Remember when movies had theme songs? Apart from the Bond movies, it feels like this tradition has waned a little.
It is not completely extinct yet, but its is definitely not a prominent trend anymore. No Power Rock ballad sang the praises of the little man succeeding in the big world during the end credits of Ant-Man, nor did LL Cool JJ enrich the experience of Guardians of the Galaxy with a tie-in single called “I Am Groot”.
What was the last noteworthy example of its kind? Men in Black maybe?
However, there was a time when they were all the rage and that also applied to horror movies. There have been a few that are still very well known and popular: Alice Cooper’s Jason Vorhees-anthem “He’s Back (The Man behind the Mask)” from Friday the 13th: Jason Lives (1986), Robert Englund showing questionable rap skills alongside the Fat Boys in “Are you ready for Freddy?” from A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988) and of course The Ramones’ epic titular song for Pet Sematary (1989).
These are the most well-known ones, but there are much, much more and this time I want to take a look at the lesser played ones.
A few notes in advance:
- To qualify for the list, the song has to be tailor-made for the movie, in the best case with a reference to the title or plot in the lyrics/chorus. So no songs that are solely associated with a certain movie because they have been used to great effect in it. “Every Breath You Take” from Cat’s Eye (1985) does not qualify for example.
- It has to be a “song”, means with singing and lyrics and stuff. So no instrumental tracks by film music composers, if you are looking for an article about those, read here.
- Many horror fans will know a bunch of these, that’s why I chose “less played” over “less known” as defining attribute.
“Song of Madman Marz”
by Gary Sales
from Madman (1982)
Madman is a slasher movie rustic-style, horror entertainment with a touchingly sincere and simplistic quality. This tone is wonderfully complimented by the theme song with its hearty folk vocals and the earnestly dramatic CASIO- tune. The heart is definitely in the right place with this one.
“The Ballad of Harry Warden”
performed by John McDermott, written by Paul Zaza
from My Bloody Valentine (1981)
A seriously great folky song from the classic Canadian slasher movie. Scottish-Canadian singer McDermott’s smooth voice combined with the haunting lyrics and the slick, harmonious production make for a memorable little ditty that will stay with you long after the end credits have rolled.
“Move your dead bones”
written by Jordi Cubino & Julya Lisovichenko, performed by Dr. Re-Animator
from Beyond Re-Animator (2003)
“Re-animate your feet.” Nothing screams “Lovecraftian atmosphere” more than an upbeat Eurodance- track, the hottest shit in R’lyeh right now (don’t judge, they’re out of the loop due ton the remote location). Or at least director Brian Yuzna must have thought so when he hid this hilarious gem, whose lyrics put a positive spin on the Herbert West- story (“you can dance forever”), in the end credits of the third instalment of the Re-Animator saga.
Thanks to Nick Nightly for pointing out this one out to me.
“Happy Birthday to me”
performed by Syreeta
from Happy Birthday to Me (1981)
Another fine, stylish Canadian slasher, but one that does not get mentioned or appreciated enough or at least I feel that way. Syreeta’s (1946-2004, gone too soon) lovely voice is the highlight of the lushly produced theme song with the mysterious note.
“Maniac Cop Rap”
performed by Yeshwua (Josh) Barnes and Brian “B.Dub” Woods
from Maniac Cop 2 (1990)
“Set him on fire, I shoot him with an Uzi / but he’ll show up in your Jacuzzi.” Sample lyrics from the “Maniac Cop Rap”, a truly curious remnant from a period in time when suddenly every third mainstream output had to have a topical rap song (Addams Family, Wild Wild West etc.). This is the best one since Partners in Kryme’s invaluable musical and lyrical contribution to the hot issue of turtle empowerment. Maniac Cop 2 is one of the rare sequels that surpass the original and its whacky theme song perfectly matches the movie in terms of entertainment value. “You have the right to remain silent…FOREVER!”
“Angela’s Theme” (aka “You’re Just What I’ve Been Looking For”)
written and performed by Frank Vinci
from Sleepaway Camp (1983)
Early 80s slasher movies and haunting pop songs somehow seem to go great together, as this is the third entry on the list that counts on that winning combination. The lyrics reveal an ominous quality if you know about the final twist this movie became famous for and that elevated it beyond being just another run-off-the-mill teen slasher from the golden era of the subgenre.
“The Fear” aka “Morty’s Theme”
written and performed by Esham
from The Fear (1995)
The 1995 movie The Fear (1995) revolves around a group of people suffering from different phobias meeting for a psychological study, supervised by a psychologist played by Wes Craven (!) in a cabin in the woods, only to be killed off one by one by a wooden mannequin (!!) with the intimidating name “Morty”(!!!), who looks a little like the love child of the Bicentennial Man and Pinocchio.
I’ve seen the movie only once upon its VHS release and considered it to be a pile of shit, yet I don’t know if the 90s cheese factor probably would play in its favour nowadays. Anyway, the rocking “Morty’s theme” by horrorcore rap artist Esham is undeniably far better than the movie deserves and still feels fresh.
written by Paul Zaza and Carl Zittrer
from Prom Night (1980)
Prom Night features the misdeeds of a masked killer on the screen and Disco songs on the soundtrack. Shortly after, Disco was declared dead. Coincidence?
performed by Ray Stevens
from Cat’s Eye (1985)
With its rather generic 80s upbeat pop rock sound and by-the-numbers structure, the song does not really reflect the tone of the marvellous anthology movie that is based on three Stephen King- stories. As alluded to above, Sting’s “Every Breath You Take” might actually be the secret main theme it will always be remembered for. That said, the official theme is also kind of catchy.
“The Graveyard Shift”, end credits song
from Graveyard Shift (1990)
Stephen King adaptations, good ones and bad ones, are aplenty and Graveyard Shift is rather an odd, if enjoyable side note in the filmography of the master. But the end credits song, a hypnotic collage of film dialogue snippets uttered by the lead actors Andrew Divoff, Brad Dourif and Stephen Macht, accompanied by a wicked bassline, once again transcends the movie it was made for. Sadly, I could not find out who is responsible for creating this great piece of avantgardist music.
“Why Was I Born (Freddy’s Dead)”
written and performed by Iggy Pop
from Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991)
Sue me, but not only do I think that the often derided sixth instalment of the Nightmare on Elm Street series has a strange charm about it, I also love Iggy Pop’s contribution to the soundtrack, a metal/rock track that uses tempo changes to great effect and with an unwieldy melody that unfolds its full earworm potential on repeat listening. I might be alone with my opinion, as the song received a Razzie nomination for “Worst Original Song”.
The superb “Hellraiser” (from Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth, 1992) by Motörhead might make Jesus weep, but it is the best anthem Pinhead could ever hope for.
“Shocker” from the eponymous Wes Craven directed, well, shocker from 1989, is performed by “The Dudes of Wrath”, a temporary supergroup composed of Gene Simmons and members of Mötley Crüe as well as Whitesnake and Van Halen. Hair Metal forces unite against the Evil.
“Love Song for a Vampire” by Annie Lennox is a solid piece of synth-pop and a worthy end credits song for Francis Ford Coppola’s gorgeous adaptation of Dracula (1992).
While the blaxploitation-homage Bones (2001) about the vengeful ghost of a pimp (!) was rather disappointing, lead actor Snoop Dogg at least put some effort into the star-studded soundtrack album at least.
Warwick Davis is a Leprechaun in the Hood (2000) and he came to do no good. Especially to our ears.
That’s all folks, stay creepy.