Remember back in the day when it seemed like every movie had it’s own personal theme song? Not just a catchy main theme (e.g. John Williams’ “JAWS theme,” “Tubular Bells” from THE EXORCIST, “Ave Satani” from THE OMEN) but a legit song with lyrics that were tailored specifically for the film it was attached to? Ah, those were the good ole days!
While working on various projects for The Vault recently, I have been listening to several playlists on YouTube made up of a good mix of Horror tunes, and it got me to thinking, “What are my absolute favorite Horror theme songs, and can I whittle them down to a list of ten?” In preparation, I sat and listened to an eclectic mix of music from various Horror flicks: Rock, pop, synth, metal, rap, disco, and even folk ballads bombarded my ears for hours!
Also, while compiling this list, I went by three rules: First off, the theme songs had to come from movies that were predominantly Horror. (Duh!) Secondly, they had to be actual songs, and not just instrumental themes. Thirdly, the songs in question had to be created specifically for each movie’s soundtrack, and must actually play at some point in the films they hail from. (The majority of these play during the end credits of their respective films, but that still counts in my book!)
Before we get to the “big ten,” let’s take a look at a few songs that didn’t quite make the cut, but at the very least deserve an honorable mention.
“MADMAN MARZ THEME” from MADMAN (1982)
Written by Gary Sales
Performed by: ?
A cool synth ballad about the film’s legendary backwoods killer. It’s super simplistic, and there’s only one stanza of lyrics and a single chorus, but damn is it catchy. Give it a listen below, and “beware the Madman Marz!”
“PROM NIGHT” from PROM NIGHT (1980)
Written and composed by Paul Zaza and Carl Zittrer.
Performed by: ?
PROM NIGHT’s main theme song is a lively disco tune that assures us that it’s “Prom Night” and “everything is all right.” It’s pretty darned catchy and will have you bobbing your head and tapping your feet, but the song’s backstory is probably the most interesting aspect of it.
Paul Zaza (who will appear again in the top ten below) was given five days to write five disco songs for PROM NIGHT. This was mainly because obtaining rights to the music that the actors were actually dancing to in the film was not in the budget. Zaza successfully created a series of copycat disco hits for the film, but in the end, it resulted in a fifty-thousand dollar legal settlement!
Because of this, the soundtrack was only released on vinyl in Japan back in 1980! Yikes! Guess everything isn’t all right for Prom Night!
“YOU’RE JUST WHAT I’VE BEEN LOOKING FOR” (ANGELA’S THEME) from SLEEPAWAY CAMP (1983)
Written and performed by Frank Vinci
On the surface, SLEEPAWAY CAMP seems like a run-of-the-mill slasher flick that is light on gore, but heavy on inventive kills and political incorrectness. However, it contains one of the greatest shock endings in cinematic history, and has cemented itself as a classic in the sub-genre! (I absolutely love showing this movie to people who have never seen it before!)
“Angela’s Theme” was composed by Frank Vinci, who did it all with a Yamaha keyboard and Boss Drum Machine. The result is Vinci’s attempt at a Euro rock tune, that is a bit on the eerie side, and it perfectly fits this Summer camp shocker!
If Felissa Rose is someone that you adore, then this song is just what you’re looking for!
#10. “THE MONSTER SQUAD RAP” from THE MONSTER SQUAD (1987)
Written by Dick Rudolph and Michael Sembello
Performed by “The Monster Squad”
I absolutely adore THE MONSTER SQUAD, and have since I first discovered it on VHS back in the late 80s. While everyone mostly remembers Michael Sembello’s “Rock Until You Drop” from this movie’s soundtrack, it doesn’t seem like there’s an equal amount of love for the film’s theme song.
The lyrics to “The Monster Squad Rap” are a little white-bread, but it’s a fun song that proves to be a perfect cap to the film!
#9. “THE MANIAC COP RAP” from MANIAC COP 2 (1990)
Composed by Jay Chattaway and Peter Levin
Written by Wayne Lammers and Peter Levin
Performed by Yeshwua (Josh) Barnes and Brian “B. Dub” Woods
MANIAC COP 2 is one of those rare occasions where a sequel outdoes the original. Matt Cordell (the late Robert Z’Dar) returns in this action-packed followup where he’s out for vengeance and he can’t be stopped, that’s why they call him “The Maniac Cop!”
What puts this rap song a notch above “The Monster Squad Rap,” is the fact that it doesn’t feel as forced. It’s a hip-hop horror theme that perfectly encapsulates the MANIAC COP franchise, and proves that almost any cinematic theme music can be properly remixed into something awesome!
#8. “THE BALLAD OF HARRY WARDEN” from MY BLOODY VALENTINE (1981)
Written and performed by Paul Zaza.
MY BLOODY VALENTINE has become one of my absolute favorite slasher films over the last few decades, and I’ve always dug Paul Zaza’s haunting folk ballad that plays during the end credits. It’s a wonderful bit of music that always gets me in the mood to watch Harry Warden violently pluck the hearts from his victims’ chests!
#7. “CAT’S EYE” from STEPHEN KING’S CAT’S EYE (1985)
Written by Jacques Morali, Fred Zarr, and Bruce Vilanch.
Performed by Ray Stephens
The theme song for CAT’S EYE (a film that made me terrified of tiny wall trolls when I was a child) is an odd one. Sung by the original lead singer of “The Village People,” this pop-rock song seems a tad out of place for a horror anthology. On the other hand, its got a good beat and the chorus is catchy as hell. Just one listen is all it took, and now this song’s got me spellbound!
#6. “PET SEMATARY” from PET SEMATARY (1989)
Written by Dee Dee Ramone and Daniel Ray
Performed by The Ramones
It’s hard to believe that this hit song earned The Ramones a Razzie Award for Worst Original Song in 1989, but its true. While the lyrics are admittedly on the weak side, the guitar portion of this song is great, and that chorus just drills itself into your brain. This song actually makes me want to be buried in a pet cemetery, so I can live my life again.
#5. “HE’S BACK (THE MAN BEHIND THE MASK)” from FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VI: JASON LIVES (1987)
Written by Alice Cooper, Tom Kelly, and Kane Roberts.
Performed by Alice Cooper
JASON LIVES resuscitated what some thought was a tired franchise by spoofing itself. It was the first film in the series to inject humor and sight gags into the proceedings, and boasted a theme song from legendary shock rocker Alice Cooper! “He’s Back” is kind of cheesy, but it’s a huge step up from the original demo, which sounded more like an upbeat jingle for a soft drink, than a theme song for a FRIDAY THE 13TH film.
They certainly don’t make songs (or music videos) like this anymore.
Note: The quality of the embedded video is awful, but it is the only full version available on YouTube. There’s a much cleaner (albeit shorter) version here.
#4. “SHOCKER” from SHOCKER (1989)
Written by Desmond Child, Jean Beauvoir and Guy Mann-Dude.
Performed by “The Dudes of Wrath”
Wes Craven’s SHOCKER has rightfully earned cult status since being released in ’89. It almost created a horror icon (Mitch Pileggi’s “Horace Pinker,” is a real bastard but you just gotta love the guy), and gave us a cool theme song by heavy metal supergroup “The Dudes of Wrath,” which was made up of Tommy Lee, Paul Stanley, Guy-Mann Dude, and others.
It’s an odd song, in that the tone of it changes entirely after the first half, going from dark and apocalyptic, to hopeful and overly positive! I was once a lamb being led to the slaughter, but thanks to this song, I will have the pow-er! I will have the glo-ry! Standing like a to-wer! The sun will shine, on my own day!
#3. “KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE” from KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE (1988)
Written by Leonard Graves Phillips
Performed by The Dickies
It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE (read my review HERE), and a large reason for that is this movie’s awesome theme song. Between the fun lyrics and rockin’ guitar solo rendition of Entrance of the Gladiators, it is solid gold!
Take a ride on the nightmare merry-go-round and watch Chuck Cirino’s awesome music video below!
#2. “DREAM WARRIORS” from NIGHTMARE ON ELM ST. 3: DREAM WARRIORS (1987)
Composed and performed by Dokken
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM ST. 3 was a game-changer for the franchise, featuring kids that could use their “dream powers” to fight against everyone’s favorite blade-fingered horror icon. It also gave us one of the coolest heavy metal theme songs ever created, which also led to one of the greatest 80s music videos ever filmed! Using sets from the film, Dokken shows up to banish Freddy Krueger from Patricia Arquette’s dream with the power of heavy metal!
“Dream Warriors” makes you want to wail your lungs out at an old man in a fedora! Indulge in the sheer epicness of Dokken below!
#1. “FRIGHT NIGHT” from FRIGHT NIGHT (1985)
Written by Joe Lamont
Performed by The J. Geils Band
FRIGHT NIGHT is easily one of the best vampire films of all time! It’s got a stellar cast (Roddy McDowell and Chris Sarandon for the win!), memorable characters, great special effects, and a super catchy theme song from The J. Geils Band. “Fright Night” seems to have been written from the point of view of Charley Brewster, the boy that is desperately trying to convince anyone that his next door neighbor is a vampire!
It’s a very energetic piece of music, and it has been getting more playtime on my computer than everything else on this list. It’s a great theme song, and really puts me in the mood to watch FRIGHT NIGHT.
Listen to it below, and you’ll be in for a most frightening night!
Thanks for perusing my top ten list of Horror movie theme songs Vault Dwellers! Do agree with my choices? Are there any that I should have included? Any that I should not have included? Let me know in the comments below, and feel free to share your own lists of favorite Horror theme songs too! Again, thanks for reading and have a happy and safe Halloween!