When I saw the trailer for The Gallows and heard Thinking Up Anger’s cover of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” it made me realize what a trend it has become for horror films to use muted, minimalist instrumentation combined with ominous sounds and soft female vocals, if any vocals at all. It also got me thinking about some of my favorite music from horror flicks from past and present. It seems as though the soundtrack formula that was rampant throughout the 80s and continued into the 90s and early 2000s is largely becoming more and more scarce. While I’ll always admire and respect the suspenseful orchestrated scores from the likes of John Carpenter, Danny Elfman or Richard Band, as well as more modern experimental instrumental works from Goblin or John Zorn, I’ll always love the absurd and often dated rock soundtracks that always seemed to add a distinct level of chaos and even humor to the film. I’ve decided to take a look back at ten of my favorites.
1985, Enigma Records
I’ve always loved the presence of punk rock in horror and many people would agree that this zombie flick is the film that married the two together for the masses on the silver screen.
Featuring music from The Cramps, 45 Grave, T.S.O.L., The Flesh Eaters, Roky Erikson, The Damned, Tall Boys, The Jet Black Berries and SSQ, the classic soundtrack album is a must own for rockers and horror hounds alike.
Noteworthy track: The version of 45 Grave’s “Partytime” on this soundtrack is an exclusive mix for the film dubbed the “Zombie Version.”
1986, I.R.S. Records
Sequels are never as good as the originals, which is certainly the case here. Tobe Hooper’s 1974 classic is untouchable. However, I’ve got to admit that the first of its many sequels has the best soundtrack from the franchise.
Like The Return of the Living Dead from the year before it, the soundtrack for Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 contains one of my favorite bands, The Cramps. If I had my way, Lux Interior and Poison Ivy would be on every soundtrack for every film ever made. Also featured are Lords of the New Church, Concrete Blonde, Timbuk3, Torch Song, Stewart Copeland and Danny Elfman’s new wave ensemble Oingo Boingo.
Noteworthy track: The Cramps’ “Goo Goo Muck.” I’ll never forget the first time I heard it, when Leatherface and Chop Top, disguised as disgusting hippies, wreaked havoc upon KOKLA, home of Red River Rock and Roll. The twang set perfectly against the Midwestern backdrop and Lux’s howling vocals are more eerie than any violin could ever be.
Whether I’m compiling a list of my favorite albums or a list of my favorite movies, this is ALWAYS on it. Tales from the Crypt is important to any horror aficionado, in all of it’s various forms, whether comics, TV, film or music. Demon Knight, starring Billy Zane, William Sadler and Jada Pinkett Smith was a perfect continuation of the legacy.
The 90s were an eclectic time and this soundtrack is proof of that. From Pantera, Ministry, Machine Head and Megadeth, to Melvins, Rollins Band, Biohazard, Sepultura as well as Filter and dark Wu-Tang Clan side-project Gravediggaz. This album is the perfect blend of metal, thrash, hardcore punk, alternative and hip hop. Set to the film, it makes for one hell of a ride from start to finish.
Noteworthy track: Pantera’s “Cemetery Gates” was already a hit five years prior to Demon Knight’s release, but add John Kassir’s signature Crypt Keeper cackling laughter and it’s immediately one-hundred percent more awesome.
2007, Hob Knob Records
It Came from Trafalgar is something of a legend in itself. Written, directed and produced by Solomon Mortamur, Trafalgar is a black and white send-up of the sci-fi and monster movies of the 1950s. The cast roster boasts quite an impressive line up, consisting of Butch Patrick (The Munsters), Rudy Ray Moore (Dolemite), Linnea Quigley (The Return of the Living Dead), Gunnar Hansen (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), musicians Hank 3 and Joe Buck, as well as dancing outlaw Jesco White, just to name a few. The problem is that the film has never been released. Not yet. Clips and promotional material have strangely disappeared and reappeared all over the internet for years.
The official soundtrack was released in 2007, featuring a wide range of musical soundscapes, from horrorpunk and psychobilly to thrash metal and grindcore. Just as impressive and bizarre as the cast, the 28-track album contains music from Blitzkid, The Browns, Lugosi’s Morphine, Minor Disturbance, Anxieties, Psycho Charger, Dumpster Brothers, The Chuck Norris Experiment, Ten Ton Diesel Head, Mongrel, The Frankenhookers, Switchblade Hearts, Nuke & The Living Dead, The Gravetones, Greaser’s Palace, Unexplained, Cadavers, Existi, Sawyer Family, Dr. Daniel & The Rockabilly Vampires, Under a Nightmare, Monistats, Cut Frenzy, The Villains, Phantom Cruisers, Von Horrorbles, Mike Adams, and Nostragarlic. And that’s just Volume One.
Noteworthy track: Blitzkid’s “Demon Machine.” Simply because bassist and vocalist Argyle Goolsby is the hardest working man in horrorpunk. Whether it be his work with Gorgeous Frankenstein, Doyle, Blitzkid or his new band Argyle Goolsby and the Roving Midnight, the man is relentless and sticks to his DIY ethics.
2000, Go-Kart Records
Troma and punk rock go hand in hand. From in-film appearances such as JT Habersaat and his Altercation Punk Comedy Tour and the band Toilet Boys, down to the independent DIY ethics of Troma films, it’s safe to say that Lloyd Kaufman and the scene go together like Freddy Krueger and a furnace. This 1999 serial killer comedy is a textbook example of that relationship.
Featuring music from Lunachicks, Less Than Jake, Two Man Advantage, Sick Of It All, Melvins, Anti-Flag, Ensign, All, NOFX, GWAR, Vandals, Rocket from the Crypt, The Candy Snatchers, Under the Gun, Southport, The Bouncing Souls, Vision of Disorder, Down By Law, Toilet Boys, Parasites, Girls Against Boys, Doc Hopper and Entombed.
Noteworthy track: I want Entombed’s version of “Amazing Grace” to be played at my funeral. ‘Nuff said.
1992, Moonstone Records
I first saw Bad Channels when I was seven years old and I fell in love with it immediately. My parents took my VHS copy away from me because of the title and that probably made me love it more. Ultimately, it became my first exposure to the wonderful world of cheesy horror. When I became old enough to care about such things, Bad Channels ignited my passion for just about anything released by Charles Band and Full Moon Features. I was the weird kid who saw Bad Channels before Puppet Master.
The soundtrack is just as nuts as the movie, which was centered around a small town rock and roll radio station that becomes under alien attack. When I think of horror or science fiction, I do not think Blue Oyster Cult. Naturally, Blue Oyster Cult wrote the entire score for the movie and also take up most of the soundtrack. Other bands included are Joker, Fair Game, Sykotik Sinfoney, DMT and The Ukelaliens.
Noteworthy track: “Manic Depresso” by Sykotic Sinfoney warped my mind as a child and always stuck with me. Their scene in the movie features a singer dressed as a cow, a bass playing nun and one of the creepiest masks I’ve ever seen in my life. This song is the reason I want more weird rock and roll back in horror flicks.
1995, 40 Acres and a Mule Musicworks/MCA Soundtracks
Tales from the Hood is an often overlooked masterpiece. Consisting of four short stories centered around three urban drug dealers attempting to buy product from an eccentric story-telling funeral director, this anthology film was and still remains unlike anything else. Writer-director Rusty Cundieff and writer Darin Scott broke new ground by taking classic tales of horror and suspense and setting them against the reality of life in the streets.
The soundtrack, consisting entirely of gangsta rap, hardcore rap and horrorcore, shows that nothing else could have set the mood for the film more perfectly. Featured artists include Wu-Tang Clan, Facemob (with Scarface), Domino (with Chill), Spice 1, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, NME & Grench the Mean 1, Havoc & Prodege (with Dawn Green), MC Eiht, Gravediggaz, Bokie Loc, The Click and N.G.N. (with Killa).
Noteworthy track: The title track from Domino and Chill is retroactively a prime example of the culture of the time. The fact that it isn’t the typical horror soundtrack material is the exact reason that makes it perfect for it.
Surprise, another punk soundtrack. I was shocked when Aggronautix, a punk rock toy company, released a horror movie, but it made sense to me as soon as I heard the music from it. As the title suggests, the film is centered around the news stories from recent years in which people were becoming cannibals under the influence of the popular new drug.
The soundtrack, which can only be obtained by buying the film, features some of my favorite bands, such as The Dwarves, The Meatmen and hailing from my hometown, ANTiSEEN. Also included are Murder Junkies, World War IX, Combat Crisis, American Speedway, BugGiRL and The Gaggers.
Noteworthy track: The Dwarves’ “We Only Came To Get High,” because their music tends to heighten intensity, which is exactly what a horror flick needs.
2003, Roadrunner Records
Freddy Vs. Jason is decidedly not as awful as some of the other Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger sequels and reboots. Hell, when compared to Jason X, this movie is gold. Getting to see the two biggest heavy hitters of 80s slasher flicks go head to head? In 2003, we took it. It was a sad time in horror culture. If I knew the meaning of the word shame, this soundtrack would be what is referred to as a guilty pleasure. That’s why it’s next to the last. I may spin it in secret, but I do continue to enjoy this display of early 2000s numetal goodness.
Featured on this album are Ill Niño, Killswitch Engage, Spineshank, Mushroomhead, Seether, Hatebreed, Slipknot, Chimaira, From Autumn to Ashes, Sevendust, Powerman 5000, Murderdolls, Stone Sour, DevilDriver, Sepultura (with Mike Patton), The Blank Theory, Nothingface, In Flames, Lamb of God, Type O Negative, Brainbug and The Prodigy.
Noteworthy track: Sepultura’s “The Waste,” featuring Mike Patton. The kings of thrash and the God of all genres of music collaborating together for the film that combines the famous bad guy equivalents makes perfect sense.
1998, TVT Soundtrax
Released at the rise of body modification counter-culture and starring/written by Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider, it makes perfect sense that this film would have an emphasis on music. In spite of it being terribly dated and coming across as a dark after school special warning tale about the internet, I still enjoy this movie and the music in it.
As much as I hate Kid Rock, his inclusion featuring Eminem is almost hilarious to me and makes the film seem less serious. Unashamedly, I do enjoy just about every other track on the album. Other artists include Dee Snider, Sevendust, Megadeth, Pantera, Anthrax, Snot, dayinthelife, Coal Chamber, Bile, Marilyn Manson, Soulfly, (hed)P.E., The Clay People, System Of A Down, Nashville Pussy and Twisted Sister. Don’t judge me, we were all eleven years old once.
Noteworthy track: “Heroes Are Hard to Find” by Twisted Sister. Somewhere deep in my heart, I feel that horror is the perfect place for hair metal to live.
As an added bonus, here’s Fat Boys’ music video for “Are You Ready For Freddy?” featuring rappin’ Robert Englund.