Songs That Should Be Horror Films

Sometimes when I listen to music, it reminds me of a horror film, or puts me in the mood for a horror film, but every now and then, I hear a song that is either so creepy, or does such a good job of creating unique characters and a gripping narrative, that I wish the song were a horror film. Here are a few examples.

“Murder in the Red Barn,” by Tom Waits

Synopsis: In most of his songs, Tom Waits paints a landscape of grotesque characters whose oddities and sins are absurdly apparent. Sometimes he treats them with tenderness and compassion; other times he simply asks us to gawk and shudder. In “Murder in the Red Barn,” the violence is sinister and secret, but presented as an inevitable fact of our darker nature. If it were a film, it would be a cross between Sling Blade and Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Tagline: “There’s always some killin’ you got to do around the farm.”

“Saturday Night,” by The Misfits

Synopsis: Hardcore Misfits fans may prefer Glen Danzig as lead singer, but Michale Graves can croon with the best of them. “Saturday Night” is his best song, and it perfectly captures a bittersweet 1950s nostalgia for cruising, hanging out at the drive-in theater, and coming clean to your best girl that you’ve just been on a murder spree. If this song were a film, it would be American Graffiti, but with a teary-eyed, teenage psycho-killer running amok in it.

Tagline: “There’s 52 ways to murder anyone.”

“The Warning,” by Nine Inch Nails

Synopsis: Trent Reznor’s best album in years is about a dystopian future in which all forms of media are indistinguishable from propaganda and the citizens are subservient drones for powerful demagogues. “The Warning” is about the moment we learn that aliens have been watching it all and are about to open can of whoop ass on our degenerate human asses. If this were a film it would be a combination of They Live and The Day the Earth Stood Still (but with Reznor himself as the freaky alien herald instead of Keanu Reaves).

Tagline: “Your time is tick-tick-ticking away.”

“White Noise,” by Murder by Death

Synopsis: Murder by Death provides a soundtrack for the stranger, more esoteric aspects of the Old West. If this song were a film, it would be a mythic story involving the apocalypse and its attendant killer who would be equal parts the “friend” killer from No Country for Old Men and Clint Eastwood’s nameless gunslinger in High Plains Drifter. He would be the sort of badass that you wouldn’t even want to pass quietly in the street, as simply looking at him would send you plummeting into the long, dark night of the soul.

Tagline: “Have no reprieve for the weak and the damned.”

“Black Soul Choir,” by 16 Horsepower

Synopsis: The bible is a really scary book, and 16 Horsepower takes it seriously. Their songs are about the crooked path to a salvation that harrows the soul as much as it soothes it. If “Black Soul Choir” were a film, it be an alternate version of Children of the Corn in which the children have grown into adults are now led by a snake-handling, hard drinking old-testament-style prophet, who’d just as soon club you to death as save your soul, as either option will force you to meet your maker.

Tagline: “Every man is evil, and every man a liar.”

9 Responses to Songs That Should Be Horror Films

  1. I heard something by 16 Horsepower some time ago, loved it, and then promptly forgot all about it. Thank you so much for the reminder. I’m gonna track ’em down right now.

    This got me thinking and Rammstein’s Stir Nich Vor Mir immediately came to mind, though it might be a little chliche. I’d also go with Ghost Dance by Yoav, which is wonderfully dark and moody. The content is a little less wonderful as it’s about a father who murders his daughter. Dust Bowl Dance by Mumford and Sons is a violent tale of loss and rage. And of course Creepy Doll by Johnathan Coulton, which is about one man’s descent into paranoid fantasy.

    Oh, how I could go on!

    • Jon says:

      If I ever make a horror film, I’m pretty sure the score will include 16 Horsepower. I’ll have to track down Ghost Dance and Dust Bowl Dance. Thanks for mentioning those!

    • Jon says:

      Thanks Lazarus! I’m not one for speech-ifying (and Corey turns pale at even the IDEA of making a speech) so I’ll just say it feels pretty darn good just to know we’re being read by folks such as yourself.

  2. Wow, congrats on the Zombie Rabbit, guys! I was just stopping by to talk about how awesome Misfits are and how many of their songs would make great horror movies, but this award seems much more important.

  3. As much as I’d love to agree that any 16 Horsepower album could be turned into a slew of horror films I’m really going to have to say The Warning is the one to go with… of course I’m a bit of a fan of mixing sci-fi with my horror and that’s quite possibly our future in about 5 years (just replace aliens with any major government on our planet.) ;)

  4. Chad Helder says:

    I love Murder in the Red Barn. I remember listening to that song back in 1995 (probably high) and thinking that it was like an awesome horror movie–a 70s horror movie to be precise

    • Jon says:

      AtP, thanks for sharing that link! This is GREAT news for genre fans as well as fans of that album. Now if only someone will make Tom Waits’ “Murder in the Red Barn” into a film, or perhaps his song “The Eyeball Kid.” I think David Lynch could do something awesome with either of those songs.

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