Halloween films are a hard sell for a portion of the population. Jump scares, violent imagery and, sometimes, unnerving scores are all it takes for a viewer to completely check out. Films like the recent Muppets Haunted Mansion toe this line, with horror and music, to mitigate the scares and push some exciting songs, resulting in a palpable and entertaining romp.
Muppets Haunted Mansion is a wonderful example of the horror musical subgenre. Since the ‘70s, the genre has been represented with true Halloween staples the most casual Halloween fan can enjoy. Here are four must-watch movies for horror-musical fans young and old, new and veteran:
During the height of the Muppets, Frank Oz (puppeteer and voice actor) directed Little Shop of Horrors, a remake of the Roger Corman B-movie of the same name. It’s a musical following Seymour as he tries to make it on skid row while a total eclipse of the sun results in an alien plant appearing at his local florist.
The film has some of the best puppetry of the decade, only challenged by the aforementioned Muppets and John Carpenter’s The Thing. In the following clip of Feed Me, you can see the puppet at work. It purses its lips, taps its tendrils to the beat and moves its tongue to articulate. The soundtrack is aided by stellar singing and a ‘50s revival style that promises thrills and chills that permeate the film.
Following the success of Batman (1989), Disney turned to Tim Burton and allowed him to make any project he wanted. A former animator at the House of Mouse, Burton pulled in the creative team of Danny Elfman (of Oingo-Boingo) and director Henry Selick (a Laika supervisor) to make The Nightmare Before Christmas.
“This is Halloween” is a stand-out in the film, having some of the most creative visuals and sound mixing while maintaining a classic musical trope of establishing the location in songs like “Tradition” or “Skid Row” in which the camera and song establish the setting, characters and plot.
Specifically, Elfman’s experience in a band lends to the song's pop feel. Although it is at times instrumental, the song relies on strong singers to get across a monster feel.
Rocky Horror Picture Show is the adaptation of Richard O’Brian’s play of the same name. The film follows newly engaged Brad and Janet as they get stuck with a flat and have to go to the castle of Frank N. Furter. Evocative of class camp sci-fi of the ‘50s and Gothic architecture of early Universal films, the film finds a wonderful place in the Halloween time frame.
Though there are many songs to choose from, it is hard to move past “Science Fiction Double Feature.” The song acts as an overture, playing over a set of lips, a reference to Man Ray’s “The Lovers,” while alluding to camp classics like Day of the Triffids, Invisible Man, Forbidden Planet and the Tarantula! These themes culminate in mad-scientist plots and the creation of life.
Phantom of the Opera from the late Joel Schumacher marks the final entry of the list. Mixing the pop visuals of a music video, alluding to classic films and having a well-choreographed dance, “Masquerade” is a standout in a stellar soundtrack.
The Phantom’s appearance harkens back to the Silent era classic and imagery from “Masque of the Red Death,” which changes the focus of the scene. Then, the music stops with the instrumental sting of the Phantoms theme.
Joel Schumacher makes one of the best horror musicals. From his excellent camera work to a diverse color palette, Schumacher brings his unique talent to the film and makes it a must-watch for the season.
Benjamin Ervin is a senior studying English literature and writing at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk more about it? Let Benjamin know by emailing him firstname.lastname@example.org.