Halloween is nearly upon us, and that means it’s time to crack out all of your spooky records. Fans of Rob Zombie, Oingo Boingo, The Cramps, and just about any Norwegian black metal bands are happy as gory clams in this season, as said bands find themselves winding their way onto mainstream radio, and scary music is simply accepted as the norm. It’s not quite as prevalent as Christmas music, but there’s still plenty to go around.
Indeed, thanks to the hard work of a company called Waxwork Records, the vinyl marketplace has recently experienced a deluge of content in the form of specially remixed, and gloriously repackaged cult horror soundtracks presented on colored, patterned, and otherwise decorated 180-gram vinyl records. This company also contacts composers and filmmakers to provide extensive new liner notes, and is careful to expand all their soundtrack records with what may be a film’s entire score; no snippets here or there, this is, once and for all, the total package. Waxwork Records is a Criterion Collection for lovers of cult movie soundtracks.
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Their special treatment of their soundtracks lends an air of legitimacy to certain movie scores that may have been – or definitely have been – overlooked over the years. We are all familiar with John Carpenter’s score to Halloween, but how many times do you pop in a CD of the soundtrack for Halloween II? When was the last time you thought about the score for From Beyond? And was the music perhaps the best part of C.H.U.D.?
Here are the 19 amazing horror soundtracks, on vinyl, available through Waxwork Records.
Re-Animator – Richard Band
Richard Band, brother of B-movie mogul Charles Band, composed the music for many notable films to come out of Full Moon Entertainment, including Ghoulies, as well as the indelible waltz for Puppet Master. His score for Stuart Gordon’s gore classic Re-Animator skews classical, informing the audience that we are indeed seeing a modern tribute to the monster films of yore.
Creepshow – John Harrison
George A. Romero and Stephen King teamed up to make this live-action tribute to the enormous wave of EC-brand horror comics of the 1950s, a concept that was later revived on TV for Tales from the Crypt. John Harrison’s score is spooky in a modern way, but feels oddly post-WWII to me.
Friday the 13th Part II – Harry Manfredini
Harry Manfredini is a household name to horror fans thanks to score like this. Manfredini was the one who came up with the now-famous whispered “kill-kill-kill, mom-mom-mom” theme that would appear in all of the Jason Voorhees movies to date (which is 12, for those keeping score).
Friday the 13th Part 3 3-D – Harry Manfredini
The third Friday the 13th movie got a little wilder, and it’s interesting to listen to Manfredini’s scores for both back-to-back. You can hear the production getting slicker, and the energy rising. The score repeats themes, but they are different.
Mad Monster Party – Various
Mad Monster Party from 1967 is a Halloween staple, and corrupted generations of children with its wonderful Rankin-Bass stop-motion animation. The soundtrack includes various songs including “The Mummy” by Little Tibia and the Fibulas, as well as the crooning theme song performed by Ethel Ennis.
Shock Waves – Richard Einhorn
Better known as “the underwater Nazi movie,” Ken Widerhorn’s 1977 Shock Waves is a strangely atmospheric – as well as utterly sensational – film about Nazi corpses that rise to attack. As one can hear from the music, the film is more creeping dread than monster mayhem. Although there’s plenty monster mayhem.
Black Christmas – Carl Zittrer
Although all the great Christmas tunes from Bob Clark’s seminal Christmas horror classic remain intact on this soundtrack, more notable is the inclusion of the grinding, creepy vocals from the film’s notoriously violent and sexual prank telephone calls. The phone calls are probably the scariest part of the movie, so it was smart to include them here. Because they’re fucking scary.
C.H.U.D. – Martin Cooper & David A. Hugues
The utterly silly C.H.U.D. (Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers) came out at the height of the New Wave, so it makes sense that there is a lot of synth involved.
Krampus – Douglas Pipes
The 2015 Christmas horror film Krampus – about an evil creature that is more or less the anti-Santa – instantly became a holiday horror classic by virtue of its genre alone. Luckily, it’s also a scary movie full of weird visuals, not to mention this great music that incorporates plenty of Christmas standards.
Tales from the Darkside: The Movie – John Harrison
Many have heard of Tales from the Crypt and many love it, but conversations about the many other horror anthology shows from the 1980s and 1990s are few and far between. The most popular of these (after Crypt) was Tales from the Darkside, a TV show that made it into movie theaters long before Crypt. Most notable is the sequence with the gargoyle. Oh yes, and William Hickey barfs up a live cat.
My Bloody Valentine – Paul Zaza
The minimalist synth pop carries the little-seen 1981 holiday-themed slasher My Bloody Valentine a long way. The film is about a mining down that is stalked by a killer miner. It was remade in 3-D, although the remake was more deliberately sensational (nudity! 3-D! etc.!). Isolating the score draws attention to how creative and varied it is.
From Beyond – Richard Band
Part romance, part horror, part sci-fi, even the textured score for Stuart Gordon’s From Beyond can’t hint at how effing weird the movie is. Spooky stuff here, although paired with the movie, it becomes stronger.
‘Salem’s Lot – Harry Sukman
Modern audiences might find Tobe Hooper’s TV miniseries version of Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot requires a good deal of patience; the miniseries was cheap-looking, of course, but managed to do a lot with what little it had, inventing some indelible horror images in the process. The score is bigger than the miniseries, and is bold and fast and fun.
Trick ‘r Treat – Douglas Pipes
Director Michael Dougherty (who also directed Krampus) sought to make the ultimate Halloween movie with Trick ‘r Treat, and he largely succeeded, exploiting the holiday’s imagery to a hugely enjoyable effect. It’s a nostalgic film, full of bold scares and pumpkiny gore. Douglas Pipes’ score (as well as a few extras) highlight the holiday while alos emerging as its own entity.
Nosferatu the Vampyre – Popol Vuh
In 1979, Werner Herzog sought to pay tribute to one of Germany’s most famous movies – Nosferatu – by remaking it with his muse, Klaus Kinski. The music he selected is an experimental opera of sorts that seeks to lull, unnerve, and calm the listener rather than frighten them.
Tourist Trap – Pino Donaggio
I cannot speak to the cult 1979 slasher Tourist Trap – I haven’t seen it, but know it’s about a killer mannequin – but I have heard this score a few times, and am tempted to compare it to the more whimsical works of Ennio Morricone.
Goosebumps – Danny Elfman
Kids tend to like horror more than they let on, as evidenced by the success of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps novels, and the subsequent 2015 feature film adaptation. The film was posed as a would-be biography of Stine, positing that his monsters were all real. Danny Elfman finally gets to be Danny Elfman again with a movie like this.
Nightbreed – Danny Elfman
Clive Barker’s Nightbreed is a mixed bag of awesome treats. All the individual elements are great, although they don’t necessarily fit together terribly well. Danny Elfman’s score is certainly one of the film’s highlights. Sadly, the soundtrack does not contain the mythic bluegrass Oingo Boingo song heard briefly in the film.
Rosemary’s Baby – Christopher Komeda
This one, you know.
Top Image: Waxwork Records
Witney Seibold is a longtime contributor to the CraveOnline Film Channel, and the co-host of The B-Movies Podcast and Canceled Too Soon. He also contributes to Legion of Leia and to Blumhouse. You can follow him on “The Twitter” at @WitneySeibold, where he is slowly losing his mind.