I'm going to show you that pretty much any song can fit into a horror film if used properly. Experimental horror is becoming more popular now and with the rise of this genre, I want to have a look at some oddly chosen but workable soundtracks you could use for your next project. Hopefully, these will inspire you and give you a sense of direction if you're struggling. In my last article entitled "Horror Film: Soundtracks for the Modern Age" we looked at some of these new and experimental horror film tracks that were shifting away from our usual high-pitched strings and moving towards more rock, dance and folk tunes. I want to explore how you can use these sounds to your advantage and how normal songs and music can actually have a bigger effect as it normalises the situation in question — making it subconsciously familiar to the audience and therefore, more frightening. So here comes song choices and how they could be used in your next experimental horror film:
This one is a big favourite amongst people looking to portray scenes of extreme and fast violence. A break-in or an intrusion of a sudden pace would be ideal along with this one as the pounding drum sets a good pace whilst the vocals give you that high-pitched tinge creating that sense of urgency. Another place to use this would be in a movie that is shot like The Purge as it gives you great range to play with — large open spaces with a good sense of anonymity. If you can find a good, pounding bass or drum for your home-intrusion experimental horror, then this song is a winner.
An amazing song and another one with a great background tune. The thumping piano and the bass of the drum keep the pace of the song perfectly for if you wanted to make a story of kidnapping - or a very Equilibrium-esque horror in which the government is violently overthrown. Dylan's song offers you range to play with: you could tend to the bass, in which you'd be looking at a story similar to the song by The Darkness. You could also be looking at the piano, the distortion of the piano offers you the ability to fit it into a story of disagreement, or a horror regarding a modern crime. You could be looking at the lyrics in which Dylan offers us a critique of the government, perfect for your overthrow horror in a very Rise of Evil style. A great choice for a theme song involving your experimental film.
A grand song that is perfect for that horror soundtrack of when the fast-paced action takes place. Preferably, this soundtrack would be best used in a situation of escape rather than a situation of discomfort. The idea behind the situation of escape would be to use the pace of the song and keep to the rhythm, sometimes adding in the odd surprise, but don't overdo it so that it becomes expected. Maybe two or three would be enough for the entirety of the track. This would make an ideal escape track, try it for yourself.
I know you may think I'm crazy, but please listen to me on this one. It could work very well for a prison scene. From what I've seen of movies — especially horror — people are always afraid of experimenting with sound. Now, if you take this song (and this edition of the song) and put it underneath your regular overtones — probably as a diegetic sound on a radio — it will add that third dimension of lyricism to your scene. Especially in a scene where dialogue is minimal. The idea is to be able to show and not tell. Your scene will show us a character in a prison cell, now who would this character be talking to if they're alone in a cell? Nobody. Then, your job is to show us emotion, ideas and this third dimension of communication - probably through your mise-en-scene including something like a radio, or the character being able to take one in with them. Dylan's soft voice mixed with the slow and steady beat of this version of the Blonde on Blonde classic is a perfect addition to create a greater atmosphere. We see something bad happening to a bad character, it makes them upset and it makes the audience happy. Then you put this song in the background on a muffled radio to harden the sound and thus, because of the slightness of the beat becoming happy and the odd timing of the song, you confuse and discomfort your audience. Remember, horror isn't always about scare, it's also about discomfort.
This would be a great soundtrack to use if you were making a You're Next type film. Another home-intrusion song, but also this song can be used for a number of things if we take it apart. The first thing we have here is an unusually slow piano — this is a good choice if your storyline deals with children or the theme of childhood, the case being is that it starts off sounding almost like a lullaby. The next thing this track has is the raspy voice of David Bowie and that's a great idea to bring in your theme of isolation and your theme of intrusion. Bowie's voice is really good in themes dealing with personal emotions; songs such as "The Man Who Sold the World"would be great when dealing with a storyline considering the death of a loved one. The next thing we have is the strong chorus and there is a great chance to get in your "breaking everything home intrusion" storyline. I've found that this is a great song to use for a horror involving a stalker — purely because the pace build-up is fantastic.
Bob Dylan - Neighbourhood Bully
(This song is copyrighted and I cannot provide the video and song. It is on the album "Infidels" if you want to have a look at it).
This is another brilliant song to use when dealing with your You're Next style horror film. The isolated stalking that leads to a mass killing. This song represents everything you'd need it to - but just in case you're on the fence, we're going to break it up again and explore the different sides of this track, dealing with why it'd be ideal for your home-intrusion isolation-dealing horror film. The first aspect of this track is the drum beat, it's thick and heavy - a great style for looking at pace. You need a driving beat for home-intrusion. Songs such as "Jungle" by X Ambassadors and Jay-Z are also good for this and Queen's "We Will Rock You" along with AC/DC "Back in Black" are all ideal. I think Dylan's song has a certain hopefulness about it, though — something that would make your audience slightly uncomfortable. The next thing is the guitar. The repetition of the guitar is almost hypnotic and the riff is incredible when dealing with breaking things and killing people. It has a great sense of beat and an amazing pace to work to; something that is difficult to find on other songs. You don't tend to get that riff repetition so much. The next thing is Dylan's vocals, his raspy and mixing rough and soft voice has a good way of being impulsive. Dylan's vocals are naturally different from the norm, you just have to pick the best song. I wouldn't suggest using anything from the album Nashville Skyline as Dylan really does his best impression of Johnny Cash (whom I'll get to later on). The final thing is the lyrics: "Neighbourhood Bully, he just lives to survive, all women condemned him, said he should apologise..." there's just an example. The lyrics are perfect for your home-invasion horror as it would make it sound like you're trying to justify the actions of the intruder through Dylan's lyrics. You're basically giving them a stage to work on and making it possibly the most inhumane thing ever.