In a recent piece for the UK Guardian, Stephen Thrower discussed the dramatic function of a good horror movie soundtrack. Citing examples like the themes from Halloweenand The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, as well as Mike Oldfield's "Tubular Bells" (memorably used in The Exorcist), Thrower identifies what can make horror music so affecting: "If you truly want the audience to experience the clammy thrill of the grotesque, the uncanny and the fearful, you have to reach for the unfamiliar, the perplexing, even the ugly."
The following Halloween movie songs are indeed ugly, and when one considers what the artists were attempting to articulate, also quite perplexing. Affecting? Well, that's another story.
5. The Fat Boys, "Are You Ready for Freddy," A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master
It's not often that you hear a flayed-faced, pizza-gorging, teen-killing sociopath linked with the expression "puttin' on the Ritz." Then again, it is slang for dressing fashionably, and Freddy Krueger's sweater-and-fedora combo was quite swanky. The Fat Boys' "Are You Ready For Freddy" also discloses that the knife-fingered antagonist from the Nightmare franchise stands "like a flasher" and is "cool as ice." Hey assholes, way to deconstruct a dude's tough-guy image. Later, we arrive at the song's unquestioned highlight: Freddy actually raps. More than 20 years on, I can't quite determine if "Are You Ready for Freddy" was more of a nadir for horror film music or '80s hip-hop.
4. Alice Cooper, "He's Back (The Man Behind the Mask)," Friday the 13th, Part VI: Jason Lives
Alice Cooper's live shows in the '70s -- which often featured the shock rocker's mock execution by hanging, guillotine, or the electric chair -- rival anything portrayed in a slasher film. Which makes "He's Back (The Man behind the Mask)"'s status as a dud so inexplicable. For starters, the song's primary conceit is a bit shaky, mainly because the hockey-masked, Friday the 13th villain Jason Voorhees was Brett Favre-like in his ability to never quite go away. One can forgive the '80s sonic touchstones (big, fat synthesizers; gated reverb on the snare). However, the lyrics sound like Cooper idly scratched them out while having his makeup done for a gig. "He's out of control!" Cooper says of Jason. Later: "He's a dangerous, dangerous man." A bit understated; don't you think, Alice? How about eye-poppingly, face-smashingly dangerous?
3. Dokken, "Dream Warriors," A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
Throughout the course of nine movies, Freddy Krueger survived, among other things: a rather nasty conflagration, multiple stab wounds, a pipe bomb, beheading by machete, and (my personal favorite) "babality." Yet he was no fucking match for the immense power of Don Dokken's falsetto. The final 60 seconds of Dokken's video for "Dream Warriors" is so righteous. "Maybe tonight you'll be gone," Dokken squeals to Freddy, while executing a "You're outta here!" thumb gesture typical of baseball umpires. Dokken points accusingly, plays with his hair, steps forward, and spreads his fingers like he's casting a spell. Freddy finally reaches his bad-music threshold and covers his ears. We can all sympathize.
2. Jennifer Love Hewitt, "How Do I Deal," I Still Know What You Did Last Summer
I Still Know What You Did Last Summer casting director on the phone with I Still Know What You Did Last Summer producer Neal H. Moritz: "Well, Jennifer is on board with showing more of her Danny DeVitos in the film, there's just one caveat ... She wants to do a song for the movie soundtrack." [The casting director winces at the expletive-laden tirade coming from the phone.] "What's that? Is the song at least inspired by the movie? Well, it's about uh ... breaking up with a dude. The chorus goes, 'How do I deal with you? / How do I deal with me?' Deeply penetrating lyrics? Well, I don't know if I'd venture to say that. They're more like mildly intense. Oh, you were being facetious. Anyway, she does use the word 'hell' a few times too, which adds a certain layer of venom to the song. But not too thick a layer, this being Jennifer Love Hewitt and all. So I think we can -- Hello? Hello? Are you there? Hello?"
1. Creed, "What If," Scream 3
I understand that rooting for the bad guy in horror films doesn't betray some deep-seeded, ugly character flaw. Like, you can actively hope the leprechaun throttles Jennifer Aniston and not be classified as abnormal. But what does it mean when you not only wish the bad guy prevails, but also root for him to chop up Scott Stapp into tiny bits, mix in carrot tops, and feed to some pigs?