Halloween

Playlist: Vampires, and Monsters, and Ghosts, Oh My!

It’s my favorite time of year, Halloween! Keep the lights on and don’t look behind you, things are about to get spooky. This is the time that belongs to the creatures of the night that stalk their prey. Or maybe they just want some free candy, you never know. To get you in the mood for All Hallows Eve, here are some songs about our favorite hideous monsters.

“I Was a Teenage Werewolf” – The Cramps

Not all monsters are inherently bad. Some are just misunderstood. This Cramps song, based on the 1957 horror movie of the same name, talks about a young werewolf with his own problems. Like all good monsters, he doesn’t want to kill people, but he can’t help it. Throughout the song, he begs for someone to stop him and even pleads to “stop this pain” by the end of the song. It’s a slow-burning, rockabilly romp that reminds us no matter if you’re human or not, being a teenager sucks.

“Return of the Phantom Stranger” – Rob Zombie

A Halloween playlist isn’t complete without a Rob Zombie song. On this track from Hellbilly Deluxe, Zombie describes the goings-on of a mysterious creature only known as the Phantom Stranger. With Zombie’s low growl delivering the vocals and the lyrics mentioning a “shape-shifting” creature with a “wretched heart” that stalks throughout the night, it perfectly sets up a creepy tone. By the song’s end, you still don’t know what the Phantom Stranger is, but you know you don’t want to run into it. For more spooky times with Rob Zombie, check out “How To Make a Monster.”

“Would You Love a Monster Man?” – Lordi

This track by Finnish rock band Lordi doesn’t deny the horribleness of the monster in question. Instead, they ask is it possible for him to find love? Showing us another side of monsters, this creature just wants someone by his side as he terrorizes those around him. The track rages ahead assuring us that loving said monster isn’t a crime even though he readily admits he’ll kill just for the thrill of it.

“We Bite” – The Misfits

Seminal punk band The Misfits are unapologetic on this violent track. In under two minutes, the band screams about rampaging through the streets looking to rip out throats of the innocent. It’s unknown whether these are starving vampires or horrific creatures out for blood. Even though the song constantly repeats “I rip your throat/I drink your blood” it manages to be gruesome with the ferocity and brutal nature of the track. Then again it’s The Misfits; we wouldn’t expect anything less from them.

“Here Comes the Bride (The Bride of Frankenstein)” – Elvira

Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, has been a staple in all things horror since the creation of the character back in 1981. She’s done movies, comics, and even music. And her songs are wonderfully weird and cheesy. On this track from the 1994 collection, Elvira Presents Monster Hits, the Mistress of the Dark “sings” about the Bride of Frankenstein in all her horrible glory. The lyrics are corny with mention of her green pallor, stitched together body parts, and ghoulish nature while a gang cheerfully sings “Here comes the bride!” To make things cringy the song ends with a lame Shaft reference: “The Bride of Frankenstein! DUUUH!!/He’s one bad muther f-/(Shut your mouth)/Well I’m just talkin’ about Frankenstein.” It’s by no means a good song, but it’s hilariously entertaining.

“Bark At the Moon” – Ozzy Osbourne

This classic Ozzy track follows a creature, most likely a werewolf, as it terrorizes through town. The song tells the story of a creature the townspeople thought they got rid of when they buried him. He returns for vengeance and sets about causing chaos. It’s the perfect Halloween track that has a hilariously cheesy video to go with it. The clip depicts Ozzy as Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde drinking a mysterious potion and transforming into a werewolf. Looking at it now it seems silly that anyone would think it’s scary or that Ozzy is actually evil. It looks like a cheap b-horror movie you watch for laughs.

“We Suck Young Blood” – Radiohead

A truly haunting song, it’s not actually about vampires. Apparently, it’s about the exploitation of Hollywood and how they suck the life out of young talent. Still, with the macabre lyrics, chilling music, and shivering vocals it could easily be applied to the creatures of the night. Yorke sounds vulnerable yet creepy as he sings “Are you sweet?/Are you fresh?/Are you strung up by the wrists?/We want the young blood.” And the moody piano melody is ripped from a Gothic film. The song never has to get violent or gruesome to depict the horror of what’s going on.

“Release the Bats” – The Birthday Party

Serving as an influence on the then-emerging Goth scene, this track makes vampires seem cool and sexy. With a rockabilly swing, Nick Cave sings about a lady who doesn’t mind being bitten. She even hopes “those bats would bite.” Cave sounds delirious, yet thrilled as he screams “Release the bats! Release the bats” hoping vampires will come party with him. Cave and co thought vampires were cool long before Stephanie Meyers clumsily cashed in on the trend.

“Werewolves of London” – Warren Zevon

This classic rock track is surprisingly upbeat for a song about a werewolf on the loose. The lyrics follow a werewolf through the streets of London where he mutilates an old woman. But he also seems pretty mundane drinking Pina Coladas and searching for some good Chinese food. The song acts more of a warning saying when you hear him howling, you better stay away. And, as you would expect, the chorus features a bunch of howling. It’s one of Warren Zevon”s most well-known hits that started out as a joke.

“Night of the Vampire” – Roky Erickson

With a gloomy demeanor and a slow-burning guitar riff, this song was made for Halloween. There’s nothing creepy or gruesome about the track, but it gives off this sinister vibe. As Erickson sings about slipping in blood and painful vampire bites, you picture dead spooky forests covered in fog and a hooded figure in the distance. In 1997, Swedish death metal band Entombed covered the track for their self-titled EP. They put their gritty, hard edge spin on it, but the original reigns supreme.

“The Thing that Should Not Be” – Metallica

Leave it to Metallica to tackle one of horror’s most terrifying creatures: Cthulhu. In a mass of crunching guitars and intense percussion, James Hetfield describes the beast as lurking beneath the ocean waiting to cause destruction. Just staring at the creature will drive you insane as they point out in the song. The band references H.P. Lovecraft’s story “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” specifically. This wouldn’t be the only time Metallica has written about the great beast. They also spoke of the beast in Ride the Lightning‘s “Call of Ktulu.” Clearly, they’re big fans of the monster.

“Black Sabbath” – Black Sabbath

This song has already been featured on other Halloween playlists, but it fits right in. Its tolling church bells, Ozzy’s wailing, and the overall sense of doom make it an eerie song. While it may not be about one ghost, in particular, it’s based on an experience Geezer Butler had during the early days of the band. He woke up in the middle of the night and saw a spirit at the end of his bed. Whether it was real or just drugs, the image makes you shudder just thinking about it.

Which of these songs is your favorite? Which ones did I miss? Let me know in the comments!

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Mini Music Review: Scream – Michael Jackson

Release Year: 2017

Rating: 6/10

Scream is the most ridiculous posthumous release from the Michael Jackson estate. The compilation collects what the Jackson estate calls Jackson’s “most electrifying and danceable tracks.” In other words, it’s a bunch of songs you already own. It seems they wanted to theme the release around Halloween and his “spooky” songs, which explains why Rockwell’s “Somebody’s Watching Me” and The Jackson’s “Torture” is featured. Though it doesn’t justify why “Dirty Diana,” “Xscape,” and “Leave Me Alone” are included.

While the music is good, obviously, the release is just pointless. The only “new” track is the “Blood On the Dancefloor x Dangerous” remix by The White Panda. And it’s pretty shitty. The estate is clearly scraping the bottom of the barrel with this one. Not that the other posthumous releases were great, but at least they gave us something new. Here, they’re repacking songs you already own under a loose theme.

If you’re a new fan it may be something to grab, but if you own all of Jackson’s records or any other greatest hits LP, then there’s no need to buy Scream. It’s a sad cash grab to sucker more money out of fans. They’re most likely banking on orders of the vinyl edition, which boasts a glow-in-the-dark disc. It won’t be long before this release finds its way to the bargain along with 2009’s Michael.

Top 10 Rock Stars You Forgot Were in Horror Movies

It’s Halloween! Time to overdose on candy and watch horror movies. Rock stars even get in the fun and sometimes make…interesting appearances in horror movies. Sometimes it’s not that bad, but most of the time it’s clear they should stick to music. To get you in the mood for things that go bump in the night, here are ten rock stars you forgot in horror movies. They’re ranked from best performances to worst.

10. Tom Waits in Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Somehow Tom Waits playing the role of the insane Renfield in Dracula is oddly appropriate. Watching scenes of him eating flies and gravelly cackling about his vampiric master is hypnotizing and frightening. He perfectly shows how far gone Renfield is at this point in the film. What is probably the creepiest thing is how he still seems charming even though he’s spiraling into madness and is out for blood. With his demeanor and trademark gravelly voice, seems like Waits should be in more sophisticated horror movies.

9. Chester Bennington in Saw 3D

Unless you’re an avid fan of the Saw franchise, you might’ve missed Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington in the seventh installment of the series. In the film, he plays a Neo-Nazi named Evan who has to gruesomely tear himself from a car seat in order to save his friends. As you expect, things don’t end very well for the gang. Bennington puts his hard rock chops to work by screaming for his life. The scene is hard to watch and turns your stomach. Bennington landed the role by happenstance. Producer Mark Burg lived next to one of the Linkin Park bandmembers and heard Bennington was a huge fan. It’s an odd cameo, but at least he was decent at it.

8. David Bowie and Peter Murphy in The Hunger

If there’s anyone who could play a suave, sexy vampire, it’s David Bowie. The rocker landed the starring role in this 1983 “erotic thriller” about a love triangle between a doctor and a vampire couple. It’s not a horror movie per se, but rather a slick looking film with supernatural elements. Though the movie received mixed reviews, Bowie is as cool and stylish as ever. It may not be an awarding winning performance, but it’s better than most on this list. Bauhaus’ Peter Murphy also makes a brief appearance during the film’s credits singing the Goth anthem “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.”

7. Gene Simmons and Ozzy Osbourne in Trick or Treat

Two legendary rockers pop up in this forgotten 80s horror movie. In this film, Eddie is devastated over the loss of his favorite rocker Sammi Curr. He gets more than he asks when Curr starts haunting him. Simmons plays Nuke, Eddie’s friend who’s a DJ at the local radio station. The performance is forgettable and easy to miss as Simmons if you aren’t paying attention, or if you aren’t a KISS fan. But Ozzy’s turn as an evangelist talking about the evils of heavy metal must be scene. Dressed in a suit and with his hair slicked back, Osbourne warns kids about the evil of heavy metal with a straight face. Seeing as Ozzy’s music was touted as being Satanic and responsible for deaths in the 80s, it’s hilarious to hear him talk about the evilness of rock music.

6. Sting in The Bride

Did you know there was a remake/re-imagining of The Bride of Frankenstein? Yeah, it’s a terrible idea. To make things even more confusing, the film starred Sting as Baron Charles Frankenstein. The movie follows the same basic plot of the original: Frankenstein makes a mate for his infamous monster and everything goes to shit. Set in a lush Victorian setting, the film is visually pleasing, but that seems to be the most interesting about it. The movie was critically panned, as expected. Gene Siskel even called it a Monstorous Failure. But that didn’t stop Sting from starring in more movies, like Plenty and Dune. Guess the guy can’t take a hint.

5. Dee Snider in Strangeland

When Snider isn’t fronting Twisted Sister he’s apparently writing horror films. He wrote and starred in 1998’s Strangeland, which focuses on a small town being terrified by a tattooed and pierced baddie Captain Howdy. Howdy uses internet chat rooms to stalk and torture his victims. This is a movie that can only be made in the 90s when everyone was young and naive about the internet. The trailer looks cheesy as hell, but Snider at least seems decent. Still, the movie got negative reviews upon release. Guess people liked the movie the first time they saw it as Hellraiser.

4. Marilyn Manson in Rise: Blood Hunter

Marilyn Manson is no stranger to acting. He’s made appearances in films The Heart is Deceitful Above all Things and Party Monster. But in 2007 he made a low key appearance in sub par horror film Rise: Blood Hunter starring Lucy Liu. Judging from the three-minute clip, the movie is pretty lame. Manson is monotone and boring as the everyday bartender who helps Eve (Liu) to find someone. There’s nothing notable about his acting. The most interesting thing about the clip is Manson sans makeup, which is not as shocking as it used to be. There’s probably a reason you’ve never heard of this film. Maybe we need to keep it that way.

3. Jon Bon Jovi in Vampires: Los Muertos

Jon Bon Jovi has some weird obsession with being a cowboy. It started with “Dead or Alive” and lead to several roles in Western films. So when John Carpenter penned a script a horror Western, Jovi took the call to star as Derek Bliss, vampire hunter. This is actually a sequel to Carpenter’s 1998 film Vampires, which was pretty successful. This one, however, is a straight to video sequel. There’s really nothing else to say after that. You don’t need to see the entire movie to know it’s bad. Just watch the trailer and see how stiff and lifeless Jovi is in the starring role. Even the scene when he kind of turns into a vampire is dull. Maybe the rocker should stick with radio friendly hits that you love, yet hate at the same time.

2. Alice Cooper in Monster Dog

When browsing through Netflix one night, I came across this odd movie. A horror flick starring the equally frightening Alice Cooper? What could go wrong? Apparently, a lot. The movie is slow, dull, and just awful. Not even funny awful. Just bad. Cooper’s performance is unremarkable and the plot of wild dogs attacking random citizens sounds cool but is hardly terrifying. Even the scene where Cooper turns into a werewolf, which you have to sit through the entire movie for, is boring. To make things worse, the movie is dubbed in English and none of the English actors voiced their own lines. So throughout the entire viewing, you wonder if something’s off or if you’re just going crazy.

1.Roger Daltrey in Vampirella

In this terrible adaption of the long-running Vampirella comic series, The Who frontman Roger Daltrey stars in this direct to video film. That should say it all right there. Daltrey stars as Vlad/Jamie Blood, who is Vampirella’s enemy and a rock star on weekends. And yes, that does mean there is a musical scene in the film. Seeing an aging Daltrey straining and trying to be enticing with a rat’s tail on the side of his head is cringe worthy. He doesn’t sound bad performing, but when it comes to enticing vampires, Daltrey isn’t the first guy you think of. Judging from the trailer, it’s one of those movies you watch with friends to laugh at how awful it is. What was Daltrey thinking?

Honorable mention:

Sonny Bono in Troll

I didn’t include this one because Sonny Bono isn’t a rock star. But seeing him transform into some weird plant/pod monster was too good to not talk about. Bono gets trick by a troll in the titular movie Troll, yes the precursor to the hilariously awful Troll 2. If you can manage to sit throughout the entire thing, you’ll even catch a young Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

Happy Halloween!

Playlist: Oh, the horror!

It’s October, the month of Halloween! Put up the spider web, break out the candles, and turn off the lights. It’s time to watch some scary movies. Though I love music, I’m also a horror movie fanatic. For the past two years, I’ve been watching a horror/Halloween movie every day to celebrate All Hallow’s Eve. By doing this I’ve learned how important music is to the horror film. Sometimes it’s scarier than the movie itself. A good horror theme makes you shiver before the monster reveals itself. Most horror themes fall into the cliche of booming, dramatic string music  and lots of panic. Then there are the themes that are so good, they stick with you forever. These are themes that can scare you even if the movie isn’t playing. Here are some of the best themes in horror.

Sinister (2012)

Sinister is a pretty good horror movie. It’s unnerving, hits all the right creepy spots, and keeps you on edge. But the thing that shook me the most about the movie was the music. And I’m not talking about the main theme. I mean the weird, jarring, spine-tingling music that plays during the “home movies.” There isn’t just one that’s scarier than the others; they’re all fucking terrifying. Hearing the music still, makes me cringe and curl up into a ball. The ominous noises, otherworldly vocals, jarring piano, and unsettling mood gives you goosebumps especially when paired with the disturbing footage. Often times the music lulls you into this false sense of safety; the music is quiet and soft. Then it hits you with a loud noise and broken piano making you jump out of your skin. Composer Christopher Young did an excellent job with the soundtrack. This movie is a great example of how great music is very effective in horror films.

The Exorcist (1973)

This is one of the most iconic horror themes of all time. Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells” is haunting, unnerving, yet oddly beautiful. It’s the first minute of the song that really makes you shiver. Something about it is innocent and dark all at once. The song loses some of its creepiness near the end when guitars are introduced making it sound more like an 80s rock song. Still, when you hear it, you know bad things are coming. It’s been used outside of the horror realm, like in the 1979 NASA movie The Space Movie. But thanks to its association with this film, it will always strike fear in your heart.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

This is one of those themes that takes you off guard. Composed by Wayne Bell and Tobe Hooper, it opens like many other horror themes; ominous noises and tolling bells. This is then interrupted by a high pitched screeching noise that sounds like nails on a chalkboard. It repeats several times making you grit your teeth as it gets louder. From there we get a news report of the grisly murders while clanging and thumping resonate in the background. Random noises keep getting louder and louder as the newscaster is drowned out making you wonder what’s happening. It’s eerie and uncomfortable to listen to, which makes it a perfect fit for the film. You’ll want to look over your shoulder after hearing it.

Creepshow (1982)

The opening theme for the excellent film Creepshow is the epitome of horror movie themes: stark strings, creeping piano, and unnerving trickling ivories. There’s even lightning cracking in the background. The music then turns into some kind of demented lullaby getting scarier and scarier. Throw in some maniacal laughter, thunder striking, and more piano playing and you’ve got the perfect horror theme. It sounds what you would hear when walking through a haunted house with only a lantern to guide you. Though why you would want to do that is beyond me. Like most of these themes, it’s unsettling, but beautiful at the same time. Thanks for the nightmares, John Harrison.

The Amityville Horror (1979)

Composed by Lalo Schifrin, the genius behind this theme is how subtle it is. It begins with lush tones and some light piano tickling putting you at ease. When the piano is fleshed out, you feel safe and calm. It actually sounds pretty and almost seems out of place for a horror film. But before you get too comfortable ethereal voices filter in with eerie harmony. Still, it’s not that bad; a little unsettling, but nothing that makes you feel scared. The theme goes the extra mile by adding ominous percussion that hammers and thuds,  reminding you of the horror that lies ahead much like the infamous horror house itself.

Friday the 13th (1980)

Whereas other themes want to lull you into a false sense of security, the theme for Friday the 13th is made to terrorize you. Right from the start it strikes panic in your heart with the stark strings getting faster and faster. Harry Manfredini perfectly captures the frightful mood of the first film. It sounds like someone running through the woods, trying to get away while Mrs. Voorhees is on their tail. Jason’s infamous cry of “ki ki ki…ma ma ma” adds another layer of fear to the already frightening tune. The theme got a weird, disco upgrade for the third film, which is funny and a little corny, but it’s this one that will always be remembered.

Dracula (1931)

This one is cheating a little bit since this song wasn’t written specifically for the film. Rather it’s an excerpt from Act II from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. Since the technology for adding film scores was severely limited in 1930, no score was ever written for the film. Rather, this song was used for the opening credits along with Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg at the endNormally, such a beautiful and elegant piece of music wouldn’t work for most horror movies, but this one has such an unspoken beauty to it. The tune is pretty, but it’s also fierce and dramatic much like the iconic vampire himself.

The Conjuring (2013)

Similar to the Amityville theme, this one starts out sounding nothing like a horror movie. It’s calming, pretty, and sweet with a light piano playing softly. Though it’s mellow there’s still something ghostly about it, like it’s the soundtrack for tragic events. It goes on like this for a minute until the music builds up with an eerie choir singing. The music and mood suddenly turn dark as everything gets louder and intense. It then returns to its soft sound as if the loud, jarring noises never occurred. Near the end, the music swells sounding more cheerful and hopeful than before. Listening to it, it reflects the changing moods of the film. The family moves into a new house excited to start a new life. They then experience turmoil and fear when supernatural events begin to occur. But things are hopeful once again when the band things have passed.

Deep Red (1975)

Some horror films are satisfied with using the standard tropes when it comes to the soundtrack. Others want to do something entirely different making you rethink what horror music can be. This is what Goblin’s theme for Deep Red does. It begins with an uneasy twinkling piano dancing around. Though it doesn’t give you goosebumps, something about it is unsettling. You hear it and know something is wrong. At the same time, it sounds like the start to 70s prog rock song, which isn’t a bad thing. As the music fleshes out, it turns into a production of synth, percussion, and more of the opening riff. Rather than sounding scary, it sounds mysterious. The horror tropes come in at the end when the organ swells creating a Gothic atmosphere. It’s a one of a kind theme and shows why Dario Argento signed on Goblin to score more of his movies.

The Fog (1980)

The master of horror John Carpenter is also the master of creating music that gives you nightmares. The theme for this 1980 movie The Fog shocks you right out the gate with violent thunder crashing. It’s a little cheesy considering it’s a horror cliche, but it’s the music that follows that makes it unforgettable. The entire theme is the same fragile piano riff treading throughout the song. As it goes on, the tone changes getting deeper and more dreadful than before. Each time the music repeats, it sounds more horrifying than the last. It signifies something horrible waiting for you in the darkness. It perfectly captures the ominous vibe and terror of the film.

Psycho (1960)

Whenever the topic of Psycho comes up the first thing that comes up is the music from the iconic shower scene. The screeching violins and foreboding bass denote a sense of dread when you hear it. This brief song is the universal sign for saying someone is crazy. It hits all the right spots when it comes to horror music. It’s scary and uncomfortable. This theme often overshadows the beauty and eeriness of the main theme by Bernard Herman. The booming music, frantic strings, and rapid pace brings on a sense of panic. It sounds like you should be running for your life when you hear it. Then the middle comes with a brief, lilting melody. It still retains it’s terror thanks to the constant stirring violins buzzing underneath.

Children of the Corn (1984)

Johnathan Elias’ Gothic, baroque opening for this theme makes it better suited for a black and white horror movie than an 80s Stephen King film. Right from the beginning, there’s an uneasiness to the tune letting you know you walked into the start of something horrible. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, the children’s choir comes. As any horror fan knows, there’s something unnerving, disturbing, and creepy about children singing. Here is no different. Maybe without the Victorian music, it wouldn’t sound as scary, but the music mixed with the harmonizing kids makes it chilling. And if you know the story of Children of the Corn, you know this theme is eerily fitting.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

With how ridiculous the later movies in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise are it’s easy to forget how terrifying the first film is. Some parts are kind of hokey, but a burnt child molester that attacks you in your dreams with his steel claws? That’s fucking horrible! There’s a reason why the first film is still regarded as one of the best in the genre. And a great horror film needs a great theme. Composed by Charles Bernstein, the theme starts with a quiet eeriness. It slowly builds up tension, leaving listeners in the worst kind of suspense. That moment of fear hits with a light piano melody that sends chills up your spine. Throw in some odd noises that sound like evil laughter and a creepy kid’s choir and you’ve got a horror classic.

Halloween (1978)

The mother of all horror movie themes. John Carpenter’s theme for Halloween is unmistakable. The iconic piano melody has struck terror in the hearts of millions for almost 40 years. It manages to be one of the most frightening themes in horror despite its simplicity. The song consists of the same piano melody repeated for over two minutes, but it’s the dark vibes and moody sounds that makes this theme genius. There are times when the scariest thing about Halloween is hearing this theme, signaling Michael Myers. Stark and subtle, it is the ultimate horror theme.

Which horror movie theme is your favorite? Which one did I miss? Let me know in the comments!

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween, everyone! Whether you’re going to some bitchin’ parties or chilling at home with Freddy and Jason, have a happy and safe Halloween. Don’t get too  spooked by ghouls and things that go bump in the night and don’t get sick from a candy coma.

If you’re choosing to stay in this year, watch these classic Michael Jackson videos: