Halloween is nearly upon us. With so many parties to choose from, why not just dispense with the choice, stay home and watch your real friends party in the movies instead? Here are just five unforgettable party scenes in horror films and the killer soundtracks that go with them. And if these choices aren’t enough, here’s even more awesome movie soundtracks from the ’90s and ’00s to get you through this season and beyond.
Who could forget the iconic gathering of 20-somethings playing teens in Wes Craven‘s original Scream? Picture it: It’s 1996 in the fictional town of Woodsboro, California. The film opens with the brutal murder of high school student Casey Becker in her home by an unknown masked killer. Officials have imposed a mandatory curfew on the city, but teens have gotta be teens, and so they plan a party at Sidney’s house while her father is out of town (or is he?).
The party in Scream epitomizes everything we love and hate about the ’90s. Kevin Williamson‘s hyper-meta script features teenagers who have seen horror films, are informed by them and self-referentially roll their eyes at the tropes. Still, they can’t help but gleefully engage in those tropes, to their own peril. In the party’s most iconic moment, video store clerk and horror film expert Randy gives us the rules of surviving a horror film. Scream both follows and subverts said rules. Sydney’s clearly the virtuous archetype, until she’s seduced by her boyfriend. Nevertheless, she is the final girl. On the other hand, her slutty friend Tatum meets her end when her bosoms are too large to slide through the automatic garage’s doggie door. (No way that death would ever happen: I’m pretty sure garage doors had basic safety mechanisms, even pre 9-11).
How Appropriate Is This Party: Not very. The killers are at large and have already made it abundantly clear that the popular teens of Woodsboro are their chosen targets. Getting together in one central location just makes for less legwork.
But Does the Soundtrack Rock?: That depends. Do you love the ’90s? Notable tracks include Moby‘s “First Cold Hive” and Nick Cave and the Bad Seed‘s “Red Right Hand,” a song so good that it reoccurs in all the sequels.
The Virgin Suicides (1999)
Director Sofia Coppola’s film (adapted from a novel by Jeffrey Eugenides) isn’t a genre horror per se—but what happens in the film is more than horrifying. The film takes place in the suburbs of Michigan in the 1970s, where five beautiful blonde sisters live with their overprotective parents. At the start, we encounter the attempted suicide of the youngest daughter, 13-year-old Cecilia, who has slashed her wrists for reasons unknown.
Well-meaning but clueless, the grown ups hope that throwing a party will help. How on earth are adolescents expected to party at a highly chaperoned event without alcohol? The party that ensues couldn’t be more awkward or perfectly representative of the times. The girls stand on one side of the room while the much shorter boys (what fresh hell is middle school!) lurk together on the other side in ugly plaid suits.
Cecilia’s freshly slit wrists are covered awkwardly with medical tape and bracelets, and it’s more than heartbreaking. Just when the partygoers are loosening up, Cecilia’s final act kicks the awkward up another notch.
How Appropriate Is This Party: A party, the most social event imaginable as an attempted cure for a 13-year-old’s utterly unknowable sadness? Just look at her mother’s hopeless desperation when she sees how poorly the plan has backfired. The party is a failure, of course, but I can’t help but interpret the attempt as an act of love. Still, it’s a love that suicidal people are unable to receive, particularly with parents as witless as these two.
But Does the Soundtrack Rock?: It sure does! We get a healthy dose of ’70s rock hits with some contemporary music thrown in for good measure. Key tracks include Heart‘s Magic Man and several songs from Air.
Death Spa (1989)
To be clear, Death Spa is not a good movie. This is the kind of film that people put on at a party to marvel at how idiotic the characters are. Not to be confused with the nearly identical 1987 picture Killer Workout (also known as Aerobicide), Death Spa cashes in on the ’80s fitness craze by combining aerobics, soft core porn lighting and the slasher film to mediocre effect.
The plot goes something like this: A woman died one year ago, and for some reason, her spirit has come back to terrorize members of the gym she used to own with her husband. In the span of a very short period of time, guests of Michael’s Health Club are scalded to death in the sauna, thrown off of diving high boards, pulled apart at the arms by errant weight machines and more! Does the health club shut down until they can get to the bottom of these gristly and frequent murders? It does not! The party must go on, because it’s such an economic boon for the club! It simply can’t be canceled.
How Appropriate Is This Party: This is hand’s down the least appropriate of all the parties. I mean, even if the partygoers put their own personal safety aside, can we at least take a second to grieve for the dead? Needless to say, the party does not go well. Many people die, and frankly, they deserve what they get.
But Does the Soundtrack Rock?: Nope. If it’s ’80s synth-pop you’re after, Killer Workout‘s soundtrack is way better.
The Omen (1976)
In The Omen, an American Ambassador finds himself the unlucky father of the antichrist in the form of his creepy little son: Damien. (Honestly, with a name like that, what did they think was going to happen?) In the film, the devil has a lot of help. He does his work through some spooky rottweilers, and most memorably, a suicidal nanny. We all remember the nanny screaming from the building with the noose around her neck, “Look at me, Damien! It’s all for you!” What’s less memorable is the fact that her leap takes place at Damien’s birthday party.
How Appropriate Is This Party: Again, the kid’s parents don’t yet know they’re throwing a party for the antichrist. The only thing obviously inappropriate about this party is its obscene scale. The kid’s turning five years old, and he gets a carousel, balloons, a clown and hundreds of guests. It’s like an episode of MTV’s My Super Sweet Sixteen: Kindergartner Edition.
But Does the Soundtrack Rock?: It’s not a soundtrack so much as a score, brought to us by legendary composer Jerry Goldsmith. And yes, it chills to the bone.
The Craft (1996)
Every sullen teen from the ’90s can’t help but love The Craft. Directed by Andrew Fleming, the film features new girl, Sarah, on her first days at a Catholic prep high school. She eventually befriends the school’s resident goth girls, Nancy, Bonnie and Rochelle. Together, the girls form a coven and unleash a series of teenage fantasies: To escape poverty, to take revenge on racist bullies, to become more beautiful and to make cute, popular boys like Chris Hooker fall in love with us. The plot culminates at a high school party of epic proportions. This party stands out on the list from the others with its relative realism. The crowd consists primarily of the popular, cool kids. When Nancy the goth shows up looking for Chris, it sends a wave of whispers through the crowd.
Nancy and Chris have history, you see, and Nancy can’t abide Chris’s inappropriate advances any longer. She devices a spooky plan to use her newfound magical powers to corner a drunk Chris at the party. She shape shifts into Sarah at a pivotal moment, thus scaring the shit out of him… and worse! The Craft is an awesome film for a lot of reasons (despite what that idiot Jennifer thinks). Most of all, it’s great because of Fairuza Balk‘s utterly batshit performance as Nancy. “The only way you know how to treat women is to treat them like whores. When you’re the whore! And that’s going to stop.” You tell him, Nancy!
How Appropriate is this Party: The party itself is perfectly reasonable. Things only get out of hand when Chris gets thrown out the open window via witchcraft and smashes his head on the pavement. But who could have predicted that?
But Does the Soundtrack Rock?: Oh my god, the soundtrack rocks so hard. This music is a teen goth’s dream come true. From Letters to Cleo to a spirited cover of “How Soon is Now?” by Love Split Love, to Matthew Sweet‘s “Dark Secret”… I listened to it again this weekend, and pretty much every track holds up.