Under the Cover of Darkness - 5 Times Reworking Classic Songs for Horror Worked

Under Cover of Darkness: 5 Times Reworking Classic Songs For Horror Worked Too Well For Its Own Good

When Reworking Classic Songs For Horror Worked Too Well For Its Own Good

Music makes and breaks horror. Whether a simple cue or the choice of a song used diegetically, what we hear can influence what we think and how we feel. Sometimes it’s a main title theme to set the tone for the next ninety-some-odd minutes, other times it’s a creepy take on a kids’ tune to sell a trailer to you. Further still, it could be a tweaking of a popular song used for any of the above purposes. Covers keep classics alive, even when the new versions may make us wish for death.

The following five (really, seven) selections are examples of folk tunes, dance floor anthems, and old standards reworked for horror media, be it for promotion, atmosphere, or a combination thereof.

Denver doom metal outfit Khemmis turn a folk classic into the main title theme for The Dark Pictures Anthology

When Supermassive Games pushed all their chips to the center of the table following the roaring success of their narrative game Until Dawn, a statement needed to be made. For the opening of Until Dawn, the developers brought in Amy van Roekel to deliver her take on the Appalachian folk song “O Death,” a tune typically attributed to Lloyd Chandler. Van Roekel’s strings-driven version is its own treat, but metalheads like yours truly were in for it when the opening credits played on Man of Medan, as Denver’s own Khemmis got their icy hands on the tune.

The result is a slow, brooding walk into the unknown, as this early 20th century song penned by a Free Will Baptist preacher is transformed into a crushingly heavy and ominous main title. Khemmis’ full version can be found on their Doomed Heavy Metal EP, released in April 2020, in between the aforementioned Man of Medan and the sophomore installment Little Hope.

Singer-songwriter Lissie gives Rob Zombie’s “Dragula” a haunting acoustic overhaul for Haunt

Memeable as this 1998 industrial metal classic may be, it is the track that put Rob Zombie on the map after the breakup of White Zombie. The four-on-the-floor groove, detuned guitars, and heaping helpings of electronic elements make for an undisputed classic, or at the very least, the best song about the Munsters’ family vehicle.

That having been said, listening to Lissie’s version of the song, which plays during the end credits of the extreme haunted attraction horror Haunt, you would be forgiven for not knowing the original was such a heavy-handed anthem. Piano arpeggios and the odd acoustic guitar drive this cover along, completely reworking the song into something else entirely. Purists be damned, this version is worth a listen whether you’ve seen the film or not.

Luniz’s “I Got 5 On It” takes on new meaning during the pivotal Red vs Adelaide confrontation in Us

Jordan Peele’s sophomore joint Us was a slashing good time, with its tale of the underground society of the Tethered and the mirrors of society. Arguably the biggest highlight of the film was the work put in by lead Lupita N’yongo, who played both family matriarch Adelaide and the raspy-voiced Red.

The climactic showdown in the world of the Tethered features a reinterpreted, orchestrally-driven take on the Luniz classic “I Got 5 On It.” It heightens the drama and adds to the urgency and severity of the confrontation, all while giving an honestly jaw-dropping symphonic take on a hip-hop staple, making for one of the best leitmotifs in recent horror history.

Moby breathes new life into Bobby Darin’s “Beyond the Sea” for the original BioShock

The original BioShock, released back in 2007, was one of the first games that truly made the argument for video games as a form of art, and did so by being a masterpiece of survival horror and sci-fi FPS action. The soundtrack is full of diegetic music that helps set the tone and the late Fifties setting, but it is the EP that came with the limited collector’s edition of the game that brought a handful of reimagined classics forth.

Chief among these is Moby and Oscar the Punk’s reinterpretation of the Bobby Darin classic “Beyond the Sea,” a song used in commercials to promote the game’s impending release. The remix uses synths and an electro-rock backbone to let this version sail, nodding to the steampunk and retro-futuristic aesthetic of the iconic game. The BioShock EP might be tougher to get one’s hands on than it would be to procure ADAM in Rapture, but seeking it out is well worth the trouble.

Faithful recreations of David Bowie and Lana Del Rey are on display courtesy of Elsa Mars on American Horror Story: Freak Show

The fourth season of FX’s horror anthology series remains my favorite by a country mile, thanks in no small part to the complicated character that is Jessica Lange’s Elsa Mars.

As the leader of Jupiter, Florida’s last remaining honest to God sideshow attraction, Elsa shows off her vocal prowess with a handful of covers that, in the real world, wouldn’t be unleashed upon the world until decades later. A pair of David Bowie covers are captivating enough, but it was her version of Lana Del Rey’s “Gods and Monsters” during the Edward Mordrake story arc that comes as a real treat.

All three tracks are faithfully re-interpreted and tell the twisted tale over the course of the season’s thirteen episodes.

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