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The Colour And THE SHAPE: The Music Of HALLOWEEN

David Gordon Green’s Halloween Ends is now playing in theaters and streaming on Peacock. And I’m sure EVERYONE on social media has their very strong opinions on it for better or for worse. Either way, I love seeing that big dork in the white mask return again and again on the big screen. Also returning in Halloween Ends is Blue Oyster Cult’s 1976 rock staple “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” the first song ever featured in a Halloween movie. While Halloween has been more known for scores than they have soundtracks, there are some notable songs featured in the films and even attempts to nab a hit single and sell records while counting box office receipts. I wanted to look at each film in the series and select one song that significantly ties into the movie in some way, SHAPE or form that feels memorable. Some are less memorable than others, some are a bit of a stretch, and some you may not even remember.

“(Don’t Fear) The Reaper”

Blue Oyster Cult

featured in Halloween (1978)

The song was already popular by the time Halloween arrived in 1978. Its place in the film is such a light touch, too, that had fandom not emphasized and noted it so much over the years, it probably could’ve gone unnoticed. Luckily it did because there’s not a more perfect rock song to associate with Michael Myers than this one. The song is playing on the car stereo as Laurie Strode and Annie Brackett share a joint on their way to go babysit. Little do they know, their very own reaper is tailing behind them as they talk about many teen things, including Laurie’s revelation of having a crush on Ben Tramer. This wouldn’t be the last time the song found its way into a Halloween movie, but it’s the most significant and nonchalant time it was there.

“Mr. Sandman”

The Chordettes

featured in Halloween II (1981)

Along with Blue Oyster Cult, this throwback classic from The Chordettes is a significant pop hit tied to the series. Used as bookends in this film, it’s used in haunting fashion and flips around on the soft, loving tune to suggest a darker and macabre nature. Something akin to what Tarantino would love doing in his movies like “Stuck In The Middle With You” in Reservoir Dogs. It’s a song that suggests Laurie’s lonesome night is far from over as Michael tracks her down to Haddonfield Memorial Hospital. The song made such an impression with its use in the sequel that it carried over to open up Halloween H20 and remind us not of the first film but its sequel, where the Laurie and Michael sibling reveal took hold.

“Silver Shamrock Song (Happy Halloween)”

Music by John Carpenter and Alan Howarth

featured in Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

Sorry for getting this stuck in your head today! One of the most catchy tunes in music history comes from the anthology cult classic in the series. Once you hear it, you can’t stop; it won’t go away. Some may embrace its cheesiness. Others may be like Dr. Challis at the end of the film and scream, “STOP IIIIIIIIIIIIIIT!” Played constantly throughout the film, with its loopy “boop bah boop bah boop bah” tone and the lyrics that you know by heart after one verse, it’s truly a classic of the season. Even when this was a derided film in the series (Luckily, the time has come around for this robotic, Celtic riff on Invasion of the Body Snatchers), the song was always a big topic and one of the most memorable aspects. Producing many a groan, a sigh, or a cheer and a dance when it starts up, you can’t deny the eternal effectiveness of Conal Cochran’s eternal torment of Tom Atkins with his company’s jingle.

“Drinkin’ Life All Wrong”

Danny Kirsic

featured in Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

I’m not going to pretend I remember this song from the movie or remember where it’s at. I’m going to assume it’s a song playing in the bar before Haddonfield’s finest late-night citizens hear the news report about Michael being back in their town. The hillbillies of Haddonfield present a different angle and new factor in the 4th film, introducing the mob mentality. Once again, with the modern editions timeline, we were sold on mob violence being a new idea, but it was present here in the 4th film. Also, the Rob Zombie films would be derided for having Haddonfield being a white trash or redneck haven when Halloween 4 showed us similar qualities. Heck, even Halloween II in 1981 showcases some mob mentality when many of the towns gather at the Myers residence to chant and throw stuff at the house. Halloween Kills made this more of a focus and explored it deeper, but the series had this coursing through its veins for decades. But yeah, I have nothing much on this song, and this was the toughest film to pull from.

“Romeo, Romeo”

Becca

featured in Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)

One thing I love about Halloween’s 4th and 5th entries is how unapologetically 80s they can get. And probably no moment is bigger than Rachel taking a shower in 1989’s entry. This song plays as we get a bit of a montage of Rachel petting her dog, feeding her dog, bopping around her house, and then taking a shower. All this before Jamie has a vision of Michael being near her and sends her scrambling out of the house. This “cry wolf” moment ultimately meant that when she went back into the home, Michael was there with scissors as the weapon of choice. This is the first film in the series where it felt like a soundtrack was also being sold to us with the movie. I almost selected Tina’s big “Baby, I’m Yourrrrrs” moment that happens not too long after. But this one really felt very 80s and focused on the song as if it was some big hit we were already supposed to know. And to this day, I only know it as this song from one of the cheesiest scenes in any Halloween film.

“And Fools Shine On”

Brother Cane

featured in Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)

What do the kids like?

Grunge.

Who is one of the top bands of this “grunge”?

Alice In Chains.

Can we get them to do a song on the soundtrack?

After all the reshoots, we don’t have much money left. I don’t think we could afford them.

Okay, is there a band that sounds like them that we could afford?

I think I have a cousin who has a friend who has a brother whose sister could get us a meeting with Brother Cane.

Who?

They kind of sound like Alice In Chains.

Sign them!

One thing the theatrical cut of Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers has that the beloved Producer’s Cut is lacking – the sheer rock force of Brother Cane. They pushed this song pretty significantly in the marketing. Records show this single hit #1 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock charts for six weeks. But, as I was heavy into the grunge and alt-rock movement of the 90s, I can’t recall ever hearing “And Fools Shine On” on the radio or seeing the video on MTV. I DO remember they had a few TV Spots for the film that featured the song, and in the credits jargon at the end, it made mention of “Featuring the song…”. I always thought this was a “Halloween trying to make Brother Cane happen” moment, but they DID indeed have success with this song. Was any of it because of the film? I don’t know. In addition to playing over the latter part of the end credits, the song is featured in the car (JUST LIKE BLUE OYSTER CULT – Woah!) when Kara & Tim Strode are being driven to school by Tim’s girlfriend Beth as they note Tommy Doyle watching them from the window and Beth provides exposition on him and Mrs. Blankenship. 

“What’s This Life For”

Creed

featured in Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998)

Creed’s third single from their big debut album My Own Prison feels like a last-minute addition or “get” for Halloween H20. They couldn’t pony up last time for a top-tier grunge band, so with Jamie Lee Curtis and hype back in tow, they were able to scoop up some change for Creed right as they were getting big. Creed would be a bit more prominent in even more embarrassing ways in Scream 3 (The poster in the movie set mock-up of Sydney’s high school bedroom is hilarious) a couple of years later. Here, the song plays in the little basement party that John and Molly are having with their friends as they play hooky on a Yosemite field trip and in the middle of the closing credits. “What’s This Life For” had already been on the radio and a music video on MTV for about two months before Halloween H20 was released. Once the film came out, they simply updated the already done and nothing to do with Halloween music video to just have clips interspersed throughout.

“Turn It Up (Remix)/Fire It Up”

Busta Rhymes

NOT featured in Halloween: Resurrection (2002)

Yes, I admit this is a GIGANTIC cheat. The film’s soundtrack boasts a lot of tunes I don’t recall, and I can’t remember any of them playing a significant role in the movie. HOWEVER, the film does have a musician in it playing one of the leads. So, I’ll go with him and pick one of my favorite tunes of his. Primarily, I dig this on the sheer value of turning one of the best themes in television history and pumping it up into some music that you can’t help but move (or drive really fast) to. The Knight Rider theme already gets you going, but Busta takes it to another level, lyrics to SING while enjoying it. I’ll also note that Timbaland and Magoo ALSO did this same sample with their song “Clock Strikes.” Crazily, the singles were released a week apart from each other in 1998. Both slap, so take your choice. Did you notice I didn’t even mention a certain film here? Let’s continue.

“Love Hurts”

Nazareth

featured in Halloween (2007)

Rob Zombie loaded both of his films with plenty of rock classics. His movies also have proven plenty divisive. And one significant moment that truly did it for people was his use of Nazareth’s power ballad as young Michael Myers has his last moments in front of his house before descending into the darkness, and his mother works the pole at the Rabbit in Red club. It’s not a song you’d expect to use in a Halloween film, nor such a big moment. The first time I saw it, it was rather a punch in the face and so bizarre. But, there seems to be a significance to Zombie at this moment, and he feels it is very important. It appears in all cuts of this movie, I believe. However, in his superior second outing, this moment is strengthened with a call back during the end credits of Halloween II (2009) as a lovely, very soft cover of it by Nan Vernon plays to close out his duology.

“Nights In White Satin”

The Moody Blues

featured in Halloween II (2009)

Rob Zombie’s second film features an opening that reminds of the events of the original Halloween II before veering off into some fresh, more abstract territory the series hadn’t seen before. Whatever the opinion of the film overall, I think there is a pretty mutual respect for this opening number of the remake’s sequel. Part of Scout Taylor-Compton’s Laurie Strode’s chase through the hospital is set to The Moody Blues performing “Nights In White Satin” (Which I BELIEVE is the same one as the clip I have above), which happens to be playing on an old CRT television in the guard shack. This could be argued as one of the best song tie-ins of Zombie’s career and for the Halloween series at large. The song is beautiful and suddenly becomes a suspenseful and scary one as Michael Myers hunts down his sister through the pouring rain. An incredible highlight for Zombie as a filmmaker.

“Close To Me”

Heavy Young Heathens

featured in Halloween (2018)

This played over the middle/end of the film’s credits, and if you were thinking, “that sounds familiar, ” it was. “Close To Me” was a fully realized version of the little jingle Laurie Strode sang and hummed along to as she walked the streets of Haddonfield as Michael watched her, breathing heavily. Jamie Lee Curtis and John Carpenter are credited with coming up with the tune, and for this movie, Heavy Young Heathens made it a song. Whereas we’ve been talking about many songs that existed outside of Halloween and then finding their fit into it, this is an in-universe song that didn’t exist outside of Halloween, then becoming something that now does in a way. While the film is full of homages and “hey, look! Look! LOOOOK AT ME!” easter eggs from the series, this light touch is the kind of one I appreciate most and isn’t distracting.

“Stop, Look & Listen, It’s Halloween”

Pete Antell

featured in Halloween Kills (2021)

In what is one of the whackiest turns from one scene to another, we are introduced to Scott MacArthur’s “Big John” in Halloween Kills as he smokes a tiny joint from a roach clip, dancing to this very throwback-sounding seasonal Halloween song on vinyl in a bathrobe, rocking a very soul patch-heavy goatee. Meanwhile, the cameras enjoy the haze, and the editing and zooming bops around like we have entered another dimension. Instead, we are at the Myers household, which has had a complete makeover. You can’t help but giggle at this very “what in the hell just happened?” moment every time it comes up. It’s so weird, there’s no choice but to embrace it. The characters of Big John and Little John are to be beloved and have an entertaining few scenes in which we get to spend with them, which also turns out the Anne Murray classic “Could I Have This Dance.”

“(Don’t Fear) The Reaper”

Blue Oyster Cult

featured in Halloween Ends (2022)

I’m going to bookend this piece with the same song. It comes back in a pretty solid way in Halloween Ends. Interestingly and maybe nothing to do with the band or song, but the credit font for Halloween Ends is blue as opposed to the typical orange used in these movies and the David Gordon Green ones that came before (This is MOST LIKELY an homage to Halloween III: Season of the Witch title color and font, I’m just tossing out some fun 0.000001% chance speculation). One of the more playful ways Green uses the song is in our first Laure/Officer Hawkins meet-cute at the grocery store. Through the loudspeakers at the store, you can hear the song in an arrangement that’s a little slower and orchestral. The film’s end credits also kicks in the song, which kind of takes on a whole new meaning following this film than it did when it popped up in John Carpenter’s original.

I hope you enjoyed looking back at these tunes and are enjoying Halloween Ends! What are some other not-Halloween horror movies that you tend to tie certain pop songs to? Let me know down below. And remember, as of today, “17 more days till Halloween, Halloween, Halloween! 17 more days til Halloween – Silver Shamrock!”

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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