Favourite Horror Film Theme Songs

Films in the horror genre — particularly films that can be described as exploitation horror comedies, even if they’re only incidentally funny — seem to inspire excellent theme songs. For the purposes of this list — let’s call it My Top 10 Favourite Horror Film Theme Songs — I define “theme song” as a song written specifically for a particular movie and containing in its lyrics a high level of relevance to the actual plot.

The type of theme song I’m referring to isn’t the kind of award-winning cinematic music epitomised by the famous orchestral theme to Star Wars (by John Williams), or the theme to Lawrence of Arabia (by Maurice Jarre), or “Lara’s Theme” from Doctor Zhivago. Nor am I including famous non-lyric-based (“instrumental”, if not “orchestral”) horror themes such as those for Jaws, The Exorcist, Psycho, Dario Argento’s Suspiria (in fact, any cinematic score by Goblin), Carpenter’s The Thing or the same director’s Halloween. I’m referencing a different beast altogether. This “subgenre” has lyrics, and the lyrics make direct, often (but not always) humorous reference to the film itself. A high level of irony generally comes into play. There’s a profundity to these often tritely cheeky songs that’s rather hard to rationalise… so I won’t bother.

This might be a genre of movie music unique to horror and horror comedy. Or maybe it isn’t. After all, some of the Bond franchise theme songs more-or-less fit this definition (such as “Goldfinger” by Shirley Bassey). But never mind the definitional problems. Let’s just go with it!

Here is a list of my Favourite Horror Film Theme Songs (not in order of preference).

1

This one holds an almost iconic place in the genre. The wonderful tongue-in-cheek pop sensibility displayed in the music and the lyrics would seem at odds with the pseudo-serious tone of the film. Yet somehow, it turns out to be just right.

blob-original-poster“Beware of the Blob” — from The Blob (US-1958; dir. Irvin S. Yeaworth, Jr.), performed by The Five Blobs [Burt Bacharach and Bernie Nee]

[youtube XzHDvzGmmw0]

Lyrics (Burt Bacharach, Mack David)

Beware of the Blob,
It creeps and leaps
And glides and slides
Across the floor
Right through the door
And all around the wall
A splotch, a blotch
Be careful of the Blob…
[repeats]

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2

The Ghostbusters theme is nearly as iconic as “Beware of the Blob”, though for different reasons. It captures both the late-night commercial marketing hype that inspired it in the first place, but it also embraces the sort of communal celebratory attitude towards New York that engulfs the entire cast at the end of the film — though, of course, it also transcends the Big Apple and celebrates the communal nature of humanity as a whole. Profound, right? On its first release in 1984, I saw the film at a cinema in Parramatta (Parramatta is a non-capital Australian city, just west of Sydney, in case you were wondering). It was a packed house and by the end communal oneness (now manifesting in these wild-and-woolly western suburbs) was being expressed via a spontaneous, almost ritualistic, mass shout-out to the question “Who ya gonna call?”

ghostbusters_ver4“Ghostbusters” — from Ghostbusters (US-1984; dir. Ivan Reitman), performed by Ray Parker, Jr.

[youtube r1-NvLJFDsw]

Lyrics (Ray Parker, Jr.)

Ghostbusters…
If there’s somethin’ strange in your neighborhood
Who ya gonna call? (Ghostbusters)
If it’s somethin’ weird, and it don’t look good
Who ya gonna call? (Ghostbusters)

I ain’t afraid of no ghost.
I ain’t afraid of no ghost.

If you’re seein’ things, runnin’ thru your head
Who can you call? (Ghostbusters)
An invisible man sleepin’ in your bed
Oh, who ya gonna call? (Ghostbusters)

I ain’t afraid of no ghost.
I ain’t afraid of no ghost.
Who ya gonna call? (Ghostbusters)

If you’re all alone, pick up the phone
And call (Ghostbusters)!

I ain’t afraid of no ghost.
I hear it likes the girls.
I ain’t afraid of no ghost.
Who you gonna call? (Ghostbusters)

Mm… if you’ve had a dose
Of a freaky ghost baby
You better call Ghostbusters

Let me tell ya somethin’
Bustin’ makes me feel good
I ain’t afraid of no ghosts.
I ain’t afraid of no ghosts.

Don’t get caught alone, oh no…
Ghostbusters!
When he comes through your door
Unless you’ve just got some more
I think you better call Ghostbusters!
Ooh… who you gonna call? (Ghostbusters)
Who you gonna call (Ghostbusters)
Ah, I think you better call (Ghostbusters)
Who ya gonna call? (Ghostbusters)
I can’t hear you… (Ghostbusters)
Who you gonna call? (Ghostbusters)
Louder! (Ghostbusters)
Who you gonna call? (Ghostbusters)
Who you can call? Ghostbusters… (till fade)

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3

The Killer Klowns theme song is perhaps my favourite — not because it’s more profound than “The Ghostbusters” or more lyrical than the others mentioned here, but just because both it and the film it tags are so goddam soul-expandingly absurd. As always, Coulrophobes beware!

killer-klowns-from-outer-space-movie-poster-1988-1020469216“Killer Klowns”  — from Killer Klowns From Outer Space (US-1988; dir. Stephen Chiodo), performed by The Dickies. Music video directed by Chuck Cirino.

[youtube tGVX033PiDA]

Lyrics (The Dickies)

PT Barnum said it so long ago,
There’s one born every minute, that you know
Some make us laugh, some make us cry
These clowns only gonna make you die.
Everybody’s running when the circus comes into their towns.
Everyone is running from the likes of the killer klowns…
From outer space.
Killer klowns from outer space.
Jocko!

Ringmaster shouts let the show begin,
Send in the klowns, then let them do you in.
See a rubber nose on a painted face
Bringing genocide to the human race.
It’s time to take a ride on the nightmare merry-go-round,
You’ll be dead on arrival from the likes of the killer klowns…
From outer space.
Killer klowns from outer space.

There’s cotton candy in their hands
Says a polka-dotted man with a stalk of jacaranda
They’re all diabolical bozos…

Oh, look around! What do you see?
Tell me what’s become of humanity.
From California shores to New York Times Square,
Barnum and Bailey everywhere.
If you’ve ever wondered why the population’s going down,
Blame it on the plunder from the likes of the killer klowns…
From outer space.
Killer klowns from outer space.
Killer klowns [repeat]

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4

If that’s not weird enough for you, how about a rhapsodic love-song to a rat? Okay, it’s not meant to be funny, but the fact that someone thought it was a good idea to create such a seriously sappy melody to capture the essence of a revenge horror film about a boy and his pet rat (an intelligent rat that happens to be the leader of a pack of killer rats) — and then to get the young Michael Jackson to sing it — is just too good not to mention. Okay, “Ben” is not actually a favourite song of mine, but I love the fact that, bizarrely, it exists.

Ben“Ben” — from Ben (US-1972; dir. Phil Karlson), performed by Michael Jackson

[youtube T5PJVNYlnkE]

Lyrics (Don Black and Walter Scharf)

Ben, the two of us need look no more
We both found what we were looking for
With a friend to call my own
I’ll never be alone
And you my friend will see
You’ve got a friend in me
(You’ve got a friend in me)

Ben, you’re always running here and there
(Here and there)
You feel you’re not wanted anywhere
(Anywhere)
If you ever look behind
And don’t like what you find
There’s something you should know
You’ve got a place to go
(You’ve got a place to go)

I used to say “I” and “me”
Now it’s “us”, now it’s “we”
I used to say “I” and “me”
Now it’s “us”, now it’s “we”

Ben, most people would turn you away
I don’t listen to a word they say
They don’t see you as I do
I wish they would try to
I’m sure they’d think again
If they had a friend like Ben
(A friend)
Like Ben
(Like Ben)
Like Ben

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5

This Friday the 13th flick isn’t a comedy. It’s exploitative and schlocky though, and is the first of the franchise in which Jason is unequivocally a zombie — not just back in another film, but back from the dead. Being rhapsodised by none other than Alice Cooper seems entirely appropriate.

friday-the-13th-6

“He’s Back (The Man Behind the Mask)” — from Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI (US-1986; dir. Tom McLoughlin), performed by Alice Cooper

[youtube qglpDlSlPzE]

Lyrics (Alice Cooper, Tom Kelly and Kane Roberts)

You’re with your baby
And you’re parked alone
On a summer night
You’re deep in love
But you’re deeper in the woods
You think you’re doin’ alright.
Did you hear that voice?
Did you see that face?
Or was it just a dream?
This can’t be real
That only happens, babe
On the movie screen.

Oh, but he’s back!
He’s the man behind the mask,
And he’s out of control.
He’s back!
The man behind the mask,
And he crawled out of his hole.

You’re swimmin’ with your girl
Out on lovers’ lake
And the wind blows cold
It chills your bones
But you’re still on the lake,
That’s a bad mistake.
But the moon was full
And you had a chance
To be all alone —
But you’re not alone!
This is your last dance
And your last romance.

Oh, if you see him comin’
Get away if you can.
Just keep on runnin’
Run as fast as you can.
He’s a dangerous, dangerous man.
And he’s out tonight,
And he’s watchin’ you
And he knows your house.
No, don’t turn out the lights!

Oh, but he’s back!
He’s the man behind the mask,
And he’s out of control.
He’s back!
The man behind the mask,
And he crawled out of his hole.

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6

Little Shop of Horrors (1986) is one of my favourite cultural artifacts ever. Whatever the virtues of the original Corman Z-grade movie and the subsequent Broadway production, all the musical performances in Frank Oz’s film are top-notch, the choreography is breathtaking and the casting so perfect and endearing it made the original They-All-Get-Eaten ending a no-go. (Mind you, the originally filmed ending, featuring a superb kaiju-rampage FX sequence, is so awesome it needs to be preserved — as it now has been, as an alternative “version” on the newly released Blu-ray.) Meanwhile, the opening title sequence with the titular song finds a well-deserved place on this list.

little_shop_of_horrors_ver2_xlg“Prologue: Little Shop of Horrors” — from Little Shop of Horrors (US-1986; dir. Frank Oz), performed by Chiffon (Tisha Campbell-Martin), Ronette (Michelle Weeks) and Crystal (Tichina Arnold)

[youtube y4AoRc0Qfys]

Lyrics (Howard Ashman)

Little shop,
Little shoppa horrors.
Little shop,
Little shoppa terror.
Call a cop.
Little shoppa horrors.
No, oh, oh, no-oh!

Little shop,
Little shoppa horrors.
Bop-sh’bop,
Little shoppa terror.
Watch ’em drop
Little shoppa horrors.
No, oh, oh, no-oh!

Shing-a-ling,
What a creepy thing to be happening!
(Look out, look out, look out, look out!)
Shang-a-lang,
Feel the sturm and drang in the air.
(Yeah, yeah, yeah.)
Sha-la-la,
Stop right where you are, don’t you move a thing.

You better,
You better,
Tellin’ you you better
Tell your mama
Somethin’s gonna get her.
She better,
Everybody better beware.

Oo, here it comes, baby.
Tell the bums, baby.
Oh, oh, no!
Oo, hit the dirt, baby.
Hit the dirt, baby.
Red alert, baby.
Oh, oh, no!
Oh, oh, no!

Alley-oop,
Hurry off to school child, I’m warnin’ you.
(Look out, look out, look out, look out!)
Run away!
Child you gonna pay if you stay, yeah!
(Yeah, yeah, yeah.)
Look around,
Somethin’s comin’ down, down the street for you!

You betcha,
You betcha,
You bet your butt, you betcha.
Best believe it,
Somethin’s come to get ya.
You betcha,
You better watch your back and your tail…

Woo!
(Come-a come-a come-a.)
Little shop,
Little shoppa horrors.
Bop-sh’bop,
You’ll never stop the terror.
Little shop,
Little shoppa horrors.
No, oh, oh, no, oh, oh, no, oh, oh, no!

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7

M.I.B. the song isn’t really as much of a favourite as the rest of the theme songs mentioned here, but the movie itself is, and the theme song sits well with the general tone (not to mention the fact that it’s performed by star Will Smith himself). It’s got rather a lot of lyrics, too. Just stare into the light!

men_in_black“Men In Black” — From Men in Black (US-1997; dir. Barry Sonnenfeld), performed by Will Smith

[youtube ghoedCxz8IA]

Lyrics (Will Smith)

Here come the Men in Black
(Uh it’s the M.I.B.s)
(Uh here come the M.I.B.s)
Here come the Men in Black (Men in Black)
They won’t let you remember

Nah, nah, nah,
The good guys dress in black, remember that,
Just in case we ever face to face and make contact.
The title held by me… M.I.B.
Means what you think you saw, you did not see.
So don’t blink,
Think what was there but now’s gone.
Black suit with the black Ray Ban’s on.
Walk in shadow, move in silence,
Guard against extra-terrestrial violence.
But yo we ain’t on no government list.
We straight don’t exist,
No names and no fingerprints.
Saw something strange,
Watch your back.
‘Cause you never quite know where the M.I.B.s is at,
Uh and…

Here come the Men in Black. (Men in Black)
The galaxy defenders. (uh oh, uh oh)
Here come the Men in Black. (Men in Black)
They won’t let you remember. (won’t remember)
(uh uh, uh uh)

Now from the deepest of the darkest of night,
On the horizon, bright light in the site tight,
Cameras zoom, only impending doom.
But then like BOOM black suits fill the room up.
With the quickness talk with the witnesses,
Hypnotizer, neuralizer.
Vivid memories turn to fantasies.
Ain’t no M.I.B.s.
Can I please,
Do what we say? That’s the way we kick it.
Ya know what I mean,
I say my noisy cricket get wicked on ya.
We’re your first, last and only line of defense,
Against the worst scum of the universe.
So don’t fear us, cheer us.
If you ever get near us, don’t jeer us.
We’re the fearless.
M.I.B.s freezin’ up all the flack.
What’s that stand for?
Men In Black.
Uh, M-m-m-…

The Men in Black.
(Uh uh uh)
The Men in Black.
(Uh uh uh, ah ah ah)

Let me see ya just bounce it with me.
Just bounce with me.
Just bounce it with me. C’mon,
Let me see ya just slide with me.
Just slide with me.
Just slide with me. C’mon.
Let me see ya take a walk with me.
Just walk with me.
Take a walk with me. C’mon,
And make your neck work.
Now freeze.

Here come the Men in Black. (Men in Black)
The galaxy defenders. (ooh ooh)
Here come the Men in Black. (Men in Black)
They won’t let you remember. (uh no, no)

A-right check it.
Let me tell you this in closin’.
I know we might seem imposin’,
But trust me if we ever show in your section.
Believe me it’s for your own protection.
Cuz we see things that you need not see,
And we be places that you need not be.
So go with your life,
Forget that Roswell crap.
Show love to the black suit.
Cuz that’s the Men in,
That’s the Men in…

Here come the Men in Black. (Here they come)
The galaxy defenders. (Galaxy defenders)
Here come the Men in Black. (Oh, here they come)
They won’t let you remember. (Won’t let you remember)

Here come the Men in Black. (Oh, here they come)
The galaxy defenders. (Uh oh, uh oh)
Here come the Men in Black.
They won’t let you remember.

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8

Okay, there’s got to be one that’s completely tasteless, right? Well, this is it. It’s the theme song of a schlocky, sexploitation vampire flick from the 1970s (where all the best films of that sort came from). Vampire Hookers was made in the Philippines and starred an aging John Carradine at his gaunt, melodramatic best. The two things we learn from the film are that Shakespeare was a vampire… and that tasteless puns “sell” movies.

vampire-hookers“Vampire Hookers” — from Vampire Hookers (Philippines/US-1978; dir. Cirio H. Santiago) — performed by someone whose identity is a well-kept internet secret. Unfortunately the YouTube version below cuts off before the end. Very sad.

[youtube O0mcAL8oBk8]

Lyrics (unknown)

Don’t get hooked by a hooker
When you sail in seven seas
Even though she’s a looker
she can bring you to your knees.
She’ll take you to the graveyard
And try to ease your fears,
But her friends out in the graveyard
have been dead for a hundred years.

They’re the Vampire Hookers
Yeah, they’re Vampire Hookers
Well, they’re Vampire Hookers
and blood is not all they suck!

These girls are illusions,
They slit throats from ear to ear.
They want you for transfusions,
They’ll never shed a tear.
They make real bloody Marys
And have a grand old time,
But you’ll find out if you visit
That your life’s not worth a dime….

… To those Vampire Hookers
Yeah, they’re Vampire Hookers
Well, they’re Vampire Hookers
and blood is not all they suck!

So if you meet a hooker
And she seems so sweet and kind,
Be careful if you date her,
Your life may be on the line.
They’re beautiful and sultry
But they’re not what you expect.
You’ll be begging them for mercy
[As they bite you in the neck

They’re the Vampire Hookers
Yeah, they’re Vampire Hookers,
Well, they’re Vampire Hookers
and blood is not all they suck!]*

* a guess on my part

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9

Over the years, Undead Backbrain has been introduced to many independent films — films made with love and passion, even if at times they’re rather rough around the edges. This next song comes from one such film — a Z-budget, tongue-in-cheek, sexy, irreverant and gore-splattered horror comedy about sideshow freaks, salacious women and inbred backwoods trailer trash. An interesting thing about Crustacean (US-2009; dir. L.J. Dopp) is that it is accompanied by a superb CD of original music written by the director and performed specially for the film by Dopp and members of the cast. I love this album and heartily recommend it. The theme song is one of the more sedate tracks. Others, such as the hilarious hillbilly ode to “Lemur’s Holler” or the trailer trash love-song “Trailer Park Queen”, up the ante on satirical humour and outlandish imagery. But “Crustacean” is a good theme song — so here it is.

crustacean-poster“Crustacean” – from Crustacean (US-2009; dir. L.J. Dopp), performed by L.J. Dopp, Peter Atkins, Brian Sheridan, and Maxine Gillespie.

[youtube fnBpFkkRsyc]

Lyrics (L.J. Dopp)

Crustacean, come out of your shell.
Crustacean, you’re harder than hell.
Frustration, they just don’t understand
What it’s like to have claws
Instead of normal hands.

Day after day,
You’re put on display
The king of the freaks
On the midway…

Crustacean, come out of your shell.
Crustacean, you’re harder than hell.
Frustration, they just don’t understand
What it’s like to have the claws
Instead of normal hands.

You’re living a lie,
You ask yourself why
You’re so full of rage
Maybe it’s because you live in a cage.

Crustacean, come out of your shell.
Crustacean, you’re harder than hell.
Frustration, they just don’t understand
What it’s like to have claws
Instead of human hands.

Crustacean, come out of your shell.
Crustacean, you’re harder than hell.
Frustration, they just don’t understand
What it’s like to have claws
Instead of normal hands.

Day after day,
You’re put on display
The king of the freaks
On the midway…

Crustacean, come out of your shell.
Crustacean, you’re harder than hell.
Frustration, they just don’t understand
What it’s like to have the claws
Instead of normal hands.

You’re living a lie,
You ask yourself why
You’re so full of rage
Maybe it’s because you live in a cage.

Crustacean, come out of your shell.
Crustacean, you’re harder than hell.
Frustration, they just don’t understand
What it’s like to have the claws
Instead of normal hands.

____________________________________________________

10

One last favourite. This theme song isn’t funny or ironic. But I want to put it in anyway. In my opinion, Paul Schrader’s Cat People is severely under-rated. Yes, it makes unsubtle the subtly suggestive 1942 original by Jacques Tourneur (via Val Lewton), but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad film. By drawing out the original’s fairly quiescent sexual elements, it creates a much more explicit and complex mythology, all of which is very 1980s. It also stars Malcolm McDowell and Nastassja Kinski as were-panthers… which they’re both very good at. And it has an excellent and evocative theme song by David Bowie.

“Cat People (Putting Out Fire)” — from Cat People (US-1982; dir. Paul Schrader), performed by David Bowie.

[youtube VpdHMaccjw4]

Lyrics (David Bowie)

See these eyes so green
I can stare for a thousand years
Colder than the moon
It’s been so long

Feel my blood enraged
It’s just the fear of losing you
Don’t you know my name
Ohh, you’ve been so long
And I’ve been putting out fire
With gasoline.

See these eyes so red
Red like jungle burning bright
Those who feel me near
Pull the blinds and change their minds
It’s been so long

Still this pulsing night
A plague I call a heartbeat
Just be still with me
Ya wouldn’t believe what I’ve been through
You’ve been so long
Well, it’s been so long
And I’ve been putting out the fire
with gasoline
putting out the fire
with gasoline.

See these tears so blue
An ageless heart
that can never mend.
These tears can never dry
A judgement made
can never bend.
See these eyes so green
I can stare for a thousand years
Just be still with me
You wouldn’t believe what I’ve been through.

You’ve been so long
Well, it’s been so long
And I’ve been putting out the fire
with gasoline
putting out fire
with gasoline.

 __________________________________________________

That’s it, folks! Anyone else got any favourites that aren’t here?

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6 Responses to Favourite Horror Film Theme Songs

  1. Nicj Stathopoulos says:

    Yep. Love all of these. And THE BLOB is definitely No 1. But you missed one! GREEN SLIME!!!!!! It’s probably my No 2!!!!!!

  2. “Science Fiction Double Feature” from the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

  3. Robert Hood says:

    Good suggestions, folks. This may result in a Part 2.

  4. Nick Diak says:

    Suggestion for a part 2? “Willow’s Song” from Wicker Man!

  5. Pingback: 13 Campy Horror Movie Songs To Add To Your Halloween Playlist « Nerdist

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