If you’re a fan of both horror and soundtracks, like me, you know there’s an embarrassment of riches to collect, especially in the current golden age of boutique labels like Waxwork Records. and One Way Static. Some of these horror soundtracks are very rare, not because they’re meant for obscure movies or TV series, but because they break the mold in so many ways.
Read on to discover some of the most unusual horror soundtracks ever released….
And feel free to add your own quirks in the comments!
Monster in My Pocket (1992)
This is perhaps the most unusual soundtrack on this list, considering it’s a toy line! It’s too bad I didn’t learn this when I was a kid, because I loved monster in my pocket toys and this Halloween compilation suits me perfectly. (I probably would have worn out the tape playing it all year.)
The back cover promises “classic monster songs tied together by original horror movie trailers.” The tracklist includes perennials like Bobby “Boris” Pickett’s “The Monster Mash” and Sheb Wooley’s “The Purple People Eater” along with deeper cuts such as Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “Feast of the Mau Mau” and “Bo Meet the Monster” by Bo Diddley. Trailers include everything from Blood of Dracula (1957) to The green slime (1968). Unfortunately, this album is out of print and does not appear to be for sale online, as I would still like to listen to it.
Psycho: Music from and Inspired by the Film (1998)
Sometime in the 90s, a marketer had the brilliant idea of creating movie-inspired soundtracks. Your movie doesn’t have enough music for an album? Complete it with pieces *divinely inspired* by him! I still remember the exam for Music from and inspired by Mission: Impossible 2 who joked about Chris Cornell standing up in the theater and declaring, “Yeah! I have to write a song called “Mission 2000″!” But as often as those cash grabs were lame, they sometimes yielded a gem.
Although this soundtrack to Gus Van Sant’s controversial horror remake shot for shot is in the same vein – one reviewer at the time mocked the “songs with ‘psycho’ and ‘screaming’ in their titles” – it has real treasures and overall is a weird and satisfying compilation befitting the world of Norman Bates. There’s very little music from the actual film – just two of Danny Elfman’s takes on Bernard Herrmann’s original score and, oddly enough, Rob Zombie’s anthem “Living Dead Girl” (heard during the car scene in opportunity).
What fills most of the album is alternative rock, trip hop, and even a piece of country singer-songwriter music (Teddy Thompson’s “Psycho”). My favorite track is “Once Is Not Enough” by Howie B., which samples Vince Vaughn and basically has him rapping (sure, it’s kinda ridiculous, but it’s also awesome – honest!). Lamb’s “Fly” is a creepy, soaring anthem, and Steve Earle’s “All of My Life” is a banger. Meanwhile, Thievery Corporation’s bizarre “Honeymoon Suite” samples the original psychology score wisely.
The Blair Witch Project: Josh’s Blair Witch Mix (1999)
The classic found footage horror movie The Blair Witch Project innovates both in technique and in advertising. The ingenious marketing campaign has built a folksy universe surrounding the fictional witch, from the extensive website to the Scifi Channel documentary. The Blair Witch’s Curse to the accompanying book The Blair Witch File. That cleverness extended to the “soundtrack CD,” which purports to be a mixtape found in film student Joshua Leonard’s missing car radio.
The only piece of music from the actual film, “The Cellar”, is an eerie ambient piece created by Antonia Cora for the closing credits; the rest is an eclectic mix of scary songs like Lydia Lunch, Skinny Puppy, Bauhaus and Type O Negative. “I think it’s a fantastically curated soundtrack album,” enthuses discogs.com user ruhtinas. “Instead of enjoying the era’s usual collection of metal hits, this one features a brilliant collection of lesser-known (and obviously hand-picked) tracks from essential goth/post-punk/industrial acts.” I agree.
There are some really great songs here, especially “The Order of Death” by Public Image Ltd. (also featured in the 1990 film Material), Bauhaus’ “Kingdom’s Coming”, which perfectly captures the film’s woodsy atmosphere, and the bizarre ballad “Don’t Go to Sleep Without Me” by The Creatures. Sisyphus released later Greetings from Burkittsville, an unofficial alternate score to the film that is a gripping album in its own right. For his 2016 follow-up Blair Witchdirector/songwriter Adam Wingard would emulate Cora’s work on “The Cellar” with an all-ambient “score” intended to sound like subtly haunting background noise.
Halloween Returns to Haddonfield: Convention Soundtrack (2003)
Long before Rob Zombie or David Gordon Green rebooted the Halloween series, fans kept their spirits alive with a series of anniversary conventions in Pasadena, California – the filming location of the first two films. The first event, “25 Years of Terror,” had its own “soundtrack”: a series of John Carpenter-inspired electronic music tracks composed and performed by Dan J. Schulte.
Schulte’s pieces have fun names like “Factory of Masks”, “Time to Carve”, and “45 Lampkin Lane”, and sample dialogue from the first three films in the series. (Was this the time when fans appreciated Halloween III: Season of the Witch reached critical mass?) The album is strong enough that even people who didn’t attend the convention become fans; his music was later used in documentaries Halloween: 25 years of terror (2006) and Never Sleep Again: The Legacy of Elm Street (2010).
Cloverfield: Rob’s Party Mix (2008)
Cloverfield, the homage to the found footage monster film from producer JJ Abrams and director Matt Reeves, necessarily lacked a musical score. But the opening night sequence was accompanied by the best hipster music money can buy, from Kings of Leon and Gorillaz to Moby and Of Montreal. Paramount marketed the film with considerable savvy, launching one of the first “puzzle” online campaigns since The Blair Witch Project (including MySpace pages for the movie characters) and the release of “Cloverfield: Rob’s Party Mix” on iTunes.
One reviewer described it, accurately, as a kind of “NOW!” This is what I call the Indie Rock compilation. Highlights include Coconut Records’ adorable “West Coast,” Spoon’s “The Underdog,” and Japanese band Mucc’s banger “Fuzz” (this last callback to the film’s origins). The closing credits “ROAR! Cloverfield Overture”, meanwhile, was created by composer Michael Giacchino (The Batman) as a tribute to the Godzilla scores. This terrific theme has finally been released on iTunes as well.
American Horror Story: Monster Show (2014)
After Jessica Lange’s drugged performance of ‘The Name Game’ went viral on American Horror Story: Asylum (2012), it was inevitable that series creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk would attempt to replicate its success, especially since they also co-created Joy. But some felt monster showthe polarizing fourth season of AHSwent a little too far, with almost weekly musical numbers in the early episodes.
Elsa Mars de Lange was the star attraction of the titular show, concluding each with an anachronistic pop number (the show was set in 1952 Florida by way of the Moulin Rouge!). It worked to unforgettable effect with “Life on Mars” from the premiere and “Gods and Monsters” from “Edward Mordarke (Part 1)”. But Sarah Paulson’s performance in Fiona Apple’s ‘Criminal’ as conjoined twins Bette and Dot drew mixed reviews, and Evan Peters’ attempt at Nirvana’s ‘Come As You Are’ barely registered. (I still remember Entertainment Weekly’s recap joking that his character Jimmy was “so mad he’s inventing grunge rock”). Honestly, I really enjoyed most of the covers, almost all of which were released as singles on iTunes.
What really annoys me is that to this day there has never been a music album or music for american horror story. A label like Death Waltz or Waxworks really needs to get started.
Black Christmas (2015)
Carl Zittrer’s score for the 1974 slasher classic received a vinyl soundtrack disc four decades later. What makes this album so unusual is not only Zittrer’s almost avant-garde compositions, created with strange tools like forks, combs and screwdrivers scraped on piano strings, but also its format: rather than ‘a series of linear tracks, the disc is a scary sound. collage mixing sheet music clues with Christmas carols, ringing phones and the terrifying sounds of the mysterious “Billy”.
With beautiful artwork by Ghoulish Gary Pullin and informative liner notes by Zittrer, who calls the horror soundtrack “a re-imagined, re-composed and re-mixed take on Billy’s point of view”, it’s a must for fans of black christmas.
The Guest 2 (2022)
Here’s an oddity: the soundtrack of a movie that doesn’t even exist! Adam Wingard’s cult action-horror film The guest (2014) won over critics and fans, many of whom have been clamoring for a follow-up ever since. While Wingard has yet to give us that movie, he released this very unique “original soundtrack” earlier this year.
Painted artwork hints at what the film would look like, while the compilation has the same eclectic ’80s vibe as the first film’s soundtrack. Wingard himself contributes to “Grim Showdown” following his work on the Blair Witch score, as well as tracks like “Just Run” by Ghost Cop and “You’ve Got the Armory, I’ve Got the Time” by Xander Harris.
Now I can’t wait for Eli Roth Thanksgiving: the album.