by Jane Roser
Movie soundtracks. To some, a way to intensify emotion in a film scene; to others, something to listen to while doing the dishes. A film’s score and/or soundtrack provides an essential element to a movie. What would Saturday Night Fever be without “Stayin’ Alive” or The Muppet Movie without “The Rainbow Connection”? With the soundtrack to Scream, the 1996 Kevin Williamson penned/Wes Craven directed film which helped to revitalize the horror movie genre in the 90s, Nick Cave and The Bad Seed’s “Red Right Hand” is the film’s signature song (so much so that it also makes an appearance in Scream 2 and Scream 3) and amplifies the movie’s creepiness.
Cave has said that the phrase “red right hand” is a line from Milton’s poem “Paradise Lost” referring to the vengeful hand of God. I remember seeing Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds perform this song live several years ago and you could almost hear a pin drop in that room. When the chorus was sung, bright red lights flew up from the stage and shined on the audience, making everyone look like they just survived an epic bloodbath. Few songs have the power to make the hair on the back of your neck stand on end as if an invisible force were watching you, but this song does just that.
Kevin Williamson has mentioned in interviews that the soundtrack to 1978’s horror classic Halloween was one of his main inspirations while writing Scream and there are references galore in this movie. Halloween is the video the teens are watching at the party near the end of the film, Billy Loomis is a character in Scream while Dr. Loomis is a character in Halloween, and of course, the use of Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear The Reaper”, which is cleverly used in the scene where we first meet the Johnny Depp look-a-like and gives the audience a subtle clue as to who the big bad is.
Gus’s version of this iconic song works well for the scene, but I would have preferred the original on the soundtrack. Two other covers included on the album are SoHo’s “Whisper To A Scream” (originally by Brit band The Icicle Works) and Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” (the original version was included in the film, but was replaced with The Last Hard Men’s cover on the soundtrack. And yes, I cannot stop giggling at that band name).
I also love that a piece from the film’s score was included on the soundtrack. Composer Marco Beltrami had never scored a feature film before and kudos to Craven and the studio for taking a chance on an unknown because the gamble paid off. Beltrami’s score is chilling, suspenseful and melodic; it is as much a character in the film as Ghostface is .
The Scream soundtrack, unfortunately, was not considered a hit at the time and failed to chart on the Billboard 200, but many fans of the film, including me, played that sucker to death. Since Halloween is just around the corner I dare you to play this record in a dark room. Alone. At midnight. In fact, I double dare you. Just remember two of the rules for surviving a horror film: if you hear a strange noise, do not investigate it and whatever happens, do not say “who’s there?” You may just get an answer.