What is it about horror and oldies songs? There’s something about the sugary sweet melodies of late 1950’s, early 1960’s teen pop and romantic crooners that makes horror movies and television even scarier.
There’s a horror movie in post-production right now that I recently saw part of and it has the same thing. Bubble-gum music from when my mother was a little girl and it’s eerie. It got me thinking of how that kind of music really sets the tone—even though it’s seemingly the exact opposite. A soft ballad from thirty-plus years ago in a dark and creepy house will make your skin crawl.
I’m reminded of the absoluate scariest episode of “The X-Files”—that one from season 4 with the weird inbred family, “Home”. They play Johnny Mathis’ “Wonderful! Wonderful!” a few times it makes me squirm in my chair. Or how about the William Gibson episode from season 5, “Kill Switch”, with it’s use of “Twilight Time” by The Platters?
Steven King understands it. He’s always quoting song lyrics in his stories and his movies make use of the same thing. Of course “Christine” is probably the perfect example of this since the the demon car is from that era. But even a really bad King movie like “Sleepwalkers” makes use of Santo & Johnny’s “Sleepwalk” and it’s spooky.
But perhaps the scariest of all is David Lynch and the “Candy-Colored Clown” of “Blue Velvet”. The psychotic Frank, played with perfection by Dennis Hopper, gets a very effeminate Dean Stockwell to lip sync to Roy Obison’s “In Dreams” while holding a light to his face like a microphone—casting ghoulish shadows.
A candy-colored clown they call the sandman
Tiptoes to my room every night
Just to sprinkle stardust and to whisper,
‘Go to sleep. Everything is all right.’
If that doesn’t want to make you keep the lights on at night, I don’t know what will.