Music is key in making many movies work. This is especially true in horror, which John Carpenter made abundantly clear with Halloween. Take away the score, and it’s just not nearly as fun. While there are many reasons to love The Shining, it’s the insanely eerie score that makes it truly chilling.
But it’s not always an original score that makes a scene memorable. Sometimes it’s just a regular song that you may or may not have heard before. A good scene can even change how you think and feel about a song you’ve heard many times for the rest of your life. I thought it would be fun to revisit some examples of scenes made more interesting by songs that accompany them.
The Silence of the Lambs (Goodbye Horses)
This one goes without saying. Q. Lazzarus provides the absolute only song that can exist with this scene. Without Goodbye Horses, the whole movie falls apart.
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Yeah, Ted Levine is pretty crucial too. I don’t know what all the fuss over Hannibal is about. Buffalo Bill is what sells this one. Now that would have been a hell of a TV show.
The Devil’s Rejects (Pretty Much The Whole Movie)
Music is undeniably a large part of Rob Zombie’s movies. This is no shock given his other profession. Sometimes it works better than others. I can do without Tom Sawyer in my Halloween movies (though there’s still something about that God of Thunder intro that works for me). House of 1,000 Corpses relied a little too heavily on Zombie’s own songs in my opinion, but it’s also understandable considering how the man poured his heart and soul into that movie.
The Devil’s Rejects, however, absolutely nailed it from beginning to end. The Midnight Rider title sequence is astonishingly effective, and before that film I had very little interest in the song I’d hear so many times on classic rock radio. This movie changed that to the point where I now welcome it.
The obvious example, though, is the Free Bird finale. That’s the one that got people talking, and with good reason. It’s an amazing use of an otherwise overplayed rock song that breathed new life into it, and made it so that fans of the film think about the scene every time they hear it (which will inevitably be many, many more times over the course of their lives).
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This film also gets major props for introducing me and probably many others to some fantastic songs from Terry Reid, which provide the backdrop for other great moments in the movie (and I include the long shots of mountainside behind the credits in that).
Lords of Salem (All Tomorrow’s Parties)
With Lords of Salem, Zombie did it again with another amazing finale featuring The Velvet Underground’s All Tomorrow’s Parties. Another great soundtrack all around, but this is the big standout musical scene:
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Pet Sematary (Sheena Is A Punk Rocker)
This scene probably didn’t really need a song to be memorable. It’s a pretty powerful one anyway, especially for parents. But damn if a rockin’ upbeat party tune from the Ramones doesn’t make it even better. When Sheena is a Punk Rocker starts playing and we see this random truck driver driving down the road, we know something unpleasant is in store. When that shoe drops to the pavement, partying with the Ramones seems like a distant memory.
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Haute Tension (New Born)
This movie is already so chilling that New Born’s (by Muse) haunting melody is made all the more effective. There are some other interesting tunes in Haute Tension earlier in the movie that do a wonderful job of setting up the tone, but this car chase scene wouldn’t be nearly as memorable without New Born behind it.
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Night of the Demons (Stigmata Martyr)
I don’t know if you’d call Night of the Demons a particularly great film (though after watching its remake, you might reconsider), but it definitely has its moments (try to have a conversation about this movie without the lipstick nipple scene coming up), and remains a fun romp 26 years later. This scene sets us up for the titular evening of demons, and does so with the incredibly evil and weird sounds of Bauhaus’ Stigmata Martyr. The music makes the scene perhaps more memorable than it otherwise should have been.
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By the way, the razor blade apple scene is pretty great too.
These are just a few that come immediately to mind. Perhaps we’ll revisit some others in a future post. What horror movie scenes have you found particularly memorable due to their accompanying songs?