No one would argue that horror movie scores are an essential spice to crafting any successful horror movie’s tone, let alone the effectiveness of the scares. Anyone worth their salt can name off the greats: Bernard Herrmann, John Carpenter and Alan Howarth, Goblin, Pino Donaggio, Harry Manfredini, Angelo Badalamenti, Christopher Young, John Harrison, Jay Chattaway, and Marco Beltrami – frankly, the list could go on and on. But with the advent of soundtracks, (for example, “Music From and Inspired by END OF DAYS” – a soundtrack I spent way too much time listening to) you’ve now got songwriters putting wordsmiths to work cranking out delicious tunes for audiences to devour alongside their spooky imagery all in one compact disc (ask your parents) that will sit on the shelves beside the artists who composed these OSTs. Today, Daily Grindhouse wants to highlight ten underrated songs from some memorable horror movies:
“If Tomorrow Comes” – Modern Man (from DAY OF THE DEAD, 1985)
“Life begins. Then it ends. Turn the page to start again.”
While George Romero’s filmography is known for its memorable scores (MARTIN, DAWN OF THE DEAD, CREEPSHOW, TWO EVIL EYES), it’s rarely known for having songs dotted throughout (save for the dopey CREEPSHOW Ed Harris dance and the later BRUISER). Enter John Harrison and his beautiful, taut score for DAY OF THE DEAD. The end credits song, “If Tomorrow Comes,” is a light, airy reprieve from the cutthroat, tightrope tension that Romero has masterfully orchestrated over the course of his film. The composition of the song is structured perfectly – the music is a neat contrast to the freedom the survivors feel, but the lyrics still hint at the uncertainty at the future they face, and whether there is one or not.
“Red Harvest” – Paul Saax (from JACK’S BACK, 1988)
“The stars forsake me. They go and take me down. Where can I run? Red harvest comes.”
Red Harvest was a song born out of necessity. Originally, Rowdy Harrington, the director of JACK’S BACK, wanted to have Peter Gabriel’s “Red Rain” playing over the opening credits, but due to the low budget of the film, the dough couldn’t be ponied up. So, Paul Saax was brought in to pen the sublimely noir-ish pop song that starts off the film, and coupling this tune with the terrifying image of a streetwalker being menaced in a moonlit, foggy alley serves to create an iconic start to an underrated horror film. Who among us doesn’t remember the image of the photo of the screaming prostitute dissolving into clarity over the film’s opening credits seared into our brain? Also, with the changing of the songs, means the title of the film had to change from RED RAIN to JACK’S BACK, giving us a B-movie title with an A-movie taste.
“Stigmata Martyr” – Bauhaus (from NIGHT OF THE DEMONS, 1988)
“Look into your crimson orifice. In holy remembrance. In scarlet bliss.”
Bauhaus has always had a great relationship with horror, earlier in the decade having their landmark track “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” in THE HUNGER. This entry is sort of a cheat as Stigmata Martyr came out in 1985, just three years before NIGHT OF THE DEMONS, and thusly wasn’t released to be associated with the funeral home fright-fest. Still, this song and the scene with which it’s closely associated should be as memorable as the lipstick nipple trick but sadly isn’t. It’s Amelia Kinkade performing a self-choreographed dance that’s so sexy and enchanting all to the subdued strains of Bauhaus. We the viewer recognize this as Angela seducing the thick-as-a-brick Sal, the snake turning its scales on the charmer. The scene reaches its peak, as the strobe light turns on flickering over the erotic tableau Angela presents, giving her a flickering, staccato rhythm that all but entrances you. It reminds me a little of the seductive tango by Elizabeth Peña in JACOB’S LADDER. We know how that turned out.
“Darkest Side of The Night” – Peter Freddette (from FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VIII: JASON TAKES MANHATTAN, 1989)
“Neon shadows that point the way, never lead you out, it’s a game they play. The madness comes and the madness goes. It’s a simple world. But it’s all they know.”
JASON TAKES MANHATTAN director Rob Hedden initially wanted to have a song from Robert Plant’s album Now and Zen play over the opening establishing shots of New York, but costly royalties meant we didn’t get to hear the Led Zeppelin lead singer’s tunes in a FRIDAY THE 13TH film. Your guess is as good as mine as to what song it would’ve been, because Hedden never mentioned the title. Again, we’re working with necessary change here – meaning the director’s stylistic intent was hampered by a film’s low budget, but since it netted us a classic song like “Darkest Side of the Night,” I can’t argue with what happened here. The song, composed by Fred Mollin and Stan Meissner, gels beautifully with the nighttime New York imagery – the lust, the appeal, the terror, soothing ans seducing you into the tale of Jason Voorhees terrorizing the Big Apple.
“Shocker “– The Dudes of Wrath (from SHOCKER, 1989)
“The homeless shudder cause the leaves are turning. The winter’s comin’ with its cold compassion. A killer’s loose and the dead stand trial.”
SHOCKER is Wes Craven’s foray into high voltage, heavy metal horror. Thus, it would make sense that the soundtrack to the film would feature some of metal music’s biggest artists like Dangerous Toys (providing a track about the TV-repairing madman Horace Pinker), a cover of No More Mr. Nice Guy by Megadeth – a particularly memorable song, especially for the scene it plays over in the film. But I enjoy the titular song SHOCKER from The Dudes of Wrath, the lead-off song for the film, written and performed by a murderer’s row of musical talent from ace songwriter Desmond Child to punk producer Jean Beauvoir, Paul Stanley of KISS, Rudy Sarzo from Quiet Riot, and Ozzy Osbourne’s solo work plucking at the bass, Tommy Lee banging on the drums, and Vivian Campbell noodling on the guitar. God, what a perfectly 80’s lineup of musicians all in one place. SHOCKER by the Dudes of Wrath is the appropriate bloody war cry to Horace Pinker bashing his television, and surfing the channels through the nightmarish wasteland of the apocalyptic images of the boob tube. I can’t see the Universal logo without hearing the ominous pounding drums and clanging guitars of the Dudes of Wrath thereby thinking of SHOCKER.
“Leatherface” – Lääz Rockit (from LEATHERFACE: TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE III, 1990)
“Here’s your invitation to come join Leatherface! It’s his addiction to keep you face to face. Screaming in the darkness, after nailing you down, swinging the hammer, no one hears a sound.”
At the beginning of the titular track that closes out Leatherface’s New Line Cinema sojourn into the ’90s, a chainsaw roars, signaling that you’re about to be served a Texas-sized (okay, Los Angeles) helping of thrash metal courtesy of Lääz Rockit. The lyrics are also a throwback to the days when artists wrote songs about horror movies, whether they be describing the plot (PET SEMATARY), or a balladeers ode to the film’s villain (“The Ballad of Harry Warden“) up to the recent FRIDAY THE 13TH by The Misfits. The franchise was never a song heavy, save for a couple of the sequels – Part 2 has one of the best needle drops in ’80s horror with Oingo Boingo’s “No One Lives Forever.” Lääz Rockit’s “Leatherface” is an excellent headbanging ode to the creepy, chainsawing lunatic from the Deep South. It’s the perfect dessert to an unfairly maligned meal.
“I’m Awake Now” – Goo Goo Dolls (from FREDDY’S DEAD – THE FINAL NIGHTMARE, 1991)
“There’s a wall of confusion building. And the sky begins to bleed on me. Don’t fall asleep to dream.”
The NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET was always the franchise that was stockpiled with MTV-ready hits. Think back to Dokken’s monster mash DREAM WARRIORS, or The Fat Boys’ humorous hip-hop horror, “Are You Ready for Freddy?” And the less said about “Freddy’s Greatest Hits” is probably for the best. “Anything, Anything” by Dramarama is also a good choice. But before the Goo Goo Dolls would pen ballads for Nicolas Cage remakes and odes to black balloons, they were enjoying a residency on Metal Blade Records and dropped “I’m Awake Now” (in addition to other tracks) on the soundtrack to FREDDY’S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE. I finally bought the song all these years later when I was curating a Halloween playlist, and got some notice for including a song that admittedly, not many people have heard of. But what threw me off is how different the song is from the version I’ve seen at the beginning of FREDDY’S DEAD. Because I’d only heard the opening snippets of the song, once I’d listened to the full version – it was an annoyingly time compressed version. I get why the song is edited in as certain way, but hearing the longer version always messes with my lizard brain. When you expect a chorus and you get another verse instead? Oof, it’s mind melting. I will say this, the editing of the footage and the way the song is deployed in the film, with the New Line Cinema logo forming together and the chorus kicking in right as the screen flashes a typically obscene Freddy Krueger quote, is the perfect kickoff for Freddy’s head-trip foray into the ’90s.
“Poison Heart” – The Ramones (from PET SEMATARY TWO, 1992)
“You know that life really takes its toll. And a poet’s gut reaction is to search his very soul.”
Is there a band so ingrained to an author’s bibliography as The Ramones are to Stephen King? They’re referenced in his novels and the band returned the favor by composing a song for PET SEMATARY. When compiling a list of horror movie songs, it’d be too easy to put down The Ramones’ classic chiller PET SEMATARY and call it a day. That song is immensely memorable and fantastic, giving us a microcosm plot summation of Stephen King’s cold-blooded supernatural horror with a pop-punk styling. Instead, I’d like to highlight a track from their ’90s album, Mondo Bizarro – the song that closes out the underrated sequel PET SEMATARY TWO – “Poison Heart.” Where PET SEMATARY doesn’t fit with the dark tone of the film it’s in, “Poison Heart” speaks to the down-trodden, depressing world of Mary Lambert’s sequel. In these few minutes, we hear of a world of regret, loss, pain and haunting rot that permeates Joey Ramone’s lyrics here. It’s the perfect companion piece to Paramount’s emo sequel.
“And Fools Shine On” – Brother Cane (from HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS, 1995)
“Your attention, my addiction. Fear no evil. You’ll be safe in here. I was saved in here.”
Anyone who says that HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS is the worst HALLOWEEN entry is both vehemently wrong and also has apparently never suffered through the reshot to shit disasterpiece that is HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION. For those of us that aren’t offended by the odd turns into cults (hi, Anya) and the bizarre fart-rock turn that Alan Howarth gave to the HALLOWEEN theme, we have the pleasure of enjoying the perfect slice of mid-’90s alternative rock known as “And Fools Shine On” (hi, BC) by Brother Cane (a name which nicely fits into the religion gone haywire theme of THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS, but is definitely a coincidence). Penned by Marti Frederiksen, a songsmith for artists like Buckcherry and Black Veil Brides, musicians you’d find on the tramp-stamp music circuit and Damon Johnson – the song is a bonafide blast, from the plunky, pebbly guitar at the beginning to its distorted finish. The song briefly appears in the film, when the dead meat cast shows up at the school early in the film, but only in the theatrical cut – I believe it does not appear in the producer’s cut. The song is on iTunes and deserves to be the deep cut choice for aficionados of Dimension Films sequels.
“Poultrygeist” – Calamari Safari (from POULTRYGEIST: NIGHT OF THE CHICKEN DEAD, 2006)
“How would you like to be baked and broiled? Thrown in a pot to be friend with some oil?”
The beating heart and soul of Troma Studios is that of anarchistic punk. Look no further than “Poultrygeist,” the titular track from Troma’s splatter-rama POULTRYGEIST: NIGHT OF THE CHICKEN DEAD. It’s an insatiably satirical earworm. “Poultrygeist” is a bouncy, hooligan punk song that perfectly complements the tone of the gut-munching musical while retaining the full-blown “fuck you” attitude to the fast-food industry. The track rests alongside cuts like “Slow Fast Food Love,” “Revenge Is A Dish Best Served Fried,” “Lone Gay Man’s Last Words,” and “Green Eggs and Pam.” I remember back in the days of MySpace, Troma offered up the track to put on your page, but the downside was that due to the player’s wonky embedding, no matter what page you went to, the track followed you everywhere. So you’d be reading the news on Fangoria-dot-com and be forced to listen to Calamari Safari hijacking your ear drums. It wasn’t too bad the first one hundred times it happened.
Tags: Alan Howarth, Angelo Badalamenti, Bauhaus, Bernard Herrmann, Christopher Young, Composers, Freddy Krueger, Goblin, Harry Manfredini, Horror, Jason Voorhees, Jay Chattaway, Joey Ramone, john carpenter, John Harrison, Leatherface, Marco Beltrami, Mary Lambert, Michael Myers, music, Oingo Boingo, Paul Saax, Peter Freddette, Pino Donaggio, Ramones, Rob Hedden, Rowdy Harrington, Scores, Soundtracks, Stephen King, The Fat Boys, Troma, Wes Craven