Music plays such an important part of horror, be it a sweeping score or a well chosen list of songs. But sometimes, a song plays a pivotal role in a film - and I don't mean movie themes like Jaws, The Exorcist, or Psycho. Everyone knows the recurring theme from a film can be incredibly memorable and set the tone for a film. I'm talking about a specific tune, something that is played in a film that isn't just background music. In other words, a catchy tune that has special meaning and is prominent.
Here are some of my favorite (even though they stick in my head!) tunes from horror...
Check them out and let me know what song I may have missed that drives YOU crazy!!
The Conjuring - In this relatively new release, a music box possibly contains a ghost - or at least allows you to see one, if you look in the attached mirror while this little tune plays. Keep watching, and the ghost will appear behind you. Eerie!
Skeleton Key - What's that Hoodoo that you do?? In this bayou creep-fest, Kate Hudson finds a ritualistic album in the attic of an old plantation house with the title "The Conjure of Sacrifice". Should she have played the record? I think we all know the answer to that question...
Angel Heart - In one of my favorite films, another voodoo curse has detective Harry Angel (Mickey Rourke) running from the streets of Harlem to the sultry parishes of New Orleans to track down a lost crooner who (we find out soon enough) made a deal with the devil. This song is prominent throughout the entire movie, and it sticks in your head long after the last disturbing reel.
Profondo Rosso: Now here's one that will get inside your head and never let go. The music box tune that plays in this film is so terribly annoying and yet an integral part of the mystery, as it is the murderer's calling card.
Insidious: This one comes with a little bonus in the embedded video. ''Tip toe thru the tulips" was a creepy song well before Insidious used it as the "demon/ghost song of choice". That Tiny Tim character may have had a wonderful heart, but that song was just bizarre, as was his voice. In this particular scene, it is a crazy yet perfect choice for the moment of fear we're exposed to; and it is used later in the film as well.
The Changeling: This little music box theme is used throughout the entire film. When George C. Scott's character finds an old music box covered with cobwebs in the dark attic of a house he is renting, imagine his surprise when he opens it and it plays a tune that he himself has been writing as part of an orchestration. Um, color me scared! Seriously one of the best ghost story films out there.
Halloween III: (Silver Shamrock) : This seizure-inducing video/piece of music is an ear-worm of the highest degree and I guarantee you'll be singing it in the shower, at work, while eating dinner, and when you crawl into bed tonight! Sorry! But the real question is: do you have your mask? It's almost time!
Jeepers Creepers: The use of this song extends itself to the title, no less. It's heard several times in the film, even as a remake of it on a rock station in the car that Darry and Trish are driving while trying to escape the wrath of a people-eating monster who himself ends up listening to the song by the film's end.
The Lords of Salem: The "theme" heard here is the song played on the radio station where Sheri Moon Zombie works in Salem, Mass. and is by a band known only as The Lords of Salem. But when the women of Salem hear the droning tune, they go into a trance due to a curse put on the female residents by a seventeenth century coven of witches. So listen at your own risk...
Carnival of Souls: The organ is used throughout this movie and sets as creepy a tone as you will ever hear. When our heroine Mary gets a job as a church organist, she eventually finds herself drumming out a ridiculously macabre tune while her mind wanders and she sees the ghoulish man who has been chasing her. All the music in this film evokes an unsettling feeling of despair and death.
American Horror Story: Dominique: Oh here's a good one. Stop me if you've heard this one. No, seriously. Stop. Me.
This one has to win the prize for most annoyingly good song you love to hate! I can't get it out of my head, and it's been months since American Horror Story ended. It will forever remind me of that damn asylum. But I love it.
Friday the 13th (Sail away tiny sparrow): If you're wondering where this song is in the film, the version with lyrics is playing in the diner where Steve and Sandy are having their little chat. But if you listen again closely, the song playing at the end of the movie when Jason jumps out of the water...same tune.
The Shining: Midnight the Stars and You: An effective song used several times in the film, it's a rather haunting song when used in this context. In particular, over the end credits. It's also played in the ballroom when Jack starts drinking again, and in the climax of the movie when the ballroom comes to life. (Side note: it's also used in Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, as Leslie prepares himself for the slaughter! Love that homage.)
The Birds: Another really REALLY annoying song, "Risseldy, Rosseldy" is the tune the kids in the school house are singing (OVER AND OVER) while the birds congregate on the monkey bars in the playground. One of the most frightening moments in the movie and that tune is nearly as scary. It never leaves your head after you hear it! That's why I saved it for last!!