The worlds of horror films and heavy metal music were destined to cross paths. Ever since Black Sabbath took its name from a 1963 Mario Bava film, the intertwining of the two mediums became etched in stone. Hundreds of bands would later follow suit, not only naming themselves after their favorite horror films, but also writing songs inspired by them.
On the flip side, somewhere along the line, film makers saw commercial value in utilizing metal music within the contexts (and on the soundtracks) of the horror films they produced. Probably the best known marriage of the two realms was the 1986 film “Trick Or Treat,” which not only spawned a soundtrack of songs written and performed by Fastway (a band formed by former members of Motörhead and UFO), but it also featured acting performances by Ozzy Osbourne and Gene Simmons in a horror tale about an obsessed metalhead and the spirit of a dead singer!
In the spirit of the season, here is a list of the top ten horror films that make use of metal songs.
What are your favorite metal songs that you’ve heard in horror movies?
1. “Pledge Night” (1990), featuring Anthrax’s “Anthrax”
One in a long string of hazings-gone-awry horror movies of the era, “Pledge Night” is notable for two things among metal fans – a small acting appearance by Anthrax lead singer Joey Belladonna and several vintage Anthrax songs used on the soundtrack. The stomp-n-thrash tune “Anthrax” appears no less than three times in the film, most poignantly during a sex scene that ends the movie. “Across the River” appears twice, “Panic” appears once, as does the Belladonna-sung version of “Metal Thrashing Mad” (during a frat party orgy, no less). What is strange, however, is that while the film was released in 1990, all of the songs featured were recorded in 1984, with Belladonna appearing on only one of them!
Check out our interview with Joey Belladonna here!
2. “Phenomena” AKA “Creepers” (1985), featuring Iron Maiden’s “Flash of the Blade”
Why Iron Maiden’s music is not used in more films is beyond me. However, in 1985 (while the band was “enslaving the masses” on its historic World Slavery Tour), Dario Argento released a little film about serial killers, psychics, and a monkey, entitled “Phenomena” (known as “Creepers” in America). The movie was noted for being Jennifer Connelly’s starring debut and for featuring Iron Maiden’s “Flash of the Blade” as Connelly attempts to evade the killer. Kudos to the music supervisor for picking such a deep track!
Check out our interview with Iron Maiden drummer Nicko McBrain here!
3. “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors” (1987), featuring Dokken’s “Dream Warriors”
Closing credits seem to be a popular place to feature popular songs, especially when that song becomes a marketing tool for the film. Not only was the song effective, but the music video, which featured clips of the film, as well as a bit of Dokken vs. Freddy Krueger action…and lots of hair! Dokken’s contribution to the Freddy-verse was so popular that New Line Cinema attempted to replicate the magic on the two following films, tapping Vinnie Vincent Invasion for Part 4 and Bruce Dickinson for Part 5!
A bit of trivia: Anthrax was originally approached to write the title track for the film but turned it down.
4. “Night of the Demons 2” (1994), featuring Morbid Angel’s “Rapture”
The original “Night of the Demons” was a low-budget demon possession / haunted house / slasher that took audiences by surprise in 1988, so it was no surprised to see a sequel. The second film’s story was not too disparate from the first, and one of the most popular scenes featured the main demon character, known as Angela, performing an erotic dance as a preamble to the flesh-flinging action. The dance sequence in the first film featured “Stigmata Martyr” by Bauhaus, but for the second, the producers upped the ante and licensed Morbid Angel’s “Rapture,” thereby making “Night of the Demons 2” quite possibly the first horror film to make use of death metal!
5. “Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III” (1990), featuring Death Angel’s “Bored”
Caught in the unfortunate swell of really bad sequels, “Leatherface” is usually only on anyone’s radar for one of two reasons – it features an early performance by Viggo “Aragorn” Mortensen, and it yielded a predominantly thrash metal soundtrack, released on Medusa Records. One of the most inadvertently humorous moments in the film is when Leatherface hops in a pickup truck to run down the recently escaped Kate Hodge and Ken Foree, and Death Angel’s “Bored” begins blaring from the truck’s stereo. I don’t know if that is a bit of irony, but it’s still funny.
6. “Black Roses” (1988), featuring Lizzy Borden’s “Me Against the World”
Like “Trick Or Treat,” “Black Roses” was a horror film that exploited metal music in a negative light. It’s feather light plot centered on a heavy metal band that, whenever they performed live, not only converted the audience into metalheads, but also transformed them into demons. The soundtrack was largely hair metal-centric, but the real standout was the opening concert sequence in the movie, which featured Lizzy Borden’s “Me Against the World,” which is still a very memorable tune.
Check out our interview with Lizzy Borden here!
7. “Paranormal Activity” (2007), featuring Disgorge’s “Consume the Forsaken”
Despite its ability to conjure scares on a shoe-string budget, nothing shocked me more than the very beginning of “Paranormal Activity”, as Micah presents the video camera to Katie, while the flatscreen television in the background is showing the official video from San Diego’s Disgorge for “Consume the Forsaken”. To me, it is still the most memorable (and definitely brutal) sequence in the movie!
8. “Saw” (2004), featuring Fear Factory’s “Bite the Hand That Bleeds”
For a film marketed on severe shock value, “Saw” succeeded in fostering such an incredibly massive audience that would feed it for six sequels! And although there is minimal music in the film (scored by ex-Nine Inch Nails keysman Charlie Clouser), n’er a more appropriate song licensed for the closing credits was Fear Factory’s “Bite the Hand That Bleeds”. Its gothy, post-industrial starkness reflected the visuals that preceded it beautifully and left you wanting more, probably more so than the film itself.
9. “Mother of Tears” AKA “La Terza madre” (2007), featuring Dani Filth’s “(She’s) The Mother of Tears”
Cradle of Filth is another band that is a head-scratcher as to why the band’s music is not utilized in more horror films. The band’s songwriting is pretty much tailor-made for the industry – I’m looking at you, Hammer Films! To date, Cradle songs have only wormed their way into three films: “Ginger Snaps,” “Cradle of Fear” (a direct-to-video horror film designed as a vehicle for the band), and the “Resident Evil: Apocalypse” soundtrack (because Roadrunner Records released it). So it was all the more pleasing when composer Claudio Simonetti tapped Cradle frontman Dani Filth to croon a ditty for the closing credits of Dario Argento’s “Mother of Tears: The Third Mother”. It was a match made in the Abyss, with Filth’s vampiric howl feeding off of Simonetti’s cathedral-esque note-smithing. Sadly, the soundtrack was never released outside of Italy, so be prepared to shell out for those import fees.
Check out our interview with Dani Filth here!
10. “The Dungeonmaster” (1984), featuring W.A.S.P.’s “Tormentor”
Before he founded Full Moon Pictures, Charles Band had already been making a lucrative career producing some of the most bizarre films imaginable. From “Laserblast” and “Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn” to “Trancers” and “From Beyond”, Band had a history of making movies that blended genres in a low-budget, tongue-in-cheek, yet still fun fashion. In 1984, he produced a film called “Ragewar” AKA “The Dungeonmaster”, a tale that twists supernatural thriller themes with a glaring sci-fi fantasy “TRON” ‘inspiration’. And somehow, either during the writing or filming, Los Angeles carnivores W.A.S.P. was brought in and actually inserted into the story, with front man Blackie Lawless taking on a supporting antagonist role. This culminates in a strange scene where one of the hero’s tasks is to ‘survive’ a W.A.S.P. concert as they perform “Tormentor”, get it? Since its release, “The Dungeonmaster” has become a collector’s item because of W.A.S.P.’s appearance!