6 Songs Used in Horror Movies to Great Effect

Soundtracks have always been a vital part of horror movies. From the screeching strings of Psycho by Bernard Herrmann titled “The Murder” to the haunting John Carpenter score in the film Halloween. Music is used to heighten the senses effectively. Who can forget the recurring John Williams two-note ostinato in Jaws? Those examples are part of the film score. When a director uses an already existing piece of music, it’s referred to as a “needle drop.” Let’s look at specific songs used to great effect in horror movies.

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1.”American Girl” by Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers in The Silence of the Lambs

Jonathan Demme, who directed the 1991 psychological horror movie, perfectly used this song. Actress Brooke Smith is driving and singing the song from Tom Petty’s debut album. She is belting out the lyrics just before she unwittingly finds herself in a situation she can’t control as she ends up in the back of a van abducted by a serial killer. “Hip Priest” by The Fall and “Goodbye Horses” by Q Lazzarus were also featured in the film.

2. “Call Me” by Blondie in Bride of Chucky

Blondie’s song “Call Me” was written to be the main theme song of American Gigolo in 1980, but it is on this list for its use by director Ronny Yu in the fourth installment of the Chucky movies, Bride of Chucky. The story of a doll possessed by a serial killer and the soul of his girlfriend, whose soul was also transferred into a doll, uses the song in a montage of the female character getting made up.

3. “Hurdy Gurdy Man” by Donovan in Zodiac

This song was used to set the timeframe of the movie’s opening. The haunting melody and lyrics accompany the horrific events of July 4, 1969, as a young man and woman were in a secluded area to park. They are visited by an unidentified man who turns out to be the Zodiac killer. 

“Man, you really creeped us out.”

4. “Pet Sematary” by The Ramones in Pet Sematary

The 1989 film based on Steven King’s novel actually included two songs by The Ramones. “Sheena Is a Punk Rocker” shows up on a truck driver’s radio. “Pet Sematary” was written for the movie and was one of their most successful singles. Director Mary Lambert approached the band about adding a song to the project. Lambert previously directed music videos for Madonna, Janet Jackson, Sting, The Go-Gos, Mick Jagger, Annie Lennox, Whitney Houston, Mötley Crüe, and Queensrÿche. 

5. “Dream Warriors” by Dokken in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

The third installment of Nightmare on Elm Street uses the Dokken song explicitly written for the movie. The promotional music video used footage from the film as well as extra shots of actors Patricia Arquette as Kristen Parker and Robert England as Freddy Krueger interacting with the heavy metal band. 

6. “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” by Tiny Tim in Insidious

A signature song of Nick Lucas in the ’20s and then Tiny Tim in the ’60s, “Tiptoe Through the Tulips,” was used effectively in the 2010 supernatural horror film. The story of a boy who becomes a vessel for demonic entities, Insidious, will make you think differently of this seemingly harmless ditty.

7. “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” by Bauhaus in The Hunger

Catherine Deneuve, David Bowie, and Susan Sarandon starred in this 1983 erotic thriller. The opening title sequence features the 1979 British Indie hit, “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” by Bauhaus. An interesting tie to the past, as Bela Lugosi made a career out of starring in horror films. Most notably as Dracula in the 1931 Universal classic. Lead singer Peter Murphy is mainly featured in the opening of The Hunger

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