John Carpenter once said that the music he composed for Halloween (1978) was one of the most, if not the most important ingredients to the success of a film. While a hand-tailored score can be a powerful tool for a film, sometimes a song that comes from a different source can be just as effective. The songs on this list are songs that aren’t necessarily horror-related, but due to their inclusion in a specific film, have become forever associated with the strange and the macabre. They’d make great additions to any Halloween playlist, despite no mention of ghouls or goblins. Listen up!
Pseudo Echo – His Eyes (Friday the 13th: A New Beginning)
Probably the only reason anyone still remembers this song is due its inclusion in A New Beginning, during a hilarious dance scene. The entire affair is so corny and overwhelming reminiscent of the decade in which it was made that one can’t help but love it. Though it did absolutely nothing to make the movie any scarier, it did succeed in getting stuck in your head. Or, at least making you go, “What the Hell is this ridiculous song?”
Rocky Mountain High – John Denver (Final Destination)
This one is unsettling for more than one reason. The first one is obviously the fact that the reverb-laden song was intended to be a joyous exclamation for the beauty of the mountains. Here, it is used as a song of death – whenever someone hears it, you know they are going to die. The second reason this song’s use is so unsettling is because of the way that the composer himself died. Jon Denver lost his life to a plane crash, and in a scene in the film, one of the characters hears this before boarding a plane. Art imitates life, I suppose. Or, in this case, death.
Ethel Waters – Jeepers Creepers (Jeepers Creepers)
There’s a creepy quality to many older songs. I’m not saying that all of them are creepy, but I’m saying that there’s a good amount that have a certain creep-factor. This was one of them long before its inclusion in the 2001 monster flick. There’s the old trope of the happy song played against a gory backdrop, sure, but the real scariness comes from the lyrics. “Jeepers creepers, where’d you get them peepers? Jeepers creepers, where’d you get those eyes?”
The Chordettes – Mr Sandman (Halloween II)
Halloween II is significantly more violent than the film that came before it, allowing the violence to continually escalate until the conclusion of the film. Then, when all is said and done, this cheery little number plays over the credits. The contrast is startling, and though it’s been done numerous times before and after, this is one of the most effective uses of an innocent song in a horrifying movie. There’s nothing creepy about The Chordette’s song, but ever since Halloween II, the song is associated with death and a white Kirk mask.
Bad Moon Rising – CCR (An American Werewolf in London)
This is one badass song. John Landis’ film does not change that. The film is a horror-comedy, and manages to maintain a joking vibe throughout. So, while the song is now almost synonymous with the movie, it holds more of a mystical quality as opposed to a terrifying one. There’s a whole slew of songs related to the moon included in the film, but this is the one that stands out the most. Plus, it’s one of the greatest songs of all time. That’s not up for debate. Howl, baby. Howl.
Lynyrd Skynyrd – Freebird (The Devil’s Rejects)
Tears. Straight tears. That is what comes to mind now whenever I heat this song. Conflicting tears, too; the entire situation is highly unsettling. As the Firefly family faces their death, this hit by Lynyrd Skynyrd accompanies the bullets as they end our hero’s lives – and that’s the unsettling part. The Firefly family are in no way, shape, or form heroes. They are evil, sadistic, sons (and daughters) of bitches. They are murderers and necrophiles, among other things; so they why do we feel so sad when we see them die? Damn you, Rob Zombie. Does this mean I’m evil, too?
Mike Oldfield – Tubular Bells – (The Exorcist)
Is this the theme song to WIlliam Friedkin’s The Exorcist? I’d say so. However, it was not exclusively made for the film. In fact, the song is much bigger than the little piano sequence used in the film. Tubular Bells is a progressive rock album, the first record released by Virgin Records, that contains two parts to one song; Tubular Bells, obviously. But with the passage of time, Mike Oldfield’s association with the song has waned, and images of demonic possession and split pea soup have taken over. I will never, ever be able to hear that piano line and not be chilled to the core. I don’t care what the backstory is, who wrote it, or where it really came from. The damn thing is creepy, man.