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 (non-musical) horror movie should be turned into a musical?
There have been multiple musicals based on horror movies such as (deep breath):
PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, CARRIE, THE EVIL DEAD, RE-ANIMATOR, BEETLEJUICE, SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, NOSFERATU, DRACULA, AMERICAN PSYCHO, GHOST, TEEN WITCH, THE ADDAMS FAMILY, YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, JEKYLL & HYDE, THE TOXIC AVENGER, and more.
But today’s Big Question is about the future. What splatter-centric spine tingler would you like to see hit the boards of Broadway?
Nathan Smith — SLAUGHTER HIGH
Since the sleazy SLAUGHTER HIGH is already high in camp caloric content, why not allow this misbegotten British/American slasher to embrace its theatrical side and go to Off-Off-Off Broadway? The events of the film are mostly sequestered in one location, so you could build a cavernous hall where the events of the show go down. The cast is minimal, so you don’t have to worry about a grand budget there, saving the dollars for the gory effects that will pepper the performance. And you’ve got to have a splash zone for when the beefy hunk is shredded by the tractor towards the beginning of act two. The crew will be invigorated by the low-fi stagecraft involved in electrocuting two folks going to town on each other. Speaking of that, you’ve got to have a brave cast to bare all – I mean, it is a slasher musical and Marty Rantzen was hanging out there for everyone to see and the electrified sex scene when two cast members get killed.
Sample of Track List:
- “Overture/One Fine Day” – Opening Number sung by Marty, pre-prank.
- “A Trophy for Me!” – Sung by Marty, traditional “I Want” song.
- “Getting the Gang Back Together” – OBC Cast/Main Cast Reunion.
- “Chug-A-Lug” – Poisoned beer scene/sung in the style of a tradition beer drinking sing-a-long.
- “Marty’s Mania” – 11 O’Clock Number, Marty gets confronted by the ghosts of his victims.
Stephanie Crawford — THE NINTH CONFIGURATION
William Peter Blatty’s wonderful THE NINTH CONFIGURATION might seem unlikely for a musical makeover, but consider two things: It deftly mixes multiple genres like a champ, and Blatty’s source novel was titled “Twinkle, Twinkle, “Killer” Kane!” If that’s not an intriguing title for an outré musical, then I guess I know why my playhouse closed. There are bits of off-key singing and music already there as these broken men try to grasp at as many scraps of normality as they can, so that can only help! From a song celebrating the all-male cast (“No Dames Allowed!”) to stirring ballads about mental health and the struggle of religious belief in increasingly dark times to a rousing barroom brawl number, I think this thing has legs. (The real barn-burner will be the lost astronaut singing “We’re All Gonna Die Down Here, Too.”)
Plus, the castle and striking, tree-choked mountainous countryside setting is just begging for its hills to come alive with the sound of music, not to mention the cast is so gigantic already that filling the screen with dance numbers will be a cinch. Just think of the fog machine budget alone! My one caveat is that they need to keep the film’s opening song intact: Denny Brooks’ “San Antone” sets the stage perfectly.
Jay Alary — THE BROOD
If Canada can turn hockey into a musical (see Score: A Hockey Musical), why not its greatest filmmaker? THE FLY was turned into an opera, so I think THE BROOD would be a good candidate for a musical adaptation: after all, star Oliver Reed was Bill Sikes in OLIVER! back in 1968, even if that character sang not a single tune. THE BROOD is Cronenberg’s seminal body horror, partially inspired by his recent, fractious divorce, that examines rage, relationships, and Oliver Reed’s impressive masculine form (the actor selected for this adaptation ought to exude a similar virility in a terrycloth housecoat as Reed’s Dr. Hal Raglan). The music would be an original commission of punk songs, echoing the rage felt by Samantha Egger’s Nola and manifested by her murderous brood. The punk songs are to be composed by Vancouver-by-way-of-Glasgow punk band, The Screaming Feces (Chas, Feck, Noel), in order to prevent exorbitant music clearance costs. The ideal cast would be well-versed in tense, dramatic scenes, soliloquies, theatrical props, and musicals.
Some musical numbers include:
- “Welcome to Somafree” — performed by Dr. Hal Raglan
- “Psychplasmic Sadness” — performed by Nola
- “Frank’s Lament” — performed by Frank
- “I Want Candy” — performed by Nola and Frank
- “The Brood Are Coming” — entire cast
Kevin Maher — THE THING WITH TWO HEADS
RE-ANIMATOR director Stuart Gordon said his brother wanted to make THE THING WITH TWO HEADS into a musical, where the Rosy Grier character would sing soul music and the Ray Milland character would sing Andrew Lloyd Weber tunes. It’s easy to imagine how that project never got off the ground. But I still want to see it!
Mike McGranaghan — THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD
If ever a zombie movie was appropriate to be turned into a stage musical, this would be it. The zombies can talk in Dan O’Bannon’s 1985 horror-comedy, and if they can talk, they can darn well sing, too! Since the heroes of the story are punks, the songs should all be punk rock compositions, which would immediately distinguish this show from other musicals. Of course, the big show-stopping number would be called “Send More Cops.” The infamous Tar Man could get a big dance number, and Trash’s unforgettable graveyard striptease would absolutely cause a stir on Broadway. Tony awards for everybody!
Sarah Jane — STAGE FRIGHT: AQUARIUS
If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve undoubtedly seen a tweet or three about my love for Michele Soavi’s insane slasher, STAGE FRIGHT: AQUARIUS (covered by our own Anya Stanley for Rocktoberfest). For the uninitiated, it’s a horror movie where a killer, wearing a giant owl head, terrorized a group of actors who have been locked inside a theatre overnight to rehearse a play. And by terrorizing, I mean going around killing them one by one in the most amazing ways. The play they are rehearsing is kind of a musical about prostitutes being killed by a mass murderer called the Night Owl so this seems like a no brainer. The entire movie is like a time capsule of pure 80s sleaze and it should be kept right there, bad hair, cheesy sax, and all. The music in the film is already great so keep that and use some additional songs like:
- “The Night Owls” by Little River Band – Sung by the killer
- “I’ve Never Been to Me” by Charlene – Sung by Corrine
- “Up on the Catwalk” by Simple Minds – Sung by Peter
- “Bird on a Wire” by Leonard Cohen – Sung by the killer
- “Put out the Fire” by Queen – Sung by Alicia
Apparently, Joe D’Amato, a producer on the film, wanted to make a sequel setting it in a TV station with a killer dressed as a light bulb. WTF?!
Jedidiah Ayres — A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET
Am I saying that turning Wes Craven’s seminal classic A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET into a musical would improve it? I am not. I am saying that it’s easy to imagine this one as a musical though. Potentially a really good one at that. It’s already structured like a musical with the dream sequences being the breaks from ‘reality’ big production numbers that reveal character and ooze atmosphere. Not much of a stretch to make those dream sequences into song and slash numbers and as the sequels pile up Freddy’s one-line groaners would probably make for good lyrics anyway. I mean ‘How sweet, fresh meat’ already rhymes. I’m for it. Let’s do it.
Andrew Campbell — MIDSOMMAR
Ari Aster is a guy no one had heard of two years ago before he delivered two of the finest original horror films of the decade just 13 months apart. As much as I would love to see how one would depict the vehicular beheading of HEREDITARY on a Broadway stage, MIDSOMMAR is the play here. The film lends itself to opera, setting the ultimate bad break-up story against a backdrop of ritualized murder-suicide.
Open with a sentimental ballad introducing Dani and Christian as the doomed couple and break the tension with a comedic number sung (maybe even rapped) by the acerbic Mark. Sprinkle in a bunch of cheerfully scored Swedish folks songs with lyrics that grow increasingly unsettling. Wrap it up with a vicious requiem and a redemptive anti-torch song as Dani lets go of her old life and transforms into the May Queen. Also, incorporate a live bear.
Samantha Schorsch — HOSTEL
Considering HOSTEL is a film already renowned for its visual spectacle above all else, why not bring that spectacle to the stage with ribbons of gore and torture scenes not unlike the “Thankless Job” scene from REPO! THE GENETIC OPERA? A stage production could have it all: bright colors, giant brutalistic apartments in Amsterdam, sexy ladies as a chorus in Slovakia, a suitably dramatic and grim send off, that creepy eyeball thing, the works.
Obviously the surgeon whistling throughout the film as a motif would have to remain intact if not expounded upon by its use as a chorus hook for a dance number as he tortures Josh while singing “I Always Wanted to be a Surgeon” and spinning him around. The sound of the power drill and dramatic slicing can be included for punctuation. Open the play with a boy’s eurotrip song about their debauchery and close it with the same song as a solemn reprise from Paxton on the train.
Bonus song: a raucous and mocking number called “Now You’re My Bitch” where all the traffickers chase Paxton and others in their cells and belittle their suffering.
My schedule is free whenever, Eli.
Rockie Juarez — NIGHTBREED
Since it already looks like a warped production of CATS in some ways, there is really only one real answer to this magical question. NIGHTBREED is the obvious choice here with a million characters like X-MEN to pull inspiration from. Clive Barker’s wild world deserves equally loud songs to match the film’s crazy visuals. Can you imagine the numbers that would spill out of that? I can already hear the melodies from “I Cut My Face To Escape This Place” or the sad but relatable tune “I Can’t Go Outside, The Sun Hates Me.”
Can you imagine David Cronenberg belting out the cheeky number, “Villain In Plain Sight?” Oh look, I found some lyrics for it just lying about here: “I said he had a gun / but I killed the boy for fun / i wear buttons on my eyes / WAY before Coraline / I’ll find you Midian, city of monsters who’ll accept me / then and only then will I ever be freeeeeeeeeee.”
Shuna Sassi has a song about her quills which would bring down the house because she just wants a damn hug but can’t because she injures people. You can go on forever with NIGHTBREED. There is enough there to warrant a musical journey and I would bet my kids on the fact that it would be too original to ignore. Maybe in an alternate dimension I, or some other sick bastard, did write a musical for NIGHTBREED and the cool weird kids of that dimension perform our work forever instead of ROCKY HORROR. Basically, all I am saying is this is my Elevator Pitch to Clive Barker. Now all I need is an elevator and Mr. Clive Barker.
Destiny Sturdivant — CHOPPING MALL
A musical version of Jim Wynorski’s CHOPPING MALL would sweep the Tonys. The plot: newly-activated security robots go homicidally haywire the same night a group of teenaged mall employees decide to throw an after-hours party. A fun blood and boobs flick, it’s also rich with commentary on surveillance, consumerism, and toxic heterosexuality. Why not add songs?
- “Use Protection” – intro song about the Protector robots. They’re totally safe! Obviously over-policing and/or technology have never hurt anyone ever. A robot who is also a cop? Sounds like a double hero to me!
- “Clock Out, Rock Out” – sung as the hormonal protagonists anticipate getting laid after work…while also still technically at work.
- “Suzie Smells of Pepperoni (And I Love It)”- Greg sings this minimum wage ballad to his pizza shop shorty. Forget about GREASE; this love has literal grease!
- “Call Me Walter” -If only Dick Miller himself were alive to perform jazz about dying with a mop in his hand. So beautiful.
- “Man Up” – a soul groove about aggressively preppy boys applying their action cinema knowledge to become expert gunmen in mere minutes. Exposure to movie violence could save lives, and here’s proof in song!
- “Nerdy 4 Ferdy” – the squeaky clean survivors, Allison and Ferdy, give gratitude they were spared from the bloody, explosive, shooty death that befalls movie teens (and real teens) who have premarital sex.
Travis Woods – PIECES
As far as Spanish-made, Boston-set college campus chainsaw slashers go, 1982’s PIECES is as good as it gets, overloaded as it is with horny co-eds, abrupt kung-fu, surprise castrations, human jigsaw puzzles, waterbed savagery, and interminable tennis games. Everything about PIECES is hyper-baroque overkill ratcheted up to synapse-collapsing levels, so much so that sometimes it feels a screen cannot—and should not—contain it.
So imagine: a stage-bound musical in which front-row audiences are sheathed in plastic like a Grand Guignol Gallagher show as fake blood rains upon them while a young boy sings “Humpty Dumpty” and axe-hacks his mother to pieces for discovering his porno puzzle collection. And that’s just the first five minutes! Toss in some waterbeds, a lot of mirrors, an extraordinary amount of red corn syrup, a Luciano Pavarotti wannabe decked out in a denim jumpsuit and armed with a chainsaw, and a gargantuan and growing puzzle of a naked woman that eventually assembles and blocks the entire stage like in Pink Floyd’s The Wall tour, and you’ve got yourself a hit. It’s no weirder than CATS, anyway.
- “What’s the Story, Chao? (Bad Chop Suey)”
- “Ever Been Laid on a Waterbed?”
- “The Ballad of Willard’s Beard”
- “Cassanova Thhhhhwwwwpp! (Kendall’s Theme)”
- “In Bed with Chainsaw Charlie”
- “You Don’t Have to Go to Broadway…For A Chainsaw Massacre!”
- “Bastard! Bastard! Bastard! (An Aria)”
Rob Dean — BRAINSCAN
To be perfectly honest, this was a bit of a rigged question I put forward. I tend to notice moments in non-musical films or works that would be perfect for the character to launch into song. After all, it’s just an expression of emotions becoming so big and powerful that they can only be expressed in a powerful ballad or soothing melody. It’s a weird mental tic I’ve developed ever since my friend (and now Boston-aretw theater actor) Nate Gundy explained to me the “OLIVER! Face” in 7th grade. Basically when the plucky orphan pivots his head in just the right way and stares off into the middle distance, it signals he’s about to break into song. This weird affectation led me to co-write a musical based on THE GOONIES with my friend Keith Doughty during and after college—just Mikey, by himself on the porch, contemplating his dire situation.
So this was a loaded question because I always see the possibility of musical numbers in every film, no matter the genre. My first thought was HALLOWEEN, mostly based on Loomis in the shadows of Michael’s old home, belting out a song about the boy he once knew and now must kill (very much Javert-type stuff from Les Miserables). But then it struck me—BRAINSCAN. The oft-overlooked (for fair reasons) 1994 quasi-techno thriller, wannabe slasher starring Edward Furlong is perfect for a musical because it has a musical dynamic pre-baked into the concept. Trickster (T. Ryder Smith) is a demonic/possibly imaginary figure that is incredibly melodramatic and hyper-stylized while Furlong’s Michael is a quiet introvert. So their duets and back and forth would make for an interesting harmony, and you could mark the character progression (as Michael becomes more evil under Trickster’s sway) with a change in style and genre of song that Michael uses.
Add onto that a great opening bit where the puritan principal rails against horror genre, the mildly competent detective (Frank Langella) mourns the death of his partner by the hands of vigilantes, and of course the star-crossed love songs around Michael and the girl he stalks…errrr…and the girl on whom he has a crush. What makes this work exceptionally well is that BRAINSCAN is relatively obscure, and could also still take place in the ’90s, allowing for that to have a music and aesthetic influence. Corman’s original THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS wasn’t a known entity (hell, it’s in the public domain—that’s how little people cared about it), but it struck Howard Ashman as a way to capitalize on a story structure with already informed emotional beats, use the music/styles of the time of the original movie (1960), and have a title that most people didn’t even know was a movie already, so they don’t feel like it’s a rehash. In closing, I look forward to Lin-Manuel Miranda handing me my Tony in 3 years for BRAINSCAN: THE MUSICAL.
What about you, gentle readers? What horror flicks could use a nice injection of song & dance? Sound off in the comments below!
Tags: A Nightmare on Elm Street, Brainscan, Cats, Chopping Mall, clive barker, David Cronenberg, Eli Roth, Horror, Hostel, Keith Doughty, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Midsommar, musical, Nathaniel Gundy, Nightbreed, Pieces, Return of the Living Dead, Slaughter High, Stage Fright: Aquarius, The Brood, The Ninth Configuration, The Thing With Two Heads, Tonys