A young woman dances in her room in 'A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night'

The Greatest Needle Drops in Horror

I’ve watched a lot of horror movies, and I think the best part of my favorites is the music. Music is a powerful tool when used in movies and TV shows, the right song can really amplify a tense moment. With this in mind, I present to you my top eight needle drops in horror films. Because Halloween is creeping ever closer, I want to deliver the content you’re craving—or maybe it’s just what I’m craving.

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A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)

After we meet the Girl in A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, she takes us to her home, where, in one of my favorite scenes, she dances alone. The song that’s playing during this moment is “Dancing Girls (Suite 304 Demo)” by Farah. Sung in Persian and in English, this synth-pop hit is super dance-y with lyrics that add to the dark and mysterious nature of the Girl, played by Sheila Vand. As she dances, we hear the lyrics, “she’s just a normal girl, dancing to her favorite song.” We already know that the Girl is far from normal. The song choice only highlights that.

The Strangers (2008)

Listen. I know. Please don’t come for me, but I absolutely love the moment in The Strangers when Joanna fucking Newsom starts playing. I’m sure this wasn’t the first instance of a horror movie deploying a song antithetical in tone to the moment or scene in which it is used. But I feel like every movie after this one tried to emulate this particular moment. “The Sprout and the Bean” is such a cutesy song. So playing it on repeat in one of the most gruesome horror movies is a choice!

Nope (2022)

There is nothing bad that you can say about this movie. Don’t even try it. I won’t have it. I love all the music in Nope, but especially the use of queen Dionne Warwick’s “Walk on By.” A legendary song for legendary performances from both Keke Palmer and Daniel Kaluuya. This song plays at about the 23-minute mark, when OJ and Emerald are walking back to their house and paying homage to their late father. Another dope needle drop from this movie is when the Jean Jacket mix of Corey Hart’s “Sunglasses at Night” starts playing.

My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To (2020)

This movie is kind of a sleeper, I don’t think many people actually saw it. But I actually liked My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To, and thought the story was compelling. It follows three siblings, one of whom is very sick. His older brother and sister have determined that the only thing that makes him well is blood—human blood. In one scene, pushed to his breaking point by circumstance, the older brother Dwight begins to scream-sing “I Am Controlled by Your Love” by Helene Smith. It’s a super powerful and effective scene.

Are We Not Cats (2018)

Is this really a horror movie? I’ve heard Are We Not Cats described as soft horror, a horror romance, and more. I watched it on Shudder so I’m counting it as a body horror movie. It’s fucking gross. What I appreciate about this movie is the music. In one scene, Yvonne Fair’s “Straighten Up” plays. It feels completely mismatched in a movie about a couple falling in love and bonding over a mutual love of eating their own hair.

Silence of the Lambs (1991)

There has been a lot of talk about Silence of the Lambs in recent years, and not much of it good. But I don’t really want to touch on that too much. I’d rather talk about how cool I think Q Lazzarus is. Her hit “Goodbye Horses” plays perfectly during a scene in which the serial killer Buffalo Bill dances around. It’s another instance of the tone of a song not matching the tension of a scene. Q Lazzarus disappeared pretty much completely from public life in the ’90s, and as a music nerd I’ve always wondered what she was up to during those years. She sadly passed away in 2022. Regardless, Jonathan Demme’s movie presents such a poignant use of her song.

The Hunger (1983)

“Bela Lugosi’s Dead” by Bauhaus plays during an early scene in The Hunger. Picture it: We’re in the club. We’re surrounded by vampires. Catherine Deneuve looks stunning as Miriam Blaylock. Everyone’s hot and sexy and wants your blood. This song is playing. It’s perfect, isn’t it? I watched this movie for the first time in college, in a class about vampires in pop culture. Years later, I was listening to a podcast about Lifetime movies and one of the hosts was like, “What kind of weirdo takes a course about vampires?” Me, everyone. I’m that kind of weirdo.

28 Days Later (2002)

While technically part of the soundtrack for 28 Days Later, this track is moreso from the film’s score. And it is one of my favorite horror movie moments in history. John Murphy’s “In the House – In a Heartbeat” plays during the climax of the film, when Jim (Cillian Murphy) and Selena (Naomie Harris) are escaping the military compound. The way the track builds and reaches its own climax is something to behold. I listen to it sometimes, even if it isn’t October, just because I love it so much. I long considered 28 Days Later to be my favorite horror movie, period. It’s still definitely in my top five.

(featured image: Kino Lorber / Vice Media)


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Author
Dani Janae
Dani Janae is a poet and writer from Pittsburgh, PA. She has written for Autostraddle, Vice, Refinery29, LadyGunn, among others. When she's not writing you can find her listening to moody tunes, eating figs, or water coloring. You can follow her on Instagram at @bell.biv.dahoe