Horror movies are a special breed of American culture, and it is not always about the content of the film. The music is a real driving force for the genre and it is one of those aspects of a horror movie that immortalizes the film.
Steven Spielberg and George Lucas have both acknowledged that if it weren’t for the music of John Williams, their movies would have never been the astronomical successes that they are today. Well, the same can be said for several horror movies.
These are the top 35 songs and theme music from horror movies that helped give each film its legendary status. Although many of these songs are equally as important as the next, I am going to list them here in a bubble that equates all of them as number one, at least in my opinion.
Horror Movie Songs:
Shocker was one of those Wes Craven horror films from the ‘80s that was just flat out fun as hell to watch. The tone and pacing of the film was on point at every given moment and the soundtrack for the film was hot as hell.
To top of the soundtrack for Shocker was the title song recorded for the movie by the ‘80s one-time supergroup, Dudes of Wrath. That included Paul Stanley (KISS) on vocals, Vivian Campbell (Def Leppard) on guitar, Rudy Sarzo (Whitesnake) on bass and Tommy Lee (Motley Crue) on drums.
But the film also featured Megadeth covering an Alice Cooper classic, “No More Mr. Nice Guy.” Megadeth actually was quite busy in the ‘80s and ‘90s providing music for horror and action movies, which turned out great for the films. The band immortalized their music for horror movies in a compilation album titled “Hidden Treasures.”
Friday the 13th: The Franchise. It would be hard to go through each film individually and pull out all of the fantastic music that made each Friday the 13th movie so awesome. Although most would point to Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives as the film with the most epic music, there are other notables that really need to be mentioned here.
Those notables would include Lion’s “Love is a Lie” from Friday the 13th Part IV, “His Eyes” by Pseudo Eyes on Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning as well as all the classics of Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives. See the videos below.
Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter
Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning
Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives
The Lost Boys also ranks high on the list due to its main draw, “Cry Little Sister” by G Tom Mac. The film also featured several great songs by various artists, which included the cover of The Doors classic, “People Are Strange.”
Go ahead and listen to them below. Let the nostalgia flow through your thriving horror hearts.
Return of the Living Dead has several reasons to be added to this list, which would include the main “Trioxin” theme song. But there is one song that just really stood out to me and I searched the web (many years ago) to download it straight to my iPod.
For those of you who remember the scene in Return of the Living Dead where
Frank (James Karen) decides that he doesn’t want to turn into the living dead, so he pulls out the rack on the cremator and seals himself inside to die, then you know the exact song that I am talking about. Roky Erickson’s “Burn the Flames.”
Roky Erickson is also a tragic goth musician with a history of mental illness in the late ‘60s and ‘70s that adds a much more creepy context to the song. Be sure to read about him on his Wikipedia page.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. The film itself had many reasons to be an epic horror fantasy, but there is one song in particular that really stood out to me. As with many horror fans, Dokken’s “Dream Warriors” gave the film an enhanced legendary status that still resonates with horror fans to this day.
Pet Semetary was almost guaranteed to be on this list, and some of you may have already started cursing me for not listing it until now. But like I said, this list is a bubble and each song receives the same level of credit from me.
The Ramones said it best with “I don’t want to be buried in a Pet Semetary.” Their titular song from the film gave it the added chill and morbid tragic feel that the film already had in spades.
Sleepwalkers might have been left off of this list altogether if it had not been for the song that rolled over the credits after the final scene. It might be unusual for you (or me) as a horror fan to ever consider Enya to be on a list for the top horror movie soundtracks songs, but “Boadicea” is deserving of that honor. Just listen it to it below and tell me if you agree.
Fright Night has a few songs to choose from, but there is one in particular that really stuck out for me and filled the scene with a seriously creepy vibe that it so deserved. That is Brad Fidel’s “Come To Me,” the instrumental version.
Demons 2 which is perhaps just as good as its Italian predecessor, featured a much larger venue for the apocalyptic demon franchise that terrorized audiences all across Europe and North America in the ‘80s
The Cult also added the right voice of flavor to Demons 2 with its fearsome hard rock song, “Rain.”
Deathgasm might be one of those horror films that focused a little more heavily on the comedy than the horror, but that does not mean that it did not rain blood in the streets. That means that metal music featured in the movie was quite extensive and to put it all on this list would be quite a chore.
But there is one song that stands out in Deathgasm that definitely warrants inclusion on this list, which is Skull Fist’s “Bad For Good.”
Demon Knight, by the producers of Tales From the Crypt, really loaded the film up with mountains of great rock and metal that had horror fans cheering from start to finish. Although that list might also be quite extensive for this article, there are a couple that I definitely want to include.
That brings us back to a track from Megadeth’s “Hidden Treasures” album, “Diadems.”
There is also that fantastic goth-like track from Filter, “Hey Man Nice Shot.”
Queen of the Damned might have been critically panned by reviewers worldwide, which would also include Anne Rice and her fans, but there is no doubt that the film had some serious mojo in the music department.
Once again, Queen of the Damned would be quite an extensive list, so I am including the track that I though had the biggest impact, which is Disturbed, “Down With The Sickness.” This track could also double qualify for its inclusion on the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead.
House on Haunted Hill was another one of those fun horror movies to watch that also gave birth to the modern way that film producers use special effects on ghosts to freak out an audience.
The film also used a particularly notable song from Marilyn Manson, “Sweet Dreams,” that fans had been waiting to hear on a horror movie. Considering the placement of the song in the film, it worked out really well, giving the audience a chilling melody to warm up to before the horror began.
I Know What You Did Last Summer was full of cheap scares and overused stereotypes, but the opening scene was an inviting moment for horror fans who listened to Type ‘O Negative’s cover of “Summer Breeze,” set against the slow drift of the camera over a dusk-lit, restless sea.
Return of the Living Dead 2 featured some of the same tricks as the original, which included some great rock hits by various artists.
Trick or Treat. You didn’t really think I was going to lave this horror gem off the list, did you? Check out the main track of the legendary metal horror movie below.
Horror Movie Themes:
Bram Stoker’s Dracula was the Francis Ford Coppola update to the original tale by the 19th century author that immortalized the story for a modern audience way back in 1992. Coppola gave the grunge-era audience an intensely horrifying version of the film that had never been seen before, which included Gary Oldman feeding a baby to his vampire wives.
To accompany the strongly disturbing film, the theme to Bram Stoker’s Dracula packed just enough of an extra punch that made every single detail of the film a creepy, unsettling experience.
Halloween II (1981) actually has something a little extra with its theme over the original 1978 film by John Carpenter. Although Carpenter’s original theme was quite captivating and inviting for horror audiences, the theme for the sequel just seemed to click better for me. You be the judge and listen to it below.
The Exorcist… is there really anything to say about this theme song that you don’t already know?
Phantasm is the low budget horror film from 1979 that still reverberates to this day with echoes of content and music all over the horror community. This is just a good example of what it looks like when a dedicated team of horror professionals come together with very little money ($300,000) and make the best of what they have, which was remarkable.
Pyscho (1960) as a movie was flawless, but the theme music added to its tremendous power that upset audiences all around he country in 1961.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) was a horror movie that redefined the definition of a psycho killer and merged it with the terrifying powers of the supernatural. The theme song for the film really mixed well with the intended tone of the film as well.
28 Days Later was a masterpiece of tension filled horror, as was its theme song.
World War Z was an attempt to legitimize the zombie genre in film (based on a book of the same name that featured news reports) with what appeared to be containment from the point of view of world leaders and the World Health Organization. Although most horror fans had a “love it or hate it” opinion of the film, the theme music was a chilling, realistic version as opposed to what zombie horror has classically sounded like.
The Return of the Living Dead gave horror fans worldwide a good laugh for many reasons, including the theme song.
Demons original theme song gave the film the necessary buildup to the Italian style of scares that fans really loved in the ’80s.
Although this list is not exactly extensive from my own point of view, there is a good possibility that I have missed or forgotten about a few gems out there from the horror movie industry. I encourage you to sound off in the comments with the music that I have missed.
Horror fans can see an extensive playlist of these songs and more below.
[Featured Image via Orion Pictures]