Welcome to the next installment of ‘Nerdophiles Picks.’ Since I am the resident music nerd for the staff, I was tasked to come up with some musical Halloween watching. Of course, I was more than willing to take up the task. For those who like a catchy tune to go along with their creep, here are some musical picks for your Halloween.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Ahh yes, one of the few movies that is acceptable to watch on Halloween and Christmas alike. The story of Jack Skellington the Pumpkin King trying to find something more in life celebrates its 20th anniversary this year as we all go off singing ‘This Is Halloween’ into the night. I know Tim Burton and Danny Elfman collaborations are something of a joke now, but Elfman’s compositions in Nightmare are what make Burton’s character designs (cause remember, stop motion genius Henry Sellick directed the film) really shine through.
Michael Jackson’s Thriller
A Halloween staple for me, Thriller isn’t just a music video. It’s a short film experience. Hell, they even showed it in some movie theaters to make it eligible for nomination at the Oscars. Endlessly parodied and referenced, but never replicated, Thriller is a classic music video experience that no amount of words can do justice to. Jackson tried to replicate Thriller again with Michael Jackson’s Ghosts, but it just wasn’t the same. Maybe it was the lack of Vincent Price, John Landis, or practical special effects, or perhaps all the heavy handed references to Jackson’s child molestation trial, but Ghosts couldn’t live up to the evil of the Thriller.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show
To replicate the spiel given by my local Rocky Horror shadowcast, this is a bad movie. Like… a really bad movie. Watch Rocky Horror and tell me that plot makes sense. I dare you. However, there’s just so something wonderfully campy about a musical that features Tim Curry in a corset and thigh highs and him murdering Meat Loaf with a pick axe. While you can easily watch The Rocky Horror Picture Show any time of the year, there’s something about Halloween that makes it all the more special. Watch it with your local shadowcast or at home with your drunk friends. Just be sure to do the Time Warp again!
Phantom of the Paradise
The only way I found out about Phantom of the Paradise was because one of my best friends became obsessed with the Rocky Horror sequel Shock Treatment and wanted to know more about the film’s star Jessica Harper. A year before Rocky Horror came out, Fox released a then-modern retelling of Phantom of the Opera and the Faust myth that was a metaphor about the dangers of the music industry. Yes, that kind of film existed in 1974. I’ve talked about my love of Phantom of the Paradise before, but Paul Williams’ soundtrack is one of the strongest things about this film. If you’ve never seen Phantom of the Paradise before, make that a watch this Halloween and then proceed to dance around your living room to ‘The Hell of It.’
‘Backstreet’s Back’ by Backstreet Boys
This probably shows how young I am, but this video is one of the greatest in the era of boybands roaming the earth to me. When the Backstreet Boys are stuck in a haunted mansion overnight, strange things begin to happen, including the boys turning into monsters. It does get super 90s at some points, but it still manages to hold its own 16 years old later. While it’s no Thriller, it’s creepy pop fun all the same. (Also, fun fact: The boys payed out of pocket for this video because they wanted to make it, but Jive Records wouldn’t pay up for it because they believe the video wouldn’t get play. The band was eventually reimbursed after it proved to be successful and the label fronted a big budget for the ‘Larger Than Life’ video two years later.)
Repo! The Genetic Opera
Leave it to the director of Saw II-IV to create a gory over-the-top opera about the shallowness of society and the lengths we go to for family. No, really. Even with my own personal history of being in a kind of crazy shadowcast that made me avoid the film for about two years or so after I quit, it’s hard to deny the fact that Darren Bousman, Terrance Zdunich, and Darren Smith created a lasting musical with catchy songs, tearjerking moments, Anthony Stewart Head holding out a note for 12 counts, and all this blood. The Devil’s Carnival is the film’s spiritual sequel and is fun in it’s own way, but doesn’t top the magic that Repo! is for me. Everybody testify!
Evil Dead: The Musical
Every time I describe this musical to my friends who don’t know about it, I get a lot of weird looks. Like… how can a musical based on The Evil Dead movies exist? Well, it does, and it’s beautiful. Embracing the campiness and comedic elements of the original movies, Evil Dead: The Musical is one of the funniest musicals I’ve ever seen. It even manages to fix the timeline issues of the first two films and point out the fact that, yes, the first two films are supposed to take place over the same weekend! Look to see if there’s a production running near you (with a Splatter Zone included) or find a past production recording on Youtube! A couple of warnings though:
1.) You will be singing some hilariously inappropriate songs to yourself for the next few days. Such as ‘What The Fuck Was That?’ or ‘All The Men In My Life Keep Getting Killed By Candarian Demons.
2.) If you find the original Just For Laughs production (starring my very favorite Ash Ryan Ward), the ending is different from future productions. Universal threw a fit when the show was going to Off-Broadway and had Ash time traveling to the past, despite the fact that was the canonical ending in Evil Dead 2.
‘Once More… With Feeling!’ from Buffy The Vampire Slayer
It’s not unusual for TV shows to have musical episodes. They can range in quality and excuses as to why everyone is suddenly busting out into song when that isn’t a normal thing for them. For Buffy The Vampire Slayer, the musical episode ‘Once More… With Feeling!’ ended up being one of the best episodes in the series. Set after Buffy’s return from the dead, a demon that makes everyone sing and dance their true feelings is inadvertently summoned to Sunnydale. Everyone is mostly okay with the whole singing and dancing thing (it’s not the worst thing to happen in Sunnydale) until the Scoobies find out that it will eventually cause everyone to burn up. The episode probably won’t make a whole lot of sense if you haven’t watched the episodes from season 6 before it, but it’s an amazing episode filled with an amazingly talented cast singing beautiful songs filled with… well… feeling!
The Addams Family Musical
Yes, Broadway did it. They made an Addams Family musical. And it’s joyously macabre like every installation in the Addams Family before it. Centered around a now 18-year-old Wednesday falling for a *gasp* normal boy, the family comes together to meet this boy’s normal family. Of course, what is normal for the spider is chaos for the fly and things go hilariously wrong in that perfectly Addams way. Surprisingly sweet and delectably over-the-top, the musical is a perfect addition to your Addams Family watch-a-thon. The musical is currently on tour, but it is very easy to find recordings of the original Broadway cast starring Nathan Lane, Bebe Neuwirth, and Krysta Rodriguez on YouTube.
Little Shop of Horrors
The original horror musical. If you think it’s weird that Evil Dead, The Addams Family, and Reanimator all have musicals based on them, blame Little Shop of Horrors for doing it first. Based on the 1960 B-Movie of the same name, the musical turns the cheesy horror comedy into a rock/doo-wop musical about fame and success, love, and wanting to escape from your surroundings. All with a maneating plant named Audrey II. For extra terror on your Halloween musical watching, be sure to put on the film’s original ending, which doesn’t end so happily for Seymour and Audrey.
‘It’s Almost Halloween’ by Panic! at the Disco
No matter what stage the band is in, Panic! at the Disco has always been a band filled with strange dudes. During their stage of sounding like The Beatles, the band released a low-budget music video titled ‘It’s Almost Halloween.’ It’s cheesy as hell, but it’s really cute and perfect for getting the kids ready for trick-or-treating. Though, if that isn’t enough for you, check out their cover of ‘This Is Halloween,’ which I have advocated for years over Marylin Manson’s cover from the same tribute album.
‘Heads Will Roll’ by Yeah Yeah Yeahs
I know I said Michael Jackson’s Thriller is a video that can’t be matched, but the ‘Heads Will Roll’ video is dangerously close for me. A beautifully artistic video about a werewolf (who dances suspiciously like Jackson) who finds himself in the spotlight, it’s a gorgeous music video for a fantastic song that isn’t just one of my favorite horror/supernatural videos. It’s one of my favorite music videos period. The fact it was directed by The IT Crowd star Richard Ayoade is just the cherry on top.
The Worst Witch
I’m not going to lie, this is probably the worst movie on this list. Even worse than Rocky Horror, and I’m not just saying that because both films feature Tim Curry. Based on the book of the same name, the film is a fever dream on non-sequiturs and a few musical sequences centered around a plot of a young Fairuza Balk messing things up and having to save her magic school. This is how The Craft happened, folks. Still, it’s worth a watch for the insanity that is Tim Curry as the Grand Wizard in a sequence that looks like what happened when people in the 80s discovered green screen for the first time.
This, of course, isn’t the end all, be all list of musicals and music videos to watch on Halloween. I know I didn’t even include the Reanimator musical simply because I’ve never seen a version of it. What are your music must watches or listens for this time of the year?