SLINGIN’ IN THE PAIN: HORROR MOVIES AND MUSICAL THEATRE
There’s a popular image that has been circulating the interwebs for quite some time of a Venn-Diagram showing People who like horror movies, people who like musicals, and serial killers. Apparently, if you like horror movies AND musicals, you’re a serial killer. Well boys, I guess that makes me Aileen Wuornos. Often mistaken as a genre only those that fancy flamboyant men in tights and anything Andrew Lloyd Webber can enjoy, musicals are actually one of the earliest forms of cinema. Among the first 25 films to be entered in the Library of Congress, both SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN and SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS made the cut, and they’re both musicals. For most cinema lovers, musicals hold a special place in our heart. I can guarantee that everyone reading this list can sing at least one line from “Summer Lovin’ ” from GREASE or could easily tell you what a spoonful of could make the medicine go down. Regardless of your genre preference, musicals just make everyone feel good. Strangely enough, one of the most “feel-good, family oriented” genres has tasted blood and wanted more from the bastard child of cinema.
Horror musicals have covered just about every subgenre of horror. We’ve got our monster movies with LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, the walking undead with ZOMBIE PROM, plenty of gore with REPO! THE GENETIC OPERA, universal classics with YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN: THE MUSICAL!, slashers are covered with EVIL DEAD: THE MUSICAL! or DON’T GO INTO THE WOODS, forbidden love like BAT BOY, more traditional “musicals” like SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET, real life horror murderers with THRILL ME, science-fiction with THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, B-movie gorefests like POULTRYGEIST: NIGHT OF THE CHICKEN DEAD, and awesome 70’s extravaganzas like PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE. Hell, even BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER had a musical episode. If I’m being honest, I could go on and on giving a laundry list of horror movies converted into musicals, but that’s not what this article is about.
Horror movie musicals may feel a bit like an oxymoron, but strangely enough, combining horror and musicals works rather well. In fact, some of the most memorable musicals have horror elements to them. We may remember it as an animated feature, but many horror fans cite A NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS as one of their most beloved gateway horror films. I know many die-hard gorehounds that make it a tradition to watch the film on Halloween night. There’s something comforting about watching a horror movie musical. If I may be so frank, perhaps it makes us feel a little more “normal.”
Having a love for horror films automatically attaches a stigma to your character. We’re often confused as cultists, drug addicts, basement dwellers, violent, or just plain freaky. Sometimes it does feel a little weird to be cheering in a seat in a movie theater while everyone in close proximity is cringing with fear. It gets a little old being stared at in public while wearing a Fright-Rags shirt and being told that our outfit is “offensive”. Liking musicals throws us right into the same category as sweet old ladies who put doilies on top of their stereo speakers. To put it simply, we become a little bit more square.
I’ll never understand why it’s somewhat uncool to like musicals. Everyone likes music, and everyone likes movies. Combining the two just seems like saving time. Don’t get me wrong; there are a lot of musicals that are a bit much (I’m looking at you, LESTAT) but with the exception of perhaps CARRIE: THE MUSICAL, almost all horror musicals gain a very dedicated following. Darren Lynn Bousman’s movie musicals THE DEVIL’S CARNIVAL and REPO! THE GENETIC OPERA have both followed in the footsteps of THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW and spawned shadow casts that recreate the movie all over the country. Horror and musicals just seem to work. Perhaps it’s the campy nature of both of the genres reaching perfect harmony, or the balance that occurs when combining the most cheerful genre with the most horrific. Regardless, if this combination weren’t a good one, we wouldn’t continue seeing horror movie musicals pop up every year. Most recently, The Addams Family were given the musical treatment and although the show was met with mixed reviews, every belt singing alto/mezzo soprano under the age of 25 has added the Wednesday Addams jam “Pulled” into their audition repertoire.
For diehard musical theatre fans, liking a horror musical gives them a bit of an edge compared to the traditional tunes like HELLO DOLLY! or CABARET, but it makes horror fans look a little less weird. To quote South Park, “Musical theatre people are respected. Refined.” Sprinkling a little bit of that acceptance over people who are used to looking like the weirdo at the dinner party, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for joy.