what is it about slow covers of happy songs in horror movie trailers?

It’s a trend that has been going on for years.  A slowed-down version of a song played during a horror movie trailer.  The slowness of the normally happy tune throws you off, and suddenly the song’s lyrics sound creepy.  Recently, I saw a trailer for A Cure for Wellness (2017):

Took me a minute, but I finally recognized the song as “I Wanna Be Sedated” by the Ramones.  The song is covered by Benjamin Wallfisch and features Mirel Wagner on vocals.  A song that is normally frenetic, about simultaneously hurrying around and being bored, now applies to patients undergoing some mysterious surgery and takes a dark new twist.

For some reason this led me on a hunt to find all those other horror movies featuring slow covers of songs.  I came up with:

Last House on the Left (2009) features a cover of the Guns ‘n’ Roses song “Sweet Child O’Mine” by Taken by Trees.  The trailer punctuates the rather upbeat cover version with dramatic drum stops, but keeps the upbeat feel of it as clips of the parents getting bloody revenge for their “sweet child” play.

Lorde’s cover of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” in the Dracula Untold (2014) trailer isn’t actually that much slower than the original, and the song is both lyrically fitting and super dramatic.

Victor Frankenstein (2015) uses an only slightly slower version of the Doors’ “Break on Through” by Josh Mobley.  Oddly enough, it isn’t the slowness but the guitar riff that really matches up with the feel of this movie.  It’s a bizarre version of the Frankenstein story that starts with Igor working in a circus.

The Nirvana classic “Smells Like Teen Spirit” graces the trailer for The Gallows (2015).  The cover version, by Think Up Anger ft. Malia J. may have been chosen because it’s a teen slasher flick.  Or maybe because of that line, “Here we are now, entertainers,” because they’re all in drama club?

“Every breath you take… I’ll be watching you…” The extremely slowed down cover of the classic Police song in the Blair Witch (2016) trailer is covered by… Pia Ashley?  I think?  There’s no official recording.  But it’s certainly creepy enough – suddenly a love song has become one about stalking.  Or maybe that’s what it was about in the first place.

The Pride and Prejudice, and Zombies (2016) trailer features a cover of “Born to Be Wild” (by J2 ft. Blu Holliday) doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, lyrics-wise.  Or tone-wise.  But since this film is a mash-up of classic literature and zombie gore, I suppose it works on that level.

2009 is really the earliest movie I could find that had a slow cover song in the trailer, but I have to give a shout out to a couple of cover songs in horror movies that weren’t in the trailers: Gary Jules’ cover of “Mad World” from Donnie Darko (2001), and Richard Cheese’s cover of “Down with the Sickness” from the end credits of Dawn of the Dead (2004) – both for entirely different reasons.  The first is simply one of the most haunting songs I’ve ever heard.  The second perfectly captures the social commentary of spending the zombie apocalypse trapped in a mall.  Oh, and the cover of “Paint it Black” by Gob for in Stir of Echoes (1999).  And The Sunday’s version of “Wild Horses” in the movie Fear (1996).  And Mona’s cover of “Stand By Me” which was featured in the commercials for the Hannibal TV series.  And if I’m going to start throwing out TV series, I might as well add Placebo’s cover of “Running Up That Hill” from Vampire Diaries.

I honestly love this trend.  There are a few songs I’d love to see slow covers of in a trailer:

  • Sound of Silence by Simon & Garfunkel
  • Mercy Street by Peter Gabriel (Fever Ray does a great creepy cover of this)
  • Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) by the Eurythmics – Marilyn Manson has already done a creepy cover, but it could be EVEN CREEPIER
  • Hello by Lionel Ritchie
  • I’m on Fire by Bruce Springsteen – there’s a cover by Bat for Lashes that I love
  • The Killing Moon by Echo and the Bunnymen – it was used in Donnie Darko, and there’s a quirky cover by Nouvelle Vague, but just the title of the song would be PERFECT for a slow cover and a horror movie trailer, perhaps one about werewolves?
  • Maneater by Hall & Oates – the movie “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” used a cool cover of this by Grace Mitchell, but same reasons as above: title is perfect
  • Toxic by Britney Spears – ditto, again

 

For more non-horror trailers featuring slow cover songs, check out http://screencrush.com/movie-trailers-sad-covers/ and http://screencrush.com/movie-trailers-sad-covers-2/.  Clearly the slow cover song thing isn’t just for horror movies!

 

 

horror movies “based on a true story”: House of the Devil

mv5bmtaxmdaxodg5odreqtjeqwpwz15bbwu3mdi5odyxodi-_v1_sy1000_cr006741000_al_“During the 1980s over 70% of American adults believed in the existence of abusive Satanic Cults… Another 30% rationalized the lack of evidence due to government cover ups… The following is based on true unexplained events…”

This is the text which opens the 2009 film, The House of the Devil.

What is true:

  • The statistics – which don’t actually say that any Satanic ritual abuse (SRA) occurred.  The stats are about beliefs.  I don’t know which survey was used to cull these particular statistics, but I found this article which mentions a 1990 study that reported “that 90 percent of Utah citizens believed that ritualistic sex abuse was occurring.”  So the belief was certainly there.

What is not true:

  • Any of the actual events depicted in the film.

The verdict: This film is more an homage to films made in the 1980s.  It was recorded on 16mm film to give it an authentic early 80s look, and uses familiar tropes, like the baby-sitter under attack.  The use of a “based on a true story” tagline is likely an homage as well, since many films of that era used it.  “True unexplained events” could mean anything, really.  There were thousands of cases of SRA reported in the 1980s, most of them after a few high-profile cases such as the one described in the book Michelle Remembers, and the McMartin preschool trial.  In the end, however, the preschool trial led to charges dropped and dismissed, with no evidence of any actual Satanic abuse, and Michelle Remembers was largely discredited.  In many cases of alleged SRA, recovered memories (which are highly questionable and often false memories) played a large role.

31 Days of Halloween, Day 27: The Fog (2005)

the-fog-2005-16361A rewatch for inspiring my upcoming Nanowrimo novel, which will involve mist and fog…

This movie is surprising less about fog and more about people catching on fire and turning into mummies and ice?  Apparently the fog is so cold it freezes people?  The fog kinda reminds me of the sandstorm in The Mummy movies, as it can turn into a face.  It can also suck people right out of windows, but closing the door will keep it out!

What’s scary about fog is what you can’t see.  Here’s what you can see in the fog: pirate ships, ghosts, an entire tableau of a horrific event that happened in this little coastal town a hundred years ago.

Personally, I like this remake better than the original, which I found kind of… boring – it’s more centered around the storyline involving the radio station. Maggie Grace’s character was not in the original movie, and it almost makes the radio station plotline with Selma Blair superfluous (although I will concede that Selma Blair is no Jamie Lee Curtis!).

Recommendation time:

  • The Mist (2007) – There’s some creepy shit in this fog, way creepier than anything in either of The Fog movies.  Big things.  Prehistoric things.
  • Pontypool (2008) – Really the only similarity here is that this movie takes place largely in a radio station, but this is a pretty creepy ass movie – if you watch any of the movies on this list, make this be the One.
  • Silent Hill (2006) – While the fog here isn’t what the characters are battling, it certainly marks the territory of Silent Hill and adds to the strange atmosphere.

31 Days of Halloween, Day 26: Dawn of the Dead (2004)

large_yfqsgzw6aqymbjieiq0y9eb1rglAfter mentioning this in my recommendations a few days ago, I realized it was high time to give this one a re-watch.

This is still one of my favorite “the beginning of the apocalypse” scenes ever.  And then when they finally get to the mall and the Muzak version of “Don’t Worry Be Happy” is playing?  The lounge cover of Disturbed’s “Down with the Sickness” played later in the movie is awesome as well.

I really love the group dynamics in this movie, how the original survivors meet up with the mall cops and then a second group of survivors.  I love seeing Phil – I mean, Ty Burrell – play a super dickhead.  I also really like Sarah Polley as an actress.  The moments of terror are interspersed with lighter moments, which is something many horror movie remakes don’t seem to realize is needed.

The one change from the original that I wasn’t so fond of was making the zombies fast.  While it does add a lot of scariness, I just feel like zombies should be slow!  But who really is to say how fast or slow real zombies would be, so I can forgive it.

On that note, I’m going to recommend movies with fast zombies:

  • 28 Days Later (2002) – At least they explained the speedy zombies, by not calling them zombies and instead calling it the Rage virus.
  • World War Z (2013) – This was explained in great detail in the book (can’t remember if they mention it in the movie) – about how the zombie virus wants to spread quickly, hence new zombies being faster, and also how the zombies slow with colder temperatures, hence people fleeing to Canada.
  • Zombieland (2009) – This is more comedy than horror but a great ride all the same.

31 Days of Halloween, Day 25 – The Purge: Election Year

purge3_posterartSomehow, this wasn’t as frightening as the real-life election year we’ve got going on.  I had a hard time paying attention to the politicians debating Purge Night on something like the 20th year of its occurrence, until a car blasting Miley Cyrus’s “Party in the USA” rolled down the middle of an empty street and three chicks in masks carrying guns got out.

The Purge movies are always great for creepy masked people.  This time we have an insane Uncle Sam and a psycho Statue of Liberty and a blood-spattered Abe Lincoln.  And they’re Russian, come to America just to enjoy Purge Night!  I even understood some of their swearing!

The timeline seems a bit off in this movie.  The first Purge movie (in which the main character of this movie, Presidential candidate Charlie Roan watched her family die) took place in 2019, 18 years ago.  The Purge: Anarchy took place in 2023, but apparently has had a huge impact on this particular election?  13 years later?  (When Frank Grillo has only aged two years?)

The Purge movies are also great for having people seem like victims when they turn out to be pretty awful themselves.  For a while this seemed super conservatives vs. liberals, the conservatives with their NRA supporters enjoying their guns to hunt down this female presidential candidate, who seems to have the backing of the minorities.  But naturally, things are not what they seem.  And even the Catholic Church gets involved, as they seem to have in this election.

If you’re not into watching the real-life horror on the news, vote for some of these films:

  • Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012) – Is this what they mean when they say “Make America Great Again”?
  • FDR: American Badass (2012) – I actually haven’t seen this, but it’s going into my Netflix queue, because FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT FIGHTING NAZI WEREWOLVES.
  • Freddy vs. Jason (2003) – If you’re tired of The Donald vs. Hilary…
  • The Hunger Games (2012) – (Interesting how so many of these I’m recommending came out the last election year??).  Instead of Purging, this government randomly selects 2 children from each district to enter a fight to the death.  The only unfortunate thing about these movies is how Hollywood glossed over the horror of children murdering each other and made this basically what the Capitol showed as entertainment.
  • The Running Man (1987) – Based on a Stephen King story about criminals (“runners”) who have to survive professional hunters in order to be pardoned by the state, it’s interesting that this movie is set in 2017… A hint of what’s coming?

31 Days of Halloween, Day 23 – The Shining

poster-123No matter how much Stephen King hates this adaptation of his book, I love it.  I also love the book form of The Shining, but they certainly are different animals.

Right from the ominous music that plays as an otherwise innocent-looking Volkswagen drives through beautiful mountain landscapes, we know something is not right.  Something is going to go wrong.  Only a few minutes into Jack’s interview at the hotel and his impassive face as he learns about the horrific murder that occurred there only a few years earlier.  His response?  “And as far as my wife is concerned… I’m sure she’ll be absolutely fascinated when l tell her.”  Quite odd, especially given what we’re shown of Wendy throughout the film.  One of King’s complaints about the movie is exactly this, whereas in the book we have a Jack who is really trying to resist the evil of the hotel.  He’s made mistakes, but he’s still a good person at heart.  In the movie this is not so.  And I love this quote from King, “And it’s so misogynistic. I mean, Wendy Torrance is just presented as this sort of screaming dishrag.”  She really is one of the most irritating horror movie heroines ever.  That was the one improvement seen in the TV-miniseries remake of 1997.

But there is so much good here, if one can overlook some stilted, over-the-top acting.  The way many of the scenes are framed and filmed are just so darn effectively creepy.  Those twins.  That strange encounter in Room 237.  The elevator full of blood.  Danny’s REDRUM voice.  The ominous music at surprising moments.

While we do get the sense that Jack was probably not the most mentally stable person to take on the Overlook hotel, the hotel has a very strong presence, therefore my recommendations tonight will be based on hotels:

  • 1408 (2007) – Stephen King must have a bit of a thing about hotels… This is one of the better adaptations of his works – but this is based off of a short story.  I believe I recommended this one in another recent post… it really is worth a watch if you haven’t seen it.
  • American Horror Story: Hotel (2015) – You don’t need to have watched any of the other seasons to enjoy the 5th season of AHS.  This hotel is quite evil, being populated by both vampires and the ghosts of serial killers (among other ghosts).  I haven’t been a huge fan of many of the AHS seasons aside from the first, but I really loved the music and tone of this one.
  • The Innkeepers (2011) – Another one I think I’ve already recommended.  Two amateur ghosthunters decide to try to get evidence of a hotel’s haunting before it closes.
  • Room 237 (2012) – Some of the conspiracy theories in this documentary are far-fetched, but others make a lot of sense, especially those surrounding the change made from the book’s Room 217 to the movie’s Room 237 and what that means.
  • Vacancy (2007) – A couple stays at a sketchy motel, only to discover that they are being filmed.

31 Days of Halloween, Day 22: It’s Alive

220px-itsaliveposterWhew, where to begin with this one!  Firstly, this is one of those horror movies trying to tell you a message, and the message is, “Birth control pills are bad!”  Lenore is pregnant with her second child after years of taking contraceptives, but something is different this time!  The baby is a monster!

After the baby kills the doctors and nurses assisting in its birth, he flees the scene, and his father is horrified.  However, he receives this gem of advice from his boss: “You know O’Connors down in Accounting? He’s got a retarded kid. Insists on keeping him in the house, too. Nobody thinks a thing of that. Nobody blames him.”  Whoa.  That’s something you wouldn’t hear in a movie today.  Never mind that we never see a clear image of this hideously deformed child – apparently so monstrous that the doctor attempted to kill him at birth.  The father likens himself to Frankenstein (the doctor) and his baby as the monster.  I guess it’s mostly the fact that the baby kills that makes it such a monster?  But how would the delivering doctor come to the conclusion that he needed to kill the baby right away?  Before it had killed?  Troubling, to say the least.

You want more murderous babies?

  • The Brood (1979) – These murderous babies are the literal brain-children of a psychotic woman.
  • The Eye 2 (2004) – After a pregnant woman attempts suicide, she begins to see ghosts… and those ghosts have plans for her unborn child. [note: you do not have to watch the first Eye movie to understand this one, they are completely separate as far as I can tell]
  • Grace (2009) – When your baby would rather drink blood than breast milk, you know there’s something wrong.
  • Splice (2009) – A childless couple of scientists decide to make their own baby by splicing some genes.  The result is… special.