Way, way back when we first discussed the slasher movie craze of the early 80s, we covered a lot of the tropes and clichés and possible subtexts to be found in the literally hundreds of such movies produced during that period. What we didn’t mention was the music. Now, we’re not talking about the immediately recognizable scores such as John Carpenter’s Halloween or Harry Manfredini’s Friday The 13th. No, we mean the fantastically weird theme songs which sometimes ran over the end credits. A few, like The Fat Boys’ Are You Ready For Freddy actually ended up being released as singles, but for genre nuts, the real gems are the obscure ones which you only heard if you hung around in the theater while most everyone else was making a beeline for the parking lot. What follows are excerpts from some of the most memorable…
APRIL FOOL’S DAY (1986)
This little diddy might sound like an odd choice to close out a horror movie, but from beginning to end April Fool’s Day is chock full of practical jokes (dark, dark jokes, but jokes just the same), so this tune fits right in with the tongue-in-cheek goings on.
As the unlucky counselors in this cult classic find out, Madman Marz is much more than just a tale told to scare the kiddies. However, that is how they’re first introduced to him, as nothing more than a legend to be recounted while sitting around the campfire. Listening to this, you can almost hear the s’mores sizzling.
MY BLOODY VALENTINE (1981)
Forget the noisy, crude remake, the original MBV is much loved by fans for its authentic settings and realistic, likable cast (none of whom burst into a dwarf’s room butt naked). This folksy number perfectly captures the feel of the rundown blue collar mining town which provides the backdrop for Harry Warden’s dirty deeds.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME (1981)
Melissa Sue Anderson spends much of this movie confused and tortured, and then it gets worse for her towards the end. The movie finishes on a particularly downbeat note for her character, which, I’m sure you’ll agree, is more than adequately reflected in this song.
DON’T GO IN THE WOODS (1981)
This movie is legendarily bad. Nuff said.
I have to admit, as cheesy as some of these songs are, I really miss them whenever I give in and watch a modern slasher. A lot of the generic indie rock and heavy metal pieces you get at the end of today’s movies (and some of the old, let’s be fair) are tolerable enough I suppose, but you can tell they were just slapped on because that’s the song style popular with the intended demographic. What makes these old songs, even the corny ones, so much better is that they actually feel like a part of the movie, intimately connected with the story you’ve been watching. Even for dumb slasher flicks, It makes for an all around more immersive movie going experience.
In a way it’s like the stuff we’re supposed to hear at mass. As the Catechism points out, “Song and music fulfill their function as signs in a manner all the more significant when they are "more closely connected… with the liturgical action," according to three principal criteria: beauty expressive of prayer, the unanimous participation of the assembly at the designated moments, and the solemn character of the celebration. In this way they participate in the purpose of the liturgical words and actions: the glory of God and the sanctification of the faithful.” Needless to say, there are arguments to be made that much of contemporary liturgical music doesn’t meet these standards.
With all the other problems ongoing in The Church right now, the state of liturgical music might not seem high on the list. But In his autobiography, Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977, the future Pope Benedict XVI wrote “I am convinced that the crisis in the Church that we are experiencing today is to a large extent due to the disintegration of the liturgy, which at times has even come to be conceived of etsi Deus non daretur: in that it is a matter of indifference whether or not God exists and whether or not He speaks to us and hears us. But when the community of faith, the world-wide unity of the Church and her history, and the mystery of the living Christ are no longer visible in the liturgy, where else, then, is the Church to become visible in her spiritual essence?”
The Pope wasn’t speaking solely of music, of course, but it was part of his discussion. Music matters. As we noted in the examples above, the proper song in a movie can make for a more memorable experience. The proper song in a mass can bring a person to God.