Top 10 Horror Movie Music Moments

by Eric Melin on June 15, 2010

in Top 10s

the harvey girls i've been watching a lot of horror movies latelyMelissa Rodenbeek and Hiram Lucke, besides being the band The Harvey Girls, are long-time horror fans. From reading Fangoria to having posters of Freddy Krueger on their bedroom wall as teens, it’s only fitting that their newest release on Circle Into Square Records is titled I’ve Been Watching a Lot of Horror Movies Lately (available June 29th).

With songs about Gwynplaine and a song called “Puss” that borrows its lyrics from the dialogue of “Let the Right One In”, The Harvey Girls proudly wear their horror geek badges for all to see. The pair have come up with a list of 10 great musical moments in horror movies (although they’re numbered, they couldn’t bring themselves to actually rank them).

For locals, The Harvey Girls’ live arm (Hiram) is playing two shows in the Lawrence/KC area: June 17, 10PM at the Eighth St. Taproom in Lawrence and an early show June 18, 7PM at the Czar Bar in Kansas City (both shows are with with Murky Aquariums, formerly The Danny Pound Band). Enjoy The Harvey Girls’ Top 10 Horror Movie Music Moments!

10. “White Lines” by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five with Melle Mel from Shaun of the Dead (2004)

Shaun of the Dead‘s use of music underscores its pop culture references, but also fleshes out the characters of Shaun and Ed–two dudes who are obsessed with video games, drinking, and remembering the 90s electro (“not hip-hop”) they used to listen to at clubs. They’re basically long-in-the-tooth hipster losers (and we say that with a lot of love). There are so many wonderful scenes with music in this movie: the decision of which album to throw at the zombies in the backyard (“The Batman soundtrack?” “Throw it.”), Ash’s “Orpheus” in Shaun’s stepdad’s car, and Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” during the bar fight. But the one that always gets us is the call and response version of “White Lines” by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five with Melle Mel as Shaun and Ed wander drunkenly home from the bar.

9. “Main Title” by Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind from The Shining (1980)

We chose this one on a coin toss. There are so many great horror soundtracks that everyone knows (The Exorcist, Halloween, The Omen, Psycho), but they either don’t stand up to the movie/music combination test or Eric already mentioned them on this list of the Top 10 Scariest Movie Themes. So, as opening credits go, synth-wiz Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind’s take on Berlioz’s “Symphonie Fantastique” makes the wide-open natural beauty of the west (including Timberline Lodge Road near Mt. Hood, Oregon) seem absolutely claustrophobic and horrifying.

8. “The Creation” by Franz Waxman from The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

This is a classic horror-movie soundtrack orchestral piece.This soundtrack is notable not only because of its lovely melancholic tones, but also for being one of the first films to use the theremin. The way the drum follows the heartbeat. The climax of the music with the creation. It’s all perfect. The Bride of Frankenstein soundtrack is highly recommended so that you can hear the lush beauty without the dialogue and electricity.

7. “Willow’s Song” by Paul Giovanni from The Wicker Man (1973)

Everywhere that Sergeant Neil Howie (Edward Woodward) goes on Summerisle, music follows. Everyone, from village elders praising the carnal genius of the landlord’s daughter Willow to kids skipping around the maypole, is singing. Howie, a devout Christian who is investigating a little girl’s disappearance, reacts to it all with intense revulsion. Well, except for this scene, where a naked Willow sings a beautiful song of seduction while he and everyone in the audience with a pulse breaks out in a hot sweat. It’s rare to find horror mixed with such delicate beauty, and much of it comes from Paul Giovanni’s brilliant soundtrack. Fun fact: Angelo Badalamenti scored the 2006 remake, which is a little like getting a bottle of Grey Poupon from a dude in a Dodge Neon.

6. “Main Title” by Krzysztof Komeda from Fearless Vampire Killers (1967)

Komeda was a Polish jazz pianist who used his love of jazz and bent it towards a more European sound. He’s best known for the soundtracks he created to Roman Polanski’s films, especially Rosemary’s Baby (which is a wonderful soundtrack) but our favorite is Fearless Vampire Killers. With its chorale vocals and harpsichord, “Main Title” creates the feel of a Romantic-era tale, but the animated blood drop slithering through the screen credits and cartoon bats flying over the moon’s surface visually tie the song to the downbeat jazz of the late 60s. It’s definitely a creepy effect (especially in a minor key), but so lighthearted and sensual at the same time. Ennio Morricone does something similar with his soundtrack to Dario Argento’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, but with more jazz weirdness.

5. “The Carnival of Souls” by Gene Moore from Carnival of Souls (1962)

Partially shot in Lawrence, KS, Herk Harvey’s classic movie was scored by Gene Moore. Along with Harvey and many others on the film, Moore worked for the Centron Corporation, an industrial film company started in Lawrence in 1947. The soundtrack to Carnival of Souls is organ-based, a good choice given that main character Mary Henry is an organ player. This is the song that plays over what is probably the most famous scene of the film: the ghosts coming out of the lake (including Herk himself) and dancing with Mary around the Saltair Pavilion near Salt Lake City, UT. The CD soundtrack comes complete with dialogue, wind, and footsteps, giving it the feel of a kids’ Halloween record.  Luckily, we enjoy those. For more whacked out horror organ madness, check out The Eye Popping Sounds of Herschell Gordon Lewis, played by the man himself and also complete with dialogue and screams.

4. “The Gonk” by Herbert Chappell from Dawn of the Dead (1978)

After putting his audience through the claustrophobia of a mall filled with zombies and an attack from a crazed biker gang led by Tom Savini, George Romero gives us… “The Gonk”? Although the Italian band Goblin (more on them in a minute) did the official soundtrack for Dawn of the Dead, Romero also used stock/library songs as cues within the movie. He leaves us with Herbert Chappell’s 1965 ode to a furry creature you’d win at the fair as the credits roll and zombies do what zombies do, roam around. If you didn’t catch any of the black humor in the movie before this, you might miss it in the final credits, but it’s not for lack of Romero’s trying.

3. “The Sad Mafioso” section of “East Hastings” by Godspeed You! Black Emperor from 28 Days Later (2002)

“For me, the soundtrack to 28 Days Later was Godspeed. The whole film was cut to Godspeed in my head,” says director Danny Boyle, so it’s no surprise that one of its most memorable moments is also the only place where the band can actually be heard, if only briefly. In a beautifully concise scene, Jim wakes from his coma to wander the dead London streets, and “The Sad Mafioso” is the perfect music to express his horror and grief. Unfortunately, it’s not included on the actual soundtrack, but if you don’t already own F#A#∞ you should run to rectify the situation as if an infected zombie horde were chasing you.

2. “The Sighs” and “Witch” by Goblin from Suspiria (1977)

First, you’ll notice the colors and patterns. Then you’ll think, “Don’t go near that window, idiot!” Then you’ll scream it out loud. All the while, Goblin’s detuned acoustic guitar plays (at least we hope that’s what’s making that sound) while moaning and dirge-like vocals sing out in “The Sighs,” sounding like a 70s version of the beginning of Slayer’s Hell Awaits. That’s when the drums kick in on the song “Witch.” This is probably one of the artiest death scenes you’re ever going to see. The main title theme for Suspiria is the most famous song on the soundtrack (using the arpeggiated style that was made famous with the use of Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells” in The Exorcist and carried through HalloweenPhantasm, and a whole slew of others)but in terms of the art of avant-garde-freaky-styley prog music and a director’s vision coming together in a horror movie, you can’t get much better than this scene.

1. Blue Moon by Sam Cooke from An American Werewolf in London (1981)

John Landis has an incredible gift for switching gears between sexy humor and balls-out horror, and David Kessler’s transformation from cute American kid to big bad wolf is one of our favorite scary movie moments ever. Rick Baker’s makeup masterpiece! Quiet novel reading to cursing and clothes rending in one second flat! Mickey Mouse as smiling witness! Music is used brilliantly throughout the film, and this is no exception: Sam Cooke’s rendition of “Blue Moon” is so much better in this scene than any standard shrieking violins ever could be. PS. Jenny Agutter, we will always love you.

Eric is the Editor-in-Chief of Scene-Stealers and regular critic for KCTV5. He’s a member of the BFCA, VP of the KCFCC, and drummer for The Dead Girls and Ultimate Fakebook. He is also the current 2013 Air Guitar World Champion Mean Melin. Eric goes to 11. Follow him at:

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Daniel Gillaspy June 15, 2010 at 8:39 am

I’m very glad Goblin made your list. I had the soundtracks to Tenebrae and Suspiria precisely because of the mood their music sets. Otherwise, some very interesting choices.

D

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2 Daniel Gillaspy June 15, 2010 at 8:39 am

I’m very glad Goblin made your list. I had the soundtracks to Tenebrae and Suspiria precisely because of the mood their music sets. Otherwise, some very interesting choices.

D

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3 Melissa Rodenbeek June 15, 2010 at 7:44 pm

There’s nothing like Goblin, is there? We had a lot of fun watching old favorites and putting this together. Good hearing from you, Dan (and I hope all is well with you).

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4 Melissa Rodenbeek June 15, 2010 at 7:44 pm

There’s nothing like Goblin, is there? We had a lot of fun watching old favorites and putting this together. Good hearing from you, Dan (and I hope all is well with you).

Reply

5 Daniel Gillaspy June 16, 2010 at 9:53 am

I wondered if that was you. Looks like you’re having fun :)
Cool. I’m in town if you ever want to share your horror movie fascination, I’m familiar with quite a few. I was surprised that no John Carpenter scores made it to your list, but then every one has seen those flicks, haven’t they? Willow’s Song from The Wickerman was amazing, and I think was lip synced by Britt Ekland for the scenes. That was a sweet surprise, too, it’s been awhile since I’ve seen that one. Cheers! D

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6 Daniel Gillaspy June 16, 2010 at 9:53 am

I wondered if that was you. Looks like you’re having fun :)
Cool. I’m in town if you ever want to share your horror movie fascination, I’m familiar with quite a few. I was surprised that no John Carpenter scores made it to your list, but then every one has seen those flicks, haven’t they? Willow’s Song from The Wickerman was amazing, and I think was lip synced by Britt Ekland for the scenes. That was a sweet surprise, too, it’s been awhile since I’ve seen that one. Cheers! D

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7 Will June 16, 2010 at 8:04 pm

No Tublar Bells or Halloween Theme?! I call shennigans!

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8 Will June 16, 2010 at 8:04 pm

No Tublar Bells or Halloween Theme?! I call shennigans!

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9 Polarbear June 21, 2010 at 1:32 pm

So glad they included something from the soundtrack of Suspiria; I’m content it was in the top 2. Although I was thinking of the title-scene music, I have to agree the section of the movie which included “The Sighs” and “Witch” made THE BEST scene of the movie. (Which happened to be the first 10 minutes.)

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10 Polarbear June 21, 2010 at 1:32 pm

So glad they included something from the soundtrack of Suspiria; I’m content it was in the top 2. Although I was thinking of the title-scene music, I have to agree the section of the movie which included “The Sighs” and “Witch” made THE BEST scene of the movie. (Which happened to be the first 10 minutes.)

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11 Tyrone Quesinberry June 30, 2010 at 12:14 am

Jack Nicholson’s powerful performance as the mad father and husband is as over the top as it is brilliant. Shelley Duvall, who plays the worrying wife who tries to help her son, is also a stand out; she shows a kind of trembling fear in many scenes and is able to display weakness and vulnerability in a very convincing way.

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12 Tyrone Quesinberry June 30, 2010 at 12:14 am

Jack Nicholson’s powerful performance as the mad father and husband is as over the top as it is brilliant. Shelley Duvall, who plays the worrying wife who tries to help her son, is also a stand out; she shows a kind of trembling fear in many scenes and is able to display weakness and vulnerability in a very convincing way.

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13 Bob October 19, 2010 at 7:01 am

I for one am rather happy that the “28 days later” song made the list…i love that movie and the music within it =)

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