Halloween is my favourite time of year, for a bunch of reasons. First, costumes are fun to wear; it’s the only day of the year I can wear a cape and not get weird glances about it. Second, it takes place during my favourite season (Autumn). Third, I really like horror movies. Four: it’s not up its own butt with pretentious messages about togetherness (oddly promoting neighborly interaction via “Trick or Treating”). Fifth, and most importantly, it’s the most unique looking of the “holidays,” where the objective is to let loose your inner darkness and scare, rather than love or cherish.
I live all year for the month of goblins and ghouls and really hope to make a career out of this aesthetic. But, of course, visual stimulation isn’t the only thing that helps send shivers down your spine: you’ve got to have the right sounds to go along with it. Watch any horror movie without the soundtrack, and you’d be surprised how much the quality of its terror drops.
To be honest, the music and sound in a horror movie is like… foreplay. I don’t mean to be crass, but that is the most apt description that I think I can give it. Reaching the climax is not nearly as fun or satisfying if you don’t put the work into getting started. Much like making a good movie is about the journey and the beginning as much as the ending, the soundtrack, helps enhance what would be a dull experience.
When I need to vibe and get my spook on, these are the songs that I like to listen to, Whether they evoke creepy feelings, remind me of something relating to horror, or is just from a horror film. I tried to keep the list limited so it would be easily digestable. Be forewarned, there are some profanities and explicit content; Listener BEWARE.
“Infestation” by Midnight Syndicate
Let’s start things off with some atmosphere. Plucking violins. A droning and elongated bass sound. “Infestation” is meant to get under your skin by giving you a sense that you’ve got creepy crawlers on you. An unpleasant feeling, to be sure.
“This is Halloween” by Danny Elfman
Okay, maybe this one shouldn’t count, since The Nightmare Before Christmas is categorically a “Christmas movie” (I can prove it, too, so if you want me to, just ask). Having said that, the song is from the beginning of the film, where we’re in Halloweentown and its inhabitants are singing about how much they enjoy the holiday and their lives. I know everyone is probably going to include this song, but that’s because it’s such an icon of the holiday.
“Halloween Theme” by John Carpenter
Oh, did you think a cinephile wasn’t going to include some classic horror movie themes? Guess again. While I’m not the biggest fan of Michael Myers, I can’t deny that he’s got an iconic and terrifying theme to accompany his quest to kill his sister. I always love the offset of the higher notes on the piano and the theremin-esque music underneath. Truly frightening.
“Morbid Fascination” by Midnight Syndicate
Giving us a little more atmosphere here, this song evokes a feeling of open or closing credits. I’ve always really enjoyed this song, and always try to listen to it to get the creative juices flowing.
“The Lost Overture” by Destini Beard & Midnight Syndicate
I love the gothic vibe that this song puts out. I don’t just mean goth kids emulating Edgar Allan Poe (I swear, this name drop isn’t foreshadowing), but I mean the gothic styles of ages past. This campy nature reminds me of shows like “Tales From the Crypt” or the video game “Medievil.” Basically, it’s meant to be silly-scary.
“Amityville” by Eminem (Feat. Bizarre)
How could I not include this? It’s one of my favourite artists and inspirations rapping in a song named after “The Amityville Horror” films and murders. The song feels like it uses hyperbole and poetic license to make the rappers seem crazy, but then… it IS Eminem; it could be biographical. The song does start talking about gang violence and, scary as some movie monsters can be, nothing compares to the horror of the real world.
“Getting Away With Murder” by Papa Roach
The first time I heard this song was for a fan made montage video promoting a fictional version of “Freddy vs. Jason vs. Michael,” so it’ll always have that association to me. Nevertheless, the song is about getting away with murder, which is most often associated with cop dramas or horror films, so I thought it was apropos.
“Stephen King vs. Edgar Allan Poe” by Epic Rap Battles of History
There’s a lot of good musical artists out there who focus on just online content. ERB is one of those that I really appreciate, both visually and audibly. They don’t do horror icons often, but when they do, they get it right. Since both Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe are well known for macabre tales, invoking supernatural monsters, and are the basis for a ton of horror films, I figured this song belonged on my list.
“Vlad the Impaler vs. Count Dracula” by Epic Rap Battles of History
Even more than the matchup being perfect (Count Dracula is often, perhaps incorrectly, assumed to be based on Vlad), the underlying beat and tone of the tune really evokes an unearthly feeling. It’s subtle bass and distorted melody really help to sell the mood of the song.
“A Nightmare on My Street” by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince (aka Will Smith)
It was a shame that the music video couldn’t reach an agreement with New Line Cinema to include the REAL Freddy Krueger in it. Having said that, the rip off is pretty unique anyway: the claws are just record scratchers, his hat is a pair of headphones, and he’s wearing shades. To be honest, Freddy would wear those anyways. The song used a sample for the official “Nightmare” theme, and has Will Smith rap over it, talking about a nightmare he had involving the terrifying dream demon. Perfect blend of campy and scary… just like the actual movie.
“Nightmare on Elm Street – Main Theme” by Charles Bernstein
Continuing from the last song, I did want to include the original “Nightmare” theme, though I confess I’d rather have the chilling “one, two, Freddy’s coming for you…” nursery rhyme. Freddy is another iconic slasher, and no spooky music list would be complete without a visit from our favourite dream demon (Okay, maybe that’s Bill Cipher).
“Enter Sandman” by Metallica
Concluding this “dream” motif, I feel like this song is about being afraid of things that go bump in the night, particularly childhood fears of the “monster under the bed.” The prayer used in the second half of the song appears frequently in the “Nightmare” movies, as it is about praying to wake up alive.
“Boogie Woogie Wu” by Insane Clown Posse
This song is literally about the Boogeyman, wildly considered to be THE absolute terror in the world. And it’s done by a band of crazy clowns that make Pennywise look even sillier than he already does.
“People are Strange” by The Doors
People ARE strange. Again, I know this song from a movie: “The Lost Boys” (1987). Sure, it’s a teen movie about rebellion and being cool, but it’s also about the standard Halloween costume: vampires. This song, in particular, is about being wary of your fellow human, and how dangerous strangers can be.
“The Thumbprint Killer” by Ramin Djawadi
“Mr. Brooks” is an underrated psychological thriller masterpiece. It focuses on a successful businessman and philanthropist (played by an underrated Kevin Costner performance) who’s addicted to killing people. The unique was in which he displays his victims has earned him the tabloid nickname: the Thumbprint Killer. The film is all about the psychological torment that he’s going through as he tries to fight his addiction. Kind of like a movie version of “Dexter.” The song itself remains one of my favourites for its dark tone and foreboding nature.
“In the Shadows” by Amy Stroup
“There’s something in the shadows.” This song begins with easily one of the creepiest things you could possibly say in a horror film. Basically: “something’s after us.” Any horror movie nerd knows that the moment you know something is onto you is the moment you find yourself pinned to a door with arrows, waiting to scare Alice. There’s also a line that says, “your strength is in your weakness.” I find this line curious as it seems to imply that fear will not be your undoing, but rather your saviour. There’s some truth in this because adrenaline spikes due to the flight or fight response could end up saving your life if a knife-wielding maniac is chasing you.
“Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” by Marilyn Manson
A cover of the song by Eurythmics, this version takes a darker, more sinister, edgier approach… and I love it. The contrast between the original and this version is apparent, but feels like it’s two different points of view, which is how any good cover should go. Marilyn Manson has a great knack for doing covers, doesn’t he? This isn’t even the only cover of his on this list… but we’ll get to that.
“Zombie” by Bad Wolves
I know that there are people who are going to disagree with me, especially as this cover is dedicated to the original singer in the Cranberries, but… I like this version more. The piano tune reminds me of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata,” and I feel like the beat is punctuated better in this version. I really like how similar these songs take the word “zombie” to movies, insinuating that we, as a species, are already zombies, for one reason or another. Consumerism, apathy, being anti-social, these are all touched on in various zombie movies. This song is basically saying that our apathy and ignorance of anyone who isn’t us makes us a zombie. Truthfully, a thorough analysis could be done, but there was a song called “Zombie” that I liked, and it’s a spooky playlist. However…
“Darkness” by Eminem
I’m bringing back Eminem for another dose of reality, reminding us just how scary the real world is. There is something more inherently terrifying about just walking around, minding your own business and then finding yourself the victim of someone’s psychotic rampage. Life is nothing but chaos and could end at any random time. What’s scarier is that Eminem tells this story from the point of view of the shooter, meaning that we get some unique lines “I’m a licenced owner, with no prior convictions,” or “If you’d like to know the reason why I did this, you’ll never find a motive.” The former of those lines showing the horror of how easy it is to acquire weapons, and the latter being a precursor to the following lines about everything being messed up and even the shooter doesn’t really know why he did it. I’ve got to be honest… these thoughts are scarier to me than any movie monster.
“Overlay of Evil/Main Title” by Harry Manfredini
Did you really think that I would make a music playlist to “Get Your Spook On” and NOT include the theme from my favourite horror film? The iconic echo of “Ki Ki Ki, Ma Ma Ma,” referring to Mrs. Voorhees believing that Jason is telling her to “Kill them Mama.” The slow piercing of the tune punctuated by random bell rings. All culminating in the main title theme that just lets you know: “Jason’s Here.” I already included Michael Myers and Freddy Kruger. I couldn’t leave Jason out of the mix.
“This is Halloween” by Marilyn Manson
One thing I really liked about the original “Spider-man” soundtrack (2002), was that it had two versions of the iconic “Spidey” theme from the 60s: the original and a punk rock remix. As an homage (more of a personal in-joke to myself), I decided that the song I set up at the beginning of the playlist would make another appearance, this time transformed by the journey of the songs on the rest of the playlist.
Whether or not you enjoy Halloween, you can’t deny that it’s a unique experience. Instead of patronizing the best ideals of humanity, it’s a nice change of pace to be able to dabble in the darkness. This is especially true for people like me who just prefer this kind of aesthetic and atmosphere.
Happy Halloween, Vocal.