundtrack brought some of the heaviest of the heavy hitters of heavy rock from the mid-90s: Filter, Deftones, and yes, KoRn is here too. Add in some Tricky, PJ Harvey, a soulful pairing of Linda Perry and Grace Slick, and you have the strange alchemy that made this era of genre soundtracks so addictive.

Most notable to me are three tracks: a live version of Iggy Pop (who also appears in the film) performing The Stooges’ classic “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” which was my first exposure to him, and I remain a big fan to this day. Next was White Zombie’s super dark, groovy cover of the KC and the Sunshine Band’s disco hit “I’m Your Boogie Man.” It’s so obvious when you write it out that it feels like a prophecy fulfilled, and this was big in my puberty-era Rob Zombie obsession. Finally, my then-favorite band Hole did a gritty cover of my namesake Stevie Nick’s masterpiece from Rumours, “Gold Dust Woman,” whose video bewitched me almost as much as the song did.


Jeremy Lowe RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD 

In 1985, punk rock and horror movies, two of the most misunderstood subculture communities, collided to create RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, the most raucous and outrageous  zombie movie yet. Dan O’Bannon’s film is one of the reasons I fell in love with both horror and punk. Besides realistic characters that I cared about with quotable dialog, the soundtrack elevated the film to the cult status it now has. Every song is perfectly placed. From The Cramps’ “Surfin’ Dead” during the zombie chaos, to Rocky Erickson’s Satanic psychedelic “Burn the Flames” when Ernie (Don Calfa) pushes himself into the crematorium is spot on. The one track which is the most iconic though is” PartyTime” by 45 Grave. When the zombies dig their way out of the ground and 45 Grave’s vocalist, Dinah Cancer, screams out “Do ya want to party? It’s party time!” you know you’re in for something special. 30+ years, and I still cheer and clap every time that song comes on. To quote Suicide (Mark Venturini), “You think this is a costume? This is a way of life!”


What about you, gentle readers? What are some of your favorite soundtracks? Sound off in the comments below!

Rob Dean

Rob Dean

Based out of Austin TX, Rob writes some things for the Internet: sometimes film reviews, sometimes funny stuff, but all embedded with secret Masonic messages. He loves film, comic books, and is still mourning the loss of Pushing Daisies. His dream is to one day have his musical based on The Goonies debut on stage. Yes, that last part is real.
Rob Dean

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    One Comment

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      Lee
      October 8, 2019

      For the record, the 2001 horror flick “Down” (aka “The Shaft”), about a killer elevator, featured “Come On”, a different version of which was the first song ever released by the Rolling Stones.

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