Slumber Party Massacre II

My favourite music moments in horror films

I love the use of pop music in horror movies. The juxtaposition of something nice with something horrible always works for me. . Think “Hip to be Square” in American Psycho – a delightful piece of music playing over an axe murder. But pop music can be used to bring us to the right period or even build the character’s personality more than a score can. It’s a useful tool not often used in horror movies.

And I’ve realised, that many of my favourite scenes in horror movies revolve around music in some way. So why the hell not throw a little list together about it? I’ve chosen these particular scenes for many reasons: they make me laugh, they flesh out the plot, or its just excellent to watch horrible things happen to good music.

Now I’m not counting original scores here because that would be a list all on its own (the gialli soundtracks alone earn a list). And I’m also not including theme songs (that means no Dokken) because that would also be an excellent list.

The band on the Night Train to Terror (1985) perform “Everybody But You” by Joe Turano

“What kind of train is this?”

Night Train to Terror is SUCH a mess. A lovable mess, but a mess all the same.

The 80’s cult film was essentially an anthology movie pieced together of three different films (to be honest, those bits aren’t really important). Tying them all together was the titular train ride. On board is Satan and God, but also a random rock band making a music video.

The movie isn’t great. It’s certainly very weird. But more importantly, it gave us this:

The awkward dancing. The air guitar. The strange bit where they’re all swaying. That being said, this song is such an earworm. This is not only my favourite music moment in a horror movie, but probably my favourite movie moment ever. If you’re having a bad day, chances are this can work its magic on you.

“Sittin’ Here At Midnight” – Reggie Bannister Bill Thornbury’s (as Reggie and Jody) jam session in Phantasm (1979) 

Phantasm is a dark movie, as in it nearly all takes place at night or inside Morningside mausoleum. It’s haunting and filled with nightmares, but it’s also funny and has a great cast of characters. This particular scene is less than a of couple minutes, but it perfectly encapsulates the wonder of small-budget film making: many moments just feel really…real.

The score for Phantasm is pure excellence, but I will always love the guitar jam session between Reggie and Jody. It builds the authentic friendship between the two characters, which helps the ending become all that more compelling.

Actor Bill Thornbury, who wrote the song, still performs it live. You can watch a full live version here.

Angela’s dance to “Stigmata Martyr” by Bauhaus in Night of the Demons (1988)

There’s something wrong with Angela.

Night of the Demons is one of the quintessential 80s horror movies. And it would be nothing, absolutely nothing without the character of Angela. When a group of high schoolers go to an abandoned mortuary where they take turns being possessed and getting killed on Halloween night.

There are many iconic moments. The lipstick, the razor blades. But Angel’s strobe-lit dance is one of the best.

Actress Amelia Kinkade is a trained dancer, and she uses that training to great effect. In some ways, its similar to the Return of the Living Dead scene with Linnea Quigley’s character Trash dancing on the tomb. Its sensual, yet threatening. But the scenes use their actors in different ways: Linnea’s to build up a party mood (to quickly be crashed) and Amelia’s to build a sense of foreboding.

You’re dancing in The House of the Devil (2009) – “One Thing Leads to Another” by The Fixx

Many contemporary horror films try to replicate the feeling of an 80s or 70s horror movie. Most of those fail. But The House of the Devil does it really, really right.

One of the best ways to set a period for a film is music. When student Samantha (Jocelin Donahue) gets a babysitting job “watching” an older woman, she soon finds herself bored. And what better way to spend the time than dance around to The Fixx on your Walkman?

It’s a fun scene, and Donahue really captures the jubilant dance moves of the 80s well (Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy would be proud). But while it is meant to show her casual boredom and youth, the scene still manages to be slightly menacing. It also works by making the viewer feel relaxed, only to shatter the illusion of safety.

Pretty much all of Slumber Party Masscre II

I love the Paisley Underground sounds used in the soundtrack for Slumber Party Massacre II. There’s a lot of great music moments to choose from in this one, but the girls singing “Tokyo Convertible” is easily my favourite bit.

It may be a weird pick considering the main baddie is a manifestation of a greaser rock star. He has a bunch of great songs. I even love the selection of Wednesday Week as the sound chosen for the friends’ fictional band. But there’s something very jubilant about this scene. It’s a fun bit of friendship-building.

Oh and the song is seriously excellent.

Its Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich – “Hold Tight” car scene in Death Proof (Grindhouse, 2007)

My best friends loves this soundtrack. Its a test of your nerves driving to this soundtrack with the movie’s imagery in mind.

Like many of Tarantino’s movies, the whole Death Proof soundtrack is excellent. They’re key to bringing the scenes to life. But in this case, the song is a mocking warning to the women whose lives are about to be cut short.

It’s gruesome, and the song is great.

“People are Strange” in The Lost Boys (1987) – Echo & the Bunnymen

The right song is essential when introducing a new location. We need to know how a place feels, and we can pick up cues not only with visuals, but with sound. If you’re introduced with the slogan “Murder Capital Of the World” and a haunting Doors cover, chances are – you’re not a very nice place, but you’re probably cool.

The early scene in The Lost Boys shows Michael, Sam, and Lucy entering their new city of Santa Carla for the first time. And compared to the safe little town they came from, the people here really are strange. It’s certainly a literal take, but by using a cover by the Bunnymen, the take is slightly elevated.

I also want to put in a good word for the saxophonist scene with Tim Cappello. It’s so good, it’s a close second. Ultimately, though, I went more with scene-setting than pure enjoyment.

Bonus choice: “Sensuous Tiger” from The Capture of Big Foot (1979). NEVER FORGET!

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Wicked Wednesday: Slumber Party Massacre II (1987)

For last year’s Women in Horror Month, I watched Slumber Party Massacre, the first in a series of films that were directed exclusively by female directors.

I watch a lot of 80’s slashers, so I found it slightly difficult to recall the first movie without having to look up the synopsis online. But never fear, Slumber Party Massacre II is a film that will never leave my memory.

Written and directed by Deborah Brock, this sequel is more ridiculous and zany than it’s predecessor. It’s also quite a bit more fun. And why? Well, it still has a driller killer as with the first one. But this drill? This drill is on the end of a guitar! A GUITAR! No explanation needed!

(I’m only saying that because we don’t get one anyway.)

Young Courtney is no longer young. Her older sister Valerie is now in a mental hospital after the horrors the two faced years ago at the first slumber party massacre. Courtney has nightmares about that night. Nightmares about scenes she wasn’t even in. Freaky.

But Courtney has developed a life away from that. She’s in a kickin’ band with her pals, and her crush, Matt, is interested in her. Under her friend Shelia’s insistence, Courtney invites Matt to Shelia’s dad’s new condo over the weekend. It is, after all, Shelia’s birthday.

A slumber party in an out-of-the-way condo? What could go wrong? Well, Courtney’s mom certainly doesn’t want her to go. But her daughter pulls the water works and cries that she doesn’t want to spend her birthday in a mental hospital. Fair enough. Her mother cracks and allows her daughter to do.

The band head off to the condo together, and all seems to be well. While at a stop, Courtney falls asleep where she dreams of a man warning her to not go “all the way”. In her dream he drills through Valerie, who’s on her bed in the mental hospital, with his guitar-drill thing. Courtney wakes up, and assumes that it was just that: a dream.

But the girls arrive at the condo, which means Courtney can’t be bothered to worry about her stupid sister’s fate. The girls get settled, have a pillow fight and strip off (as ladies do). Meanwhile, boys TJ and Jeff arrive to build the sexual tension.

That night while Shelia has sex with one of the boys (I think it’s TJ. Lord knows.), Courtney falls asleep to another nightmare of the Driller Killer. The nightmare tires her out, and in the morning, she’s barely registering anything. The day gets progressively gets worse for her as she begins to have more visions.

But the visions come to a head when Courtney has her own Nightmare on Elm Street bath filled with blood. She screams for help, and her friend Sally arrives in the bathroom, but sees nothing. When Sally tries speaking Courtney, Courtney sees the pimple on Sally’s face grow and eventually melt her entire face (or something).

Courtney runs out of the bathroom to get helps from the others, but they can’t find Sally anywhere. Hours later, they assume something has happened to her and they call the police. The police believe the kids are making things up (especially Courtney, who does herself no favours be describing what happened literally instead of making up stuff that sounds real).

But Sally waltzes back into the house like nothing happened, saying that she went to the shop. The police are then pretty convinced that they never need to believe these kids again…despite the fact that Sally had been missing for hours. But whatever.

Since Matt arrived at the condo earlier that day, he and Courtney now have their time alone. And in what has to be one of the more incredible scenes of the film, the couple have their own Sixteen Candles moment and it is fucking hilarious. Matt brings her a cake that looks like it has been set on fire, and they make out over it.

As the two get busy, Courtney starts to think about the Driller Killer again. And just when things get intimate, Matt gets drilled through the back. The Driller Killer, now out of Courtney’s dreams and into her car, is officially there to terrorise the kids.

As Courtney rushes downstairs, her tries to tell her friends what happened. They all try to split, but no one goes in the same direction. Shelia and TJ go off alone while Courtney, Jeff and Amy head in the opposite direction.

Sally gets killed off first, but she deserved it for being an asshole earlier.

But it hardly matters anyway, as the guitar/drill-wielding dancing killer gets them all in very quick succession. It takes no time at all, and it’s down to Amy and Courtney.

The two girls try to escape the killer through building sites, but Amy eventually falls to her death. When Courtney is finally cornered by the Driller Killer, she’s able to escape him by setting him on fire. This seemingly ends things, but in yet another Nightmare on Elm Street moment, Courtney wakes up from a dream and finds herself in a room in a mental hospital.

It’s great. It’s really great.

The scenes where the Driller Killer peruses the kids are fucking great. While many slashers really tend to drag in the final chase, Slumber Party Massacre II really keeps things (hilariously) interesting.  I like the scenes that are send ups of John Hughes films and the little nods to other horror films.

Do I get what any of this means? Hell no! But it’s certainly something that’s bonkers enough that you need to make all your friends watch it just so you can talk about it.

One of the biggest mistakes the movie made was making these girls likable. Sure, they’re a bit much. But they all feel real and fleshed out. Plus they love Rock ‘n’ Roll High School, and they’re all super terrible dancers!

There’s actually a lot of familiar faces in this one. Heidi Kozak from Society and Friday the 13th pt VII and Juliet Cummins from Friday the 13th: A New Beginning. 

The music is pretty great, too. The band Wednesday Week provided the music for the girls’ band. They were a part of the Paisley Underground scene, which explains why the songs are so Bangles-esque. But the highlight has to be “Tokyo Convertible” by First Born.

I loved Slumber Party Massacre II for all of its insanity. It probably won’t work for everyone, but it certainly made itself memorable. Props to writer and director Deborah Brock. You owned it, lady. Whatever it was that you were trying to do.

I just want to add that Women in Horror Month has been fantastic these first two weeks. The most fun I’ve had watching films in a long time.