Music is important in horror movies. The inclusion of a really great song at just the right moment can elevate a good scene into an amazing experience. A well placed & chosen song (a Killer Tune, if you will) can creep us out, be incredibly evocative, or make us laugh and totally transform a scene from commonplace to instant classic. Below are 10 of horror’s most memorable music cues.
10. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987) – Dream Warriors by Dokken
A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, and already incredible film, is elevated just that little bit more with the inclusion of a fun, cheesy and singable killer tune on its soundtrack. Dokken’s Dream Warriors is easily a high point for the entire series and it’s about as 80’s a track as you could hope to get. Cheesy, incredibly catchy, fist-pumping hair-metal.
9. Pet Sematary (1989) – Pet Sematary by Ramones
Throughout the late 70’s & 80’s, Ramones filled the airwaves with their catchy, pop-influenced brand of punk rock. In 1989 they contributed this killer tune to the soundtrack of Mary Lambert’s Pet Sematary. The song not only became a firm favourite with horror fans but also became one of the bands bonafide classics in its own right. A song has no business being this damn good when it’s being contributed for a soundtrack but it is.
8. The Lost Boys (1987) – Cry Little Sister by Gerald Mcmann
Few songs feel more synonymous with 80’s horror than Cry Little Sister. It’s not only a killer tune that elevates the atmosphere of the film but it’s also is an absolute belter in its own right. Unapologetically 80’s in almost every respect, The Lost Boys delivered in abundance, moments so kitsch they are now irrevocably seared into the public consciousness. What’s more 80’s? Keifer’s hair, Corey’s Jacket, or Tim Cappello’s oily sax-led gyrations? The Lost Boys also gave us one of the most recognizable horror themes of the 20th Century.
7. Silence of the Lambs (1991) – Goodbye Horses by Q Lazzarus
Set to perhaps one of the creepiest and most infamous scenes in horror history and it’s actually a great song. Well written and atmospheric, but in a scene that was almost removed from the film, all kinds of nope is felt. As Buffalo Bill does his special little dance to this killer tune, the audience feels a lot of things. Mainly shock. The real kicker is just how much of an ear-worm this song is. A jangly slice of atmospheric early 90’s rock that set this scene perfectly.
6. The Devils Rejects (2005) – Free Bird by Lynyrd Skynyrd
In picking Lynyrd Skynyrd’s stone-cold classic Free Bird for inclusion in The Devils Rejects, Rob Zombie proved he knows how to construct a soundtrack. I couldn’t think of a more fitting swan-song for the Firefly clan than this killer tune. Slow motion, guns blazing, shot down in a hail of bullets to one of the most recognizable slices of 70’s Americana. They may have been a family of despicable bastards but freedom was undoubtedly one of their hallmarks, perfectly illustrated in the song choosen to accompany this scene.
5. Dawn of the Dead (2004) – The Man Comes Around by Johnny Cash
Zach Snyder had his work cut out for him remaking Dawn of the Dead, one of the most respected and loved horror films of all time. Regardless of what you thought of the film, it certainly gets its opening credits sequence spot-on with the inclusion of this song. Set to chaotic imagery of mankind’s collapse, the lyrics and Cash’s soulful voice underlying the on-coming apocalypse perfectly. And who better to score the end of the world than The Man in Black?
4. American Psycho (2000) – Hip to be Square by Huey Lewis & The News
Patrick Bateman is a psychopath, but he’s also a gigantic nerd. It’s incredibly fitting that he chooses this song to dispatch Paul Allen as it basically describes Patrick in this moment. Decked out in a clear raincoat, brandishing an axe and wiggling his hips in time to the song, it is a moment that is both hilarious and disturbing. Hip suit? Check. Dad-dancing? Check. He fits the song choice for sure. The inclusion of an axe to the face is all Bateman though.
3. Insidious (2010) – Tiptoe Through The Tulips by Tiny Tim
Played throughout the course of Insidious, this song is old red-face’s jam. Tim’s impossibly high falsetto and accompanying ukulele make for some truly unsettling moments in Insidious. It’s actually quite hard to believe this song hasn’t been included in a horror film soundtrack prior to this. There’s certainly something about this odd, quirky little love song that puts one ill at ease. The song is undoubtedly is given a while new dimension when pasted into this film.
2. Scream (1996) – Red Right Hand by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
If a serial killer is going to have a cool theme song, it might as well come from one of the coolest men on the planet. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds we’re already an effortlessly cool band, it kinda made sense to utilize one of their songs to pass some of that swagger to Wes Craven’s Scream. Since the mid-nineties, this song has become synonymous with our favourite Ghost-Faced Killer because it is undoubtedly a killer tune. Scream wanted to make slasher movies hip again by including Mr Cave, it certainly made a step in the right direction.
1. The Shining (1980) Midnight, The Stars & You by Al Bowlly
Although it is played on occasion throughout the course of the film, Al Bowlly’s Midnight, The Stars and You is most memorably utilized during the films close. Through a slow pan of the halls of the now deserted Overlook Hotel, the camera focuses on a picture hanging on the wall outside The Gold Lounge. In a slow close-up we see Jack Torrance’s grinning face standing at the front of an assembled New Years party at The Overlook, then we clock the year in question. Every hair on your neck stands on end with the implication of this picture to the strains of this song. It is one of the most stark and memorable images in horror history.