One thing that was so great about the horror genre during the 1980s and on into the early 1990s was just how integrated it was into pop culture. This was especially true with the Slasher film genre, with horror characters turned pop icons like Jason Voorhees, Pinhead and, most significantly, Freddy Krueger, whose mainstream popularity was touched by no one at the time. It’s interesting how these characters and films became so acceptable in the mainstream, especially when you consider how reviled and loathed the genre was during that time by mainstream America as a whole.
Maybe it was simply a form of rebellion; the youth of that time wanted horror movies, rock and roll, heavy metal, and rap – all things that would send a shiver crawling down the spine of most parents at the time. This pop culture horror revolution exploded into a phase where it seemed every horror film that had come out had some bad ass song and, if we were lucky, a music video to go along with it. Here are 10 of the absolute awesomest:
Maniac Cop Rap
Artist: Jay Chattaway
Movie: Maniac Cop 2 (1990)
I love William Lustig’s Maniac Cop series with all my blackened heart, and one of my life’s greatest (or saddest) moments was the first time I heard “Maniac Cop Rap” during the closing credit sequence of Maniac Cop 2. The fact that there is a Maniac Cop rap song is incredible in and of itself, but there’s a whole different level of amazing when you actually hear the song itself.
Highlights: The fact that the song’s writer, composer Jay Chattaway, is whiter than the inside of Ed Furlong’s nostrils is inherently funny.
”Set him on fire, I shoot him with a uzi, but he’ll show up in your Jacuzzi!” is lyrical poetry in motion.
He’s Back (Man Behind the Mask)
Artist: Alice Cooper
Movie: Friday the 13th VI: Jason Lives (1986)
Now, there is clearly one specific horror icon who had all but cornered the horror movie music market, but the Friday series limited foray into the audio realm is about as good as it gets. “He’s Back (Man Behind the Mask)” brought two horror icons together, Jason Voorhees and Shock Rock musician Alice Cooper, for one of the coolest horror movie songs this side of Camp Blood.
Highlights: The pure fact that Alice Cooper, whose stage performances and music was highly influenced by horror, was able to play such a memorable part in one of horrors most beloved franchises.
The music video for the song is pretty awesome, specifically Jason swinging through the movie screen, only to take off his mask and reveal that he is… *GASP* Alice Cooper!
Are You Ready for Freddy?
Artist: The Fat Boys
Movie: A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988)
When it comes to horror movies and music, no film series did it better and more often than The Nightmare series. There are probably close to a dozen songs that were written specifically for a Freddy movie, covering a wide range of popular musical genres. This certainly isn’t a surprise as Freddy was basically the horror poster child for the MTV generation, even appearing on the channel numerous times throughout his run. One of my personal favorites to come from the Freddy stable is “Are You Ready for Freddy?” because, quite frankly, it doesn’t get any better (and sillier) than The Fat Boys jamming with the son of a hundred maniacs.
Highlights: Freddy raps. Nuff said.
“The Ballad of Harry Warden”
Artist: Paul Zaza & John McDermott
Movie: My Bloody Valentine (1981)
While the handholding between the Slasher genre and music is clearly prevalent throughout this list,My Bloody Valentine’s “The Ballad of Harry Warden ” is definitely an anomaly unlike any other. First of all, the film and it’s epic ballad came much earlier in the Slasher cycle, and, more significantly, the song is far from your average horror movie tune.
Highlights: The pure fact that it’s a Folk Song, and a pretty good one at that. Makes me wish John Denver dipped his joint in the horror scene with a jam of his own.
Artist: The J. Geils Band
Movie: Fright Night (1985)
Fright Night is, for my money, one of the best vampire movies ever, and nothing encapsulates the fun of Fright Night better than the song of the very same name. This track is simply a jolly good time in the cheesiest of ways, and it’s interesting that “Fright Night” was the last single that The J. Geils Band put out as they were, pound for pound, the most commercially successful musical act on this list. Way to go out on a high note, if you ask me!
Highlights: I love the chorus to this song… it’s insanely hokey, but it brings me back.
“Big Trouble In Little China”
Artist: John Carpenter and the Coupe DeVilles
Movie: Big Trouble in Little China (1986)
John Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China is all that and a bag of chips, and the level of insanity that the film brings to the table is certainly matched by the pure madness of the song, aptly titled, “Big Trouble in Little China.” This song and the music video that come with it are a true testament to the amount of THC in Carpenter’s bloodstream, and the best part is he brought both Tommy “Halloween III: Season of the Witch” Lee Wallace and Nick “Michael Myers” Castle (aka Adam Sandler?!) along for this acid trip of a ride. It’s truly wonderful.
“Just Another Victim”
Artist: Helmet & House of Pain
Movie: Judgment Night (1993)
Though not quite a horror film, Judgment Night’s Cabrini-green inspired setting and maniacal performance from Dennis Leary give it just enough horror cred to be included on this list. And let’s face it, even if it didn’t have the cred, it would be tough for me not to include one of the most badassiest songs from one of the most badassiest soundtracks ever released. As a film, Judgment Night was decent, but as a soundtrack, well, Judgment Night was a revelation, and “Just Another Victim” is easily one of the best songs from one of the best movie soundtracks of all time.
Highlights: The pairing of Helmet and House of Pain is about as perfect as it gets, and I’ll be damned if it still doesn’t get me pumped!
Movie: Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992)
In comparison to the first two Hellraiser movies, Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth is a total pile of hot Lemmy mole; regardless I still have a real soft spot for the movie. Clearly the series was going in a more pop culture inspired Slasher film direction (aka the Nightmare route), which is something that obviously doesn’t work well with subject matter as dark as Hellraiser’s. Regardless, if not for this slightly disappointing turn the series made, we never would have gotten ourselves Motorhead’s “Hellraiser.”
Highlights: In the video, Lemmy plays poker against Pinhead and, as one would expect, Lemmy wins!
Movie: A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)
If there’s a high water mark of the horror music genre, I think many would agree it’s with Dokken’s “Dream Warriors,” which, incidentally, comes from a real high water mark in the Nightmare franchise, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. Besides being a great song, “Dream Warriors” also has the distinct honor of starting the musical ball rolling for the Nightmare franchise in its subsequent sequels.
Highlights: Another great music video which I especially love for how it blends the band’s performance with actual scenes from the movie itself.
Falsetto powerful enough to bring Fred Krueger to his knees.
Movie: Pet Sematary (1989)
It might not be as beloved or as well-known as “Dream Warriors,” but the Ramones’ “Pet Sematary” remains one of my all time favorite horror movie inspired songs. The haunting music and Joey Ramones’ monotone vocals are just so perfect and a great departure from the upbeat sound the band was better known for.
Highlights: It’s the Ramones. Discussion over.
As I said in the opening, these are ten of the awesomest horror movie songs ever made, but they are only the tip of the iceberg. There are numerous great, and not so great, songs to choose from out there, and I will most definitely be revisiting this subject in the future.
However, until that day comes, I would love to hear what songs on this list you love, hate or are there any that you enjoy that I didn’t list?! Please, share your thoughts in the comments; I’d love to hear how other genre fans feel about this subject!