I once got into a debate with my friend at a Halloween party. I never got too heated; we were too stuffed full of candy. Still, he took issue with my choice of soundtrack.
"Halloween music doesn't have lyrics," he said.
Now, I admit, this is the guy who went with me to Resident Evil and asked as the trailers ended, "Is this a horror movie?"
That might be why my friend assumed all Halloween music sounds like the waiting room at the Haunted Mansion. Aside from his ignorance of the Misfits, he'd never been exposed to the weirdness of horror movie theme songs.
Like the debate student I say speak of the space program who shocked his opponent by opening with remarks on the Bolivian space agency, I'll define my terms. A horror movie theme song, for our purposes, is a song with lyrics about the movie. Mostly, it tells you how screwed you are.
Let's say you're watching a movie about a mutated cafeteria lady who's now made of mystery meat. You'd get one verse about the terrible radioactive mayonnaise accident that created her. The middle verse is a love letter to the devastation she's causing, almost contractually obligated to include the words "Watch out!" Horror movie themes are a lot like Ronnie James Dio songs, actually. Finally, the song ends reminding everyone that, no matter how devastating her ending in the unavoidable exploding gymnasium, she is coming to personally murder every listener for dubious reasons. Now we're got a kitsch classic on our hands.
The Ur-example I could find was Burt Bacharach's "The Blob," a quirky tune about a mindless thing that disolves your flesh. Man, I wish they did a punk version for the 80's remake.
Moving forward, we hit a funky tune for the opening of the Japanese pregenitor to Alien, 1968's The Green Slime. Have to admit, I still keep this one on my mp3 players.
This has a Criterion Collection DVD, by the way. You really should catch it. Let me tell you, those one-eyed tentacle beasts made quite an impression on my eight-year-old self when Grandpa Munster showed it on Super Scary Saturday, in-between Godzilla flicks.
Four years later, the genre advanced to the big time when Michael Jackson sang a touching love song about a rodent mastermind. A more mellow song than the genre usually gets I must admit.
You'd think that would be the biggest a horror theme could reasonably reach, wouldn't you? I mean, what spectacular songwriting did we have to look forward to next?
You'd have been excused for assuming the genre had hit it's peak, but 1984 proved that wrong.
Yeah, this entire column is basically an exercise in getting things stuck in your head. Ghostbusters is by far the most recognizable entry on our list, and I think we're all a little scared about what kind of cover we'll get for the upcoming sequel. Speaking of, don't forget the wonderfully nihilistic Key & Peale sketch about this; I really want to hear the Big Trouble in Little China song.
Let me warn you; don't expect too many other Academy Award nominees on these lists. We will get Alice Cooper's bizarre parenting skills in his ode to Jason Voorhees.
These, I am convinced, are the greatest kind of music video: the one where all metatextual boundaries break down and actors run from film scenes to movie clips to band performances. Frankly, if you're going to sing a song about a mentally-challenged mass murderer, you might as well embrace the fun side.
On the other side of the partisan line, Freddy also got his chance to fight 80's hair metal musicians. Did you think the Power Glove was Krueger's weirdest moment?
There's still some quality left during the 80's. After all, watching the Ramones wander around looking sedated while singing about Stephen King is fun.
Incidentally, if you haven;t heard the Backyard Babies version, you really should.
Next time, I present more recent songs and some deep apologies. Let me tell you, rap music proved just as effective as cheesy power ballads for giving the genre respectability. Also, we'll get to the one magnificent earworm of a song that convinced me to write this article in the first place.