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Everybody talks about the instrumental music written specifically for horror movies, and with good reason, because some of it adds so much to movies. But when looking back on movie history, we seem to forget the “various artists” soundtracks. I can remember buying soundtrack cassette tapes which were wrapped in plastic and didn’t show you an entire track list on the label, then being super bummed when they actually took up space with instrumentals. These four soundtracks are all made up completely of (or contain) songs written just for the movies.

Trick or Treat (1986)

This is a classic example of a rock horror movie. The villain is a dead rock star and there are cameos by Gene Simmons as a DJ and Ozzy as a televangelist. Unfortunately, it didn’t do all that well, for reasons I as a huge fan of the movie don’t quite understand. Maybe it was a reaction against parents claiming that backwards messages in songs made their kids into assholes. Maybe it was that Skippy from Family Ties couldn’t really carry a movie (although I thought he was kinda cute in this.) The Trick or Treat soundtrack was written and performed by Fastway, and if you like metal, it holds up very well now. It actually was more successful than the movie. Standout track: “After Midnight.”

The Lost Boys (1987)

You absolutely couldn’t get away from the soundtrack to The Lost Boys in the summer of ’87, not that I wanted to. INXS was at its career apex and “Good Times” was playing in heavy rotation on the radio and MTV. Also, The Doors’ music was enjoying a huge revival so it was a big deal that the vamps had a Jim Morrison poster, Jason Patric resembled Mr. Mojo Risin’ and there was a cover of “People Are Strange” on the album. And in that tacky time period, most people just accepted without question the shirtless man in purple pants rocking the sax during the concert scene.

Fright Night (1985)

I don’t see Fright Night referenced a lot anymore, but it was beloved at the time. It was also very merchandised, including comic books and video games. The soundtrack is solid, featuring a title track by recent hall of famers J. Geils Band (but without Peter Wolf because he had left by 85), “Let’s Talk” by Devo and “You Can’t Hide From The Beast Inside” performed by Autograph. The J. Geils track is notable for being one of those things I never thought much about until they weren’t making them anymore: the lyrics are a synopsis of the movie as if sung by the protagonist. Sort of like old TV theme songs! The soundtrack was never officially released on CD and a vinyl one, for example, will run you 100 bucks; however, there are fan-produced digital soundtracks floating around.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

This was not an entire album, but a popular single by Dokken called, obviously, “Dream Warriors.” It brought Dokken briefly out of the realm of metal fandom and into the mainstream. Plus, it had a kick-ass video that Patricia Arquette and Robert Englund actually acted in, as opposed to just showing scenes from the movie while the song played. As an aside, you cannot imagine the level to which pop culture was saturated by Freddy unless you were there as he became an increasingly benign figure. Try to imagine the Saw puppet on kids’ lunchboxes! So yeah, this wasn’t a whole Dokken/Nightmare album, but it was huge.

Honorable mention:

I don’t remember these floating around on tape or vinyl at the time, but Night of the Demons, Demoni and Return of the Living Dead were rock-fueled movies as well and you can now find their soundtracks.

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