Rock and roll was transgressive stuff when it hit airwaves in the 1950s. Perhaps then it makes sense that rock music and the horror genre would make such suitable bedfellows. For a genre that relies so heavily on audience mood and feeling, picking just the right song can take a fairly standard moment and turn it into a scene that sears itself into your memory.
For this instalment of The Chopping Block, I’m not looking at musical scores in horror films (that would make a good future list). Instead I am looking at horror film moments that make excellent use of rock music to amplify the mood and scares. This is NOT a ranked list – it’s just a highlight of horror film rock moments that stick out for me.
The Lost Boys – Walk This Way
Source: The Filmmakers Studio
If you grew up in the 1980’s, there’s a good chance you saw The Lost Boys. It was the first horror movie I saw in theatres. Directed by Joel Schumacher, The Lost Boys perfectly blended comedy and horror. From its fashion and casting, it’s also the perfect 80’s time capsule. Of course, it wouldn’t be a great 80’s film if it didn’t boast some killer tunes, and The Lost Boys’ soundtrack was a pretty decent collection that included a great INXS tune.
Picking one great horror scene overlapped with music from The Lost Boys was tough. In the end, it’s tough to beat the combination of Run-DMC and Aerosmith. First, it’s a great song and one that arguably resurrected Aerosmith’s career. Most importantly, the contrast between the raunchy rap-rock anthem and the film’s first vampire reveal of David and his ‘lost boys’ gives the moment the resonance it needed. You’ll want to “sleep all day, and party all night” after watching this scene.
Jason Lives – Teenage Frankenstein
It would be a huge oversight to not have an Alice Cooper song somewhere on this list. Before Marilyn Manson or Slipknot, Alice Cooper mixed occult themes with rock music, adopting elements of the horror genre into his stage show. Both Cooper and the Friday the 13th franchise had reached the stage of self-parody in the mid-1980s, so while Teenage Frankenstein may not be his best song its silly lyrics fit the horror sequel quite well. Teenage Frankenstein also plays over one of the best moments in Jason Lives – the sight of a character’s face forming an indent outside the RV is a series’ highlight. As silly as the song’s lyrics might be, the echo in the scene’s final moments elicits just the right amount of chills.
House on Haunted Hill – Sweet Dreams
If Alice Cooper is on this list then Marilyn Manson couldn’t be far behind. Manson’s theatrical hard rock is perfectly suited for horror films. How could songs with titles like If I Were Your Vampire not work for horror? While the House on Haunted Hill remake is underwhelming, doing little to make older fans forget the Vincent Price original, its early use of Manson’s music is pitch perfect. Manson’s Sweet Dreams, itself a cover version of an Eurythmics song, slows down the song and gives it a haunting vibe. Its use in a montage while guests receive their supernatural invite to the last party they’ll ever attend is elevates what’s an otherwise bad movie.
High Tension – New Born
Horror fans have a ‘love-hate’ relationship with Alexandre Aja’s ‘New French Extremity’ film, High Tension. For most of its run time, High Tension lives up to its title, delivering a relentlessly tense gut-punch to audiences. An ‘out-of-left field’ twist may ruin the film for some viewers. However, one thing most people should be able to agree on is Aja’s use of Muse single, New Born. Muse have a distinct, science-fiction quality to their music, giving many of their songs a natural cinematic feel. New Born’s opening piano chords and the following guitar riff manage to evoke the feelings of isolation and desperation fitting to the scene. It’s a memorable moment in High Tension that also nicely sets up the film’s climax.
House of 1000 Corpses – I Remember You
Rob Zombie is a divisive filmmaker but one area in which he is arguably a master is the use of music in his films. Given his musical background, it’s not entirely surprising that Zombie has a knack for picking just the right song to evoke particular feelings from his audience.
House of 1000 Corpses is far from a perfect film but Zombie’s incorporation of Slim Whitman’s country version of I Remember You may be the most haunting moment in a film filled with disturbing images. It’s the contrast between the song’s almost lackadaisical melody and the brutality you’re watching that really makes this scene work. While it may seem odd to say given just how disturbing the imagery is here, Zombie shows a lot of restraint, patiently drawing out the horror. It stands as one of the best moments in a Zombie film and the song selection deserves some of that credit.