Horror wasn’t always at its best in the 1990s. But the music was fantastic. Take your pick of the 1960s or 1990s for best music decade. And horror movies had one thing going for them in the 1990s – their soundtracks featured songs by actual bands. Unless you loved the disco scene from Prom Night, this was a nice development. In the 1990s, it was pretty standard for horror movies – particularly ones directed to teens – to have a soundtrack. Typically, these soundtracks included a recognizable big hit, a few big name bands doing cover versions, and a handful of smaller indie artists. Not all the soundtracks were killer, but below are seven of the best released in the 1990s.
Demon Knight (1995)
Odds are if you’re a diehard horror fan and grew up in the 90’s, you probably loved Demon Knight. Critics generally hated it, but horror fans embraced it. And the soundtrack is pure 1990’s metal. Pantera’s Cemetary Gates kicks things off, while Filter’s massive hit single, Hey Man, Nice Shot finishes it off. In between, the Demon Knight soundtrack serves up some Ministry, Machinehead, Biohazard, Megadeth, and Melvins. That’s a heavy soundtrack. Picking a favourite is hard, but my personal preference is Sepultura’s Policia.
Brainscan isn’t a very good movie by any definition. In fact, it’s a completely forgettable 90’s horror movie starring the kid from Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Edward Furlong. Consider it another movie that imagines technology can do just about anything. But as tired as the movie’s concept might be, the soundtrack boasts a lot of underground bands. A remix of White Zombie’s hit single, Thunder Kiss ‘65 is the soundtrack’s only immediately recognizable track. From that point onward, the Brainscan soundtrack treats you to TAD, Primus, Dandelion, Butthole Surfers, and Mudhoney. In fact, the contrast between the movie and soundtrack is more interesting than the movie itself. On one hand, Brainscan is a generic 1990s horror movie. Conversely, the soundtrack is a gritty collection of garage-band grunge.
Idle Hands (1999)
Maybe someday horror-comedy Idle Hands will get the credit its due. In the meantime, we can enjoy the pretty cool soundtrack that accompanied the movie. This mix of metal and punk has some decent cast-off songs from Blink 182 and The Offspring. And metal fans will be happy to find Rob Zombie’s Dragula alongside Static-X single, Push It. But it’s tracks from Zebrahead, The Living Dead, and Unwritten Law that will make punk rock fans happy. Arguably, The Vandals’ My Girlfriend’s Dead wins for best album track.
I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)
As one of the first of the slasher-lite teen horror movies that followed Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer is probably the best of the imitators. If Jennifer Love Hewitt isn’t a big enough selling factor for you, try the soundtrack out. None of the songs really mesh together in any coherent way. And most of the bands have long been forgotten. Southern Culture on the Skids, anyone? But just about all the tracks are quite good. Toad the Wet Sprocket, L7, and Type O Negative all deliver their own unique twists on older songs. There’s an Offspring B-side alongside Our Lady Peace’s biggest hit-single south of the border, Clumsy. What’s the best track on the soundtrack? Kula Shaker’s Deep Purple cover of Hush.
The Faculty (1999)
Not surprisingly, a few of the soundtracks on this list haven’t aged that well. Not all music (or artists) have the same staying power. On its release, Robert Rodriguez’s The Faculty was an under-appreciated blend of horror and science-fiction. In addition to its stacked cast, The Faculty’s soundtrack spotlighted some of the decade’s more popular musical acts. Most of the songs are covers or B-sides. But both The Offspring and Stabbing Westward contribute strong tracks from their own recents releases. By the end of the decade, Soul Asylum had faded from the mainstream. Still their Alice Cooper School’s Out cover is fun. If you can ignore the presence of Creed on the soundtrack, you can enjoy the all-star collaboration Class of ‘99 cover version of Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall.
The Craft (1996)
As different as it is from The Crow soundtrack (see below), The Craft shares one thing in common. Both soundtracks perfectly capture the musical year in which they were released. By 1996, grunge was pretty much on the way out. Brooding, sullen rock was giving way to a broader range of sunnier, “alternative” rock. And that’s what you get here. First, Canadian rockers Our Lady Peace turn in a pretty good cover of The Beatles’ Tomorrow Never Knows. Forgotten alternative pop-rockers Heather Nova and Julianna Hatfield each contribute infectious tracks. Best remembered for his catchy guitar riffs, Matthew Sweet adds his own eclectic song to the mix. Arguably, the best songs are Love Spit Love’s Smiths’ cover of How Soon is Now, and Letters to Cleo doing their best The Cars’ imitation with Dangerous Type.
The Crow (1994)
Technically, The Crow isn’t a horror movie. But it’s supernatural premise is enough to qualify. And The Crow soundtrack was one of the most definitive 1990’s movie soundtracks, horror or otherwise. It perfectly captures the music scene from a year widely regarded as the best from the decade. Several musical styles converge on this soundtrack. Grunge-rock (Stone Temple Pilots), Industrial rock (Nine Inch Nails, My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult), Thrash metal (Pantera), Shoegaze (The Jesus and Mary Chain), New Wave (The Cure) – it’s an eclectic collection. Yet in spite of the soundtrack’s diversity, all the tracks hang together. Nothing sounds out of place. Everything here fits the morose atmosphere of the movie and James O’Barr’s graphic novel.