Music is often used in horror movies, mostly to add to the scares. However, occasionally, music is used in startling or ironic ways, as in the following examples.
5.”Surfin’ Safari”—Graveyard Shift
The song: The Beach Boys extol the joys of surfing—it’s cool because everybody’s doing it.
The movie: Graveyard Shift is a Stephen King adaptation about underpaid workers forced to rid a mill of its rat population. Unbeknownst to them, a giant rat/bat hybrid is out to get them. The song is used during a scene showing a rat floating on a piece of wood. See, cause the rat is surfing? The movie is not devoid of comic relief—it has Brad Dourif after all, but the rat surfing to The Beach Boys goes beyond comic relief and borders on manic silliness. But it’s fun.
The song: The Association bemoans the fact that the narrator’s crush is unrequited.
The movie: A detective tracks a serial killer who overfeeds women until they die. Said serial killer is listening to and singing along with the song in his car on the way to pick up food for his current victim, so the implication is that he identifies with the song. The irony is that he doesn’t have any feelings for the woman, so the lyrics “Cherish is the word I use to describe All the feelings that I have hiding for you inside” ring hollow. In addition, the lyrics “You don’t know how many times I’ve wished that I could mold you into someone who could Cherish me as much as I cherish you” are sourly amusing since he is literally molding her body.
3. “I Think I Love You”–The Quiet Family
The song: The Partridge Family’s narrator wrestles with his attraction to a person who may or may not love him in return.
The movie: It’s a Korean movie (remade by Takashi Miike as The Happiness of the Katakuris). The Kang family has opened an inn in a remote spot and is waiting for business to pick up. Meanwhile, their guests tend to kill themselves and die in other unfortunate ways, and the family has its hands full keeping the business’s reputation wholesome. The song comes at the end of the movie, after the teenage daughter, Mi-Na, becomes aware of what her parents and uncle (Min-Sik Choi, in a delightfully comic turn four years before Oldboy) have been up to. The song is totally incongruous in the movie and inappropriate for the scene. The juxtaposition of the Partridge Family and the Kang family is also amusing.
2. “Blue Moon”–An American Werewolf in London
The song: The Marcels’ love song describes a narrator who was lonely (and thus sees a blue moon), but then finds love and is happy (the moon turns to gold).
The movie: Two tourists encounter werewolves; one is maimed and one is bitten and becomes a werewolf. The song is used a couple of times in the movie, but the memorable one is used over the ending credits. David, the werewolf, is being tracked by the police, and his love interest Alex is trying to convince him to give himself up, saying, “David, please let me help you. I love you, David.” He seems to recognize her, as his snout unwrinkles a little, but then he lunges and is shot multiple times. His naked body is bullet-ridden and human again. The camera cuts to Alex breaking down, then back to David’s corpse, then boom end credits and upbeat love song. It’s abrupt and shocking.
- “I’m Gonna Make Her Love Me”–Isolation
The song: Jim Ford tells his papa that he’s going to make his crush love him forever.
The movie: A group of people on a farm in Ireland are menaced by genetically modified cow fetuses. It sounds ludicrous, but the movie is played 100% seriously. There’s not a trace of comic relief, the winter setting is dark and moody, and the characters are butchered mercilessly. Then come the closing credits, wherein the first line of the song playing is “I’m gonna make her love me ’til the cows come home.” After the depressing movie, here comes this quaint old song with cutesy lyrics like “She’s a dilly, Papa, pretty as the Mona Lis’.” And it refers to cows! Sheer brilliance.