What would a cinematic serial killer be without a chilling, trademark theme song? Save certain polymaths of music and murder, like Charles Manson, most real-life killers don’t get the luxury of a hair-raising soundtrack accompaniment. Scary movies draw on a lot of varied sources for creating the perfect murderous mood music. Sometimes, it’s a tinny, crackling old lullaby played from a broken radio in another room. Other times, murderers require a more epic, haunting buildup. And occasionally, it’s a song that we otherwise wouldn’t find creepy at all, but somehow becomes permanently attached to a nightmarish slasher scene. In lieu of unscary Halloween novelty standbys like “Monster Mash,” we offer 10 of the creepiest songs from our favorite murderous soundtracks. Be forewarned, some of these clips are a bit on the NSFW side.
“Come Wander With Me” by Jeff Alexander/Bonnie Beecher, in The Twilight Zone
Nothing says prelude to murder quite like a mysterious serenade in the middle of the woods. The hushed tone and dark arrangement of this song, written by Jeff Alexander (who also contributed heavily to Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Music to be Murdered By ), has earned something of a cult status in the world of foreboding, murderous soundtracks.
“Mr. Sandman” by The Chordettes, in Halloween II
Famously used in the soundtrack to Halloween II and subsequent iterations of the horror movie franchise, the lullaby croon of this single by The Chordettes is an obvious choice for unintentionally creepy songs.
“In Dreams” by Roy Orbison, in Blue Velvet
Much like the titular Bobby Vinton song, with its haunting rendition by Isabella Rossellini (revived recently by Lana Del Rey), Roy Orbison’s tremulous vocals will never be the same after Dean Stockwell’s famous lip-synced performance in Blue Velvet. David Lynch knows how to craft a nightmarish soundtrack, and this scene with Frank Booth is one of the more uncomfortably memorable.
“Goodbye Horses” by Q Lazzarus, in Silence of the Lambs
The infamous “tuck” scene in Silence of the Lambs, wherein Buffalo Bill models some… wardrobe, is invariably associated with this haunting ’80s synth ballad by Q Lazzarus.
“Jeepers Creepers” by Louis Armstrong, in Jeepers Creepers
The refrain “where’d you get those eyes?” was just begging to be put into a slasher flick. Unsurprisingly, the eerily chorused song has achieved fairly universal creepy old-timey song status thanks to the mediocre 2001 horror film of the same name.
“Tiptoe Through the Tulips” by Tiny Tim, used in Insidious
Something about Tiny Tim’s falsetto set against those simplistic ukelele chords lends itself as equally to gruesome horror as to childhood innocence.
“The Electrician” by The Walker Brothers, in Bronson
Nicolas Winding Refn’s bizarre and operatic fictionalized portrayal of real-life prisoner Michael Gordon Peterson is memorable for its darkly surreal soundtrack. Much like the Katyna Ranerieri and Riz Ortolani contribution during the elevator scene in Drive, this particularly brutal slow-motion sequence stands out thanks to the epic, baritone vocals of the Walker Brothers.
“Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)” by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans, in The Man Who Knew Too Much
Admittedly not quite a murder scene song, “Que Sera, Sera” is undeniably creepy, as a recent TV spot for American Horror Story recently reminded us. Hitchcock masterfully uses Doris Day’s echoing performance to build tension and suspense. Over the years, the song’s optimistic chorus and melody have often provided the perfect, unsettling contrast to scenes of horror and dread.
“The Sprout and the Bean” by Joanna Newsom, in The Strangers
Newsom’s terrifyingly twee vocals, somewhere between that of a high-pitched child and a shaky old woman, combined with her ethereal harp strumming, makes for one especially creepy soundtrack addition (especially on vinyl!), as it starts skipping on a record player in a spooky scene from The Strangers.
“Hip to Be Square” by Huey Lewis and the News, in American Psycho
If it’s possible for something to be so completely uncreepy as to come full circle and, somehow, perfectly invoke the chilling remorselessness of Christian Bale playing a psychopathic yuppie, then Huey Lewis and the News’ “Hip to Be Square” would be our top pick. Also, there’s probably no crueler way die.