By Karen Kemmerle
Don’t Go In The Woods has the special distinction of being the first film that can truly be called a Slasher Musical. Directed by Vincent D’Onofrio, Don’t Go in The Woods follows the members of a sensitive pop/rock band desperate to write some new songs as they head into the woods sans cell phones to have a couple of nights with no distractions. When their girlfriends/groupies show up to party, the evening and subsequent morning take a terrifying turn for the worst. The Oscar-nominated D’Onofrio skillfully directs this genre-blending melodious shocker with an exciting cast of newcomers and edgy musicians.
With original music and lyrics by Sam Bisbee, Don’t Go In The Woods provides an unexpected thrill ride, switching unpredictably back and forth between indie-pop musical moments and terror. In celebration of Don’t Go In The Woods, we proudly present an expanded Reelist of 10 great pop music moments in horror (with an honorable mention, of course).
Blue Velvet (1986)
Song: In Dreams by Roy Orbison
David Lynch’s Blue Velvet is not technically a horror movie, but it contains what is arguably the most unsettling lip-syncing sequence in film history. Dennis Hopper plays Frank Booth, a unhinged, sadistic gangster who must possess troubled chanteuse Dorothy Vallens (the alluring Isabella Rossellini). When Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan) attempts to save her, Frank takes them both on the joy ride of their life. After a night of torture, Frank and his associates eventually take the unfortunate pair to the apartment of his colleague Ben (a fabulous Dean Stockwell). Frank, obsessed with Roy Orbison’s “candy colored clown,” compels Ben to lip-synch to In Dreams using a fluorescent light as a microphone. His face hauntingly illuminated, Stockwell delivers an eerily beautiful take on the Orbison classic that lingers in one’s memory long after the film itself fades away.
Now, onto our picks for ten great pop music moments in horror:
Death Proof (2007)
Song: Hold Tight by Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich
Quentin Tarantino, known for making long forgotten songs of the past culturally relevant again, can pick a soundtrack. In Death Proof, he chooses to immortalize Hold Tight in the climax of the first half of the film. The scene follows directly after the girls leave the bar from Arlene’s (a pillow-lipped Vanessa Ferlito) party. As the girls settle in for a long car ride to their lake house, they are tipsy and happy, content to dance along to the music. The song itself is a warning as they speed unknowingly towards Stuntman Mike’s 1970 Chevy Nova. The split seconds you are allowed with the girls at they see the crash coming is gut wrenching, especially Arlene’s closed eye acceptance of impending death. After the crash, Tarantino daringly chooses to essentially start his movie over again. While Death Proof is more of a thrill ride than anything, Hold Tight is no doubt a masterful moment in the Tarantino’s film lexicon.
Phantom of the Paradise (1974)
Song: Life at Last by Ray Kennedy (as performed by Gerrit Graham)
Brian De Palma’s little-seen cult classic Phantom of the Paradise was tragically was ignored in the wake of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. More of a concert film than a musical, Phantom of the Paradise is a rock version of Faust with a little bit of a wacked-out Phantom of the Opera thrown in for good measure. For the pop music moment, Beef (Gerrit Graham, in a fantastic lip-synch performance), the embodiment of evil, owns the stage as he sings, “Do you realize that all of you donated something horrible you hated that’s a part of you? I’m your nightmare coming true!” The audience squirms with anticipation as they watch the Phantom (William Finley) prepare to kill Beef with an electric lighting bolt straight to the heart during his glam-rock musical number. De Palma delivers a dynamic sequence filled with thrills and chills with the song punctuated by the Phantom’s mechanical laugh.
From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)
Song: After Dark by Tito & Tarantula
From Dusk Till Dawn, the first full-length collaboration between Robert Rodriquez and Quentin Tarantino, features two criminals on the run (Tarantino and George Clooney) who kidnap a family (including Harvey Keitel and Juliette Lewis) to help them cross the Mexican border. When the crooks and crew go to meet their contact at the Titty Twister bar, the whole gang settles down for a nightcap. No one is prepared for the appearance of Satanico Pandemonium (Salma Hayek) and the snake that adorns her neck. She seduces the crowd with her feminine wiles, turning Tarantino into her dog and making him worship at her feet (literally!), all to the tune of After Dark, the perfect song to accompany her sensual dance. With glowing red lights, fire pits, and dark, moody lighting, Rodriquez masterfully uses this song to set up the entrance of thirsty vampires and the film’s second act.
The House of The Devil (2009)
Song: One Thing Leads to Another by The Fixx
God Bless Ti West. This budding auteur successfully created one of the most memorable sequences in modern horror using the long-forgotten Fixx song One Thing Leads to Another. West’s homage to 80s horror, The House of The Devil, follows nice girl Samantha (Jocelin Donahue) who responds to a shady babysitter ad because she is struggling to make the rent on a new apartment. When Samanatha arrives for the babysitting job, her potential employer (Tom Noonan, ladies and gentlemen) informs her that there is no child to watch, just his elderly mother-in-law. Samantha settles in for the night, knowing that something awful is going to happen. A series of tension-filled bumps in the night and creepy happenings culminate in Samantha dancing to One Thing Leads to Another as it blares from her Walkman as she literally tries to dance her fears away. Honestly, should she really be all that surprised when a cult of devil worshipers tries to abduct her? The House of the Devil is an atmospheric return to 80s horror cinema — when the heroine’s hair was feathered, the suspense was real, and the kills were gory.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)
Song: No One Lives Forever by Oingo Boingo
Featuring performances from Dennis Hopper, Caroline Williams and the great Bill Moseley, Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is a worthy follow-up to its vaunted predecessor. Though decidedly more campy than the terrifying first installment, TCM 2 also offers insane, frightening sequences and moves like a freight train. Did I mention it’s gruesome too? In one sequence, two joy riding punks on the phone to a radio station have the misfortune of running into Leatherface on top of a moving vehicle. Stretch, a long-legged radio DJ, is forced to listen in terror as her two callers are sliced up by Leatherface as the song No One Lives Forever plays in the background. Later, when told by the police to play the recording, Stretch soon becomes the prey of America’s favorite cannibal family. Tobe Hooper couldn’t have picked a more fitting number.
The Devil's Rejects (2005)
Song: Free Bird by Lynyrd Skynyrd
While Rob Zombie, the former musician, has directed such films as Halloween, Halloween II and House of 1000 Corpses, his most acclaimed film to date is The Devil's Rejects. Like House of 1000 Corpses, this film follows the members of the Firefly family, Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig), Otis (Bill Moseley) and Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie), as they flee the police, brutally killing anyone they encounter. Pursued by an equally bloodthirsty band of sheriffs and bounty hunters led by William Forsythe, the Firefly clan, shot up and bloodied, finally makes a break for it on a seemingly open road with the famous Lynyrd Skynyrd anthem blaring, only to meet up with a roadblock. The Devil's Rejects ends like a twisted version of Bonnie & Clyde, ensuring its everlasting place in the realm of horror.
The Hunger (1983)
Song: Bela Lugosi is Dead by Bauhaus
Tony Scott’s directorial debut, The Hunger, has possibly the coolest opening in cinema. Vampire Miriam (Catherine Deneuve) and her companion, John (David Bowie), are in pursuit of hot-blooded meal. The creepy black and white credits are cut together with the strangely beautiful Bauhaus as he performs in an iron cage, with the flashing club lights behind him. The audience never gets a clear view of Miriam and John, who are obscured by the shadows, as they stalk their prey, another glam-rock couple. The film gets off to an evocative and stylistic start before John begins to age rapidly (oh, the catch of being a vampire’s companion!) and Miriam sets her sights on Susan Sarandon. Since its release, The Hunger has amassed an impressive cult following, thanks to the actors’ performances, the film’s dark, glamorous atmosphere and its haunting soundtrack.
Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Song: Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen
Directed by Edgar Wright, Shaun of the Dead is the beloved horror comedy hybrid that launched the international careers of Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (all already well-known in the UK). Shaun (Pegg) is a lovable slacker who flees from zombies with his best friend, Ed (Frost). Scrambling to save Shaun’s mom, girlfriend and friends from the living dead, the group seeks shelter in Shaun’s favorite pub, The Winchester, where a zombified local barkeeper attacks them. As the jukebox plays Don’t Stop Me Now, a rhythmic battle ensues between the gang and the zombie, with pool cues and darts serving as weapons. The scene offers a weird moment of levity before the film transitions from comedy into straight horror.
Near Dark (1987)
Songs: Naughty Naughty by John Parr, Morse Code by Jools Holland, Fever by The Cramps, The Cowboy Rides Away by George Strait
Not one, but four songs are featured in a memorable scene from Near Dark, the first film directed by Oscar-winner Kathryn Bigelow. Now a genre classic, Near Dark follows a group of vampires (Lance Henrikson, Bill Paxton, Jenny Wright et al) who want to induct Caleb (Adrian Pasdar) into their clan. The group takes Caleb to a seedy bar in the middle of nowhere, and as they emerge from the mist with mayhem in mind, Naughty Naughty plays in the background. The music switches to Morse Code as the bar patrons begin to sense impending doom, and finally, to Fever when the vampires being to really feast. At the end of this sequence, Mae (Wright) dances when the last man standing (a young James LeGros) to George Strait’s The Cowboy Rides Away to prepare him for Caleb’s initiation. Bigelow’s use of music is integral to the impact of this ten-minute sequence—no surprise that she went have an acclaimed career.
Song: Blue Moon by Sam Cooke
Beware the Moon! John Landis’s masterwork, An American Werewolf in London, tells the tale of two American tourists, David and Jack (David Naughton, Griffin Dunne), who are attacked by a werewolf. Jack is killed and David lives, at first unaware of the fearsome creature he is about to become. An American Werewolf in London is noted for its soundtrack featuring only songs about the moon. Van Morrison’s Moondance and Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Bad Moon Rising play at different times during the film, but it is the three different versions of Blue Moon that stand out. Sam Cooke performs the song as a slow ballad, and his smooth and lilting voice is heard during the film’s most gruesome scene and Rick Baker's crowning achievement in makeup—David’s first transformation into a werewolf—which is made even more unnerving by the beautiful pop standard that contrasts with the horror on the screen.
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