It’s a trend that has been going on for years. A slowed-down version of a song played during a horror movie trailer. The slowness of the normally happy tune throws you off, and suddenly the song’s lyrics sound creepy. Recently, I saw a trailer for A Cure for Wellness (2017):
Took me a minute, but I finally recognized the song as “I Wanna Be Sedated” by the Ramones. The song is covered by Benjamin Wallfisch and features Mirel Wagner on vocals. A song that is normally frenetic, about simultaneously hurrying around and being bored, now applies to patients undergoing some mysterious surgery and takes a dark new twist.
For some reason this led me on a hunt to find all those other horror movies featuring slow covers of songs. I came up with:
Last House on the Left (2009) features a cover of the Guns ‘n’ Roses song “Sweet Child O’Mine” by Taken by Trees. The trailer punctuates the rather upbeat cover version with dramatic drum stops, but keeps the upbeat feel of it as clips of the parents getting bloody revenge for their “sweet child” play.
Lorde’s cover of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” in the Dracula Untold (2014) trailer isn’t actually that much slower than the original, and the song is both lyrically fitting and super dramatic.
Victor Frankenstein (2015) uses an only slightly slower version of the Doors’ “Break on Through” by Josh Mobley. Oddly enough, it isn’t the slowness but the guitar riff that really matches up with the feel of this movie. It’s a bizarre version of the Frankenstein story that starts with Igor working in a circus.
The Nirvana classic “Smells Like Teen Spirit” graces the trailer for The Gallows (2015). The cover version, by Think Up Anger ft. Malia J. may have been chosen because it’s a teen slasher flick. Or maybe because of that line, “Here we are now, entertainers,” because they’re all in drama club?
“Every breath you take… I’ll be watching you…” The extremely slowed down cover of the classic Police song in the Blair Witch (2016) trailer is covered by… Pia Ashley? I think? There’s no official recording. But it’s certainly creepy enough – suddenly a love song has become one about stalking. Or maybe that’s what it was about in the first place.
The Pride and Prejudice, and Zombies (2016) trailer features a cover of “Born to Be Wild” (by J2 ft. Blu Holliday) doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, lyrics-wise. Or tone-wise. But since this film is a mash-up of classic literature and zombie gore, I suppose it works on that level.
2009 is really the earliest movie I could find that had a slow cover song in the trailer, but I have to give a shout out to a couple of cover songs in horror movies that weren’t in the trailers: Gary Jules’ cover of “Mad World” from Donnie Darko (2001), and Richard Cheese’s cover of “Down with the Sickness” from the end credits of Dawn of the Dead (2004) – both for entirely different reasons. The first is simply one of the most haunting songs I’ve ever heard. The second perfectly captures the social commentary of spending the zombie apocalypse trapped in a mall. Oh, and the cover of “Paint it Black” by Gob for in Stir of Echoes (1999). And The Sunday’s version of “Wild Horses” in the movie Fear (1996). And Mona’s cover of “Stand By Me” which was featured in the commercials for the Hannibal TV series. And if I’m going to start throwing out TV series, I might as well add Placebo’s cover of “Running Up That Hill” from Vampire Diaries.
I honestly love this trend. There are a few songs I’d love to see slow covers of in a trailer:
- Sound of Silence by Simon & Garfunkel
- Mercy Street by Peter Gabriel (Fever Ray does a great creepy cover of this)
- Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) by the Eurythmics – Marilyn Manson has already done a creepy cover, but it could be EVEN CREEPIER
- Hello by Lionel Ritchie
- I’m on Fire by Bruce Springsteen – there’s a cover by Bat for Lashes that I love
- The Killing Moon by Echo and the Bunnymen – it was used in Donnie Darko, and there’s a quirky cover by Nouvelle Vague, but just the title of the song would be PERFECT for a slow cover and a horror movie trailer, perhaps one about werewolves?
- Maneater by Hall & Oates – the movie “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” used a cool cover of this by Grace Mitchell, but same reasons as above: title is perfect
- Toxic by Britney Spears – ditto, again
For more non-horror trailers featuring slow cover songs, check out http://screencrush.com/movie-trailers-sad-covers/ and http://screencrush.com/movie-trailers-sad-covers-2/. Clearly the slow cover song thing isn’t just for horror movies!
5 thoughts on “what is it about slow covers of happy songs in horror movie trailers?”
I love this trend so much! I love watching movie trailers too. It seems like in most of the actual horror films nowadays, though, they prefer to take kid’s songs and make all of those as creepy as possible, either in the background or with the ghosts/creatures singing it. Ever since I saw an episode of Grimm where a jogger was listening to Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) right before they were killed by something in the woods made me think it would be a cool horror movie backdrop if done right!
I love the creepy kid chorus covers! And definitely Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This), some movie exec needs to get on that!
The slow covers need to stop. Please don’t encourage this. Do something different.
There is a great cover of Toxic done by Sofia Karlberg… Just slow enough to be creepy. https://youtu.be/kV0gw3fG7ps
Ooh, I love this! I imagine if there was a movie about a bad relationship, maybe something like Fatal Attraction, this would be really great…