Heather Reynolds gives a run through of the best soundtracks Halloween movies have to offer.
Spooky, silly, chilling, there’s Halloween music for every taste. Whether you’re into the orchestral sounds of classical horror soundtracks, or the comedic lyrics of parody monster songs, there is a timeless, seasonless appeal to music associated with Halloween. Unlike other genres associated with seasonal holidays, it has the ability to connect with listeners on a personal level throughout the year. Taking a song like ‘Walking in a Winter Wonderland” as an example, it really does not work outside of winter and the festive season, it does not register with the listener in the same way, typically prompting it to be quickly skipped the second you hear it pop up on shuffle.
This is partially down to the nature of typical Halloween tracks, which focus less on the time of year and the actions associated with it, and more on the feelings and imagery associated with the holiday; that being terror, or a specific monster, or a horror-themed TV tune. People typically only feel festive during the mid-winter; however, you can be in the mood for a spook at any time.
This is exactly the time of year where these spooky tunes are most needed, and so here is a breakdown of everything you need to know about this classic holiday’s music to make sure that your party playlist has a little something for everyone.
The first, and most important, aspect of this terrifying genre is the camp classic soundtracks. These are well-known tunes that capture the fun, familiar, yet unsettling nature of this important holiday. They are crowd pleasers, guaranteed to have people on their feet, if not singing along at the top of their lungs by the time midnight hits. They are silly enough to keep the mood light, but spooky enough to remind you of the night that’s in it, and so are perfect for when you are not sure what mood your crowd is in. For this section, albums to look out for are Rocky Horror Picture Show, Little Shop of Horrors, and, the classic, Hocus Pocus. If you know a single person who claims that Bette Midler’s cover of ‘I Put a Spell on You’ is not their all-time favourite, they are a liar. Filled with classics such as ‘Time Warp’ and ‘Feed Me (Get it)’, these are three core soundtracks that no night of trick or treating is complete without.
Next up, there are the horror soundtracks. Perfect for when you want to stay in the Halloween mood while studying over reading week, or for the early hours of the morning when the party is slowing down. This subgenre is filled with low speed, melancholic tunes, coupled with high paced, chilling overtures that bring orchestral music to the modern age. When it comes to horror films, pretty much anything from the late 70s to early 80s has a solid soundtrack, but pay special attention to Eraserhead, The Shining, and any of the Halloween soundtracks. The theme of the first in the Halloween series, in particular, is very great to work to and has enough movement to it that it is easy to put on repeat and almost forget about. For when the gaff hits 3 a.m. and everyone is still in the party mood but too tired to keep dancing, The Shining is your best friend, spooky and chilling, yet chill enough that it does not disturb the good vibes.
Finally, there are the parody songs. They make their way onto every Halloween playlist, leaning fully into the comedic nature of the holiday, hiding witty lines behind wolf howls and witch cackles. Whether you are setting up for a child’s themed party, or just looking for a few laughs, these songs have your back. There is an excess of these songs a simple Google away, but if you are looking for a place to start, begin with classics such as ‘Werewolves of London’ by Warren Zevron, which has the same backing music as ‘Sweet Home Alabama’, ‘Purple People Eater’ by Sheb Wooley, which is shockingly hard to sing along to and is one of the few songs with a twist ending, and the irrefutably most iconic Halloween song by Bobby ‘Boris’ Pickett & The Crypt-Kickers, ‘The Monster Mash’, the merits of which do not need to be laid out. The Monster Mash has become such a staple in pop culture, that it itself has been the target of parody songs, most recently ‘The Cringe’ from the television show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.
Keeping this all in mind, get listening, get appreciating, and keep the spirit of this great holiday close, like the comparably rather boring rest of the year continues to unfurl.