Road to Halloween: Jeremiah’s Top Five Horror Musicals

Written by Jeremiah Greville October 04, 2016

Sweeney Todd

The horror musical is a rare breed of film. Like the horror comedy, it combines frightening scenarios and startling imagery with more upbeat and fantastical elements in the hope of making an audience laugh or scream—or both. This year is the 30th anniversary of Little Shop of Horrors, a cult film combining dark comedy, horror, and yes—fully produced musical numbers—to wonderful effect. A couple years ago we did another list of the Top 5 Horror musicals. In honour of the Steve Martin and Rick Moranis classic, let’s look at the top five horror musicals again and see how they rank.

Honourable Mentions: Cannibal! The Musical, The Phantom of the Opera, Stage Fright

5) Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008)

Repo! The Genetic Opera

Repo! is more a fever dream hallucination than a movie; a bad trip on good drugs set to blaring music played over a family argument. It’s an absolute beautiful mess of a film, and succeeds as a horror musical through a comic book inspired art style, neon-lit colour scheme, and a surprisingly catchy set of songs. None of it is particularly good or inspired, but there’s enough of it earnestly presented to win you over if you’re willing to give in. It’s campy to the utmost, completely gory, totally deranged–and a blast to watch with friends. Go see it with someone who knows some of the songs, and enjoy the mindless organ-stealing fun as you sing along.

4) Little Shop of Horrors (1986)

Little Shop of Horrors - Audrey II

Rick Moranis headlines this offbeat remake of a 1960 Roger Corman film about a plant that feeds on human blood. Packed to the brim with memorable slapstick comedy and a slew of crazy characters, the music in this one takes a backseat to the action that’s happening in every scene. You might not remember the words to the song, but you’ll never forget seeing Steve Martin and Bill Murray in the dental office. Featuring cameos from James Belushi, John Candy, and Christopher Guest, and an outlandishly menacing performance from Levi Stubbs as the voice of Audrey II, Little Shop of Horrors is one of the most bizarre, hilarious musicals ever made.

3) Sweeney Todd (2007)

Sweeney Todd

A dark and enthralling fantasy about a barber out for revenge, Sweeney Todd is one of Tim Burton’s masterstrokes with constant collaborators Helena Bonham Carter and Johnny Depp. Winner of a number of Golden Globes and even an Oscar, it represents the height of their collaboration before their recent dark critical period. The songs, the atmosphere, and the story are all memorable, and the film frequently goes from menacing to moving. While it’s a gorgeous Gothic tale soaked in production value, it’s doesn’t quite reach the same heights of fun that the other musicals on this list do. But if you haven’t seen it–don’t wait. Watch it today.

2) The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

The Rocky Horror Picture Show
The Rocky Horror Picture Show is the oldest movie on this list, and undoubtedly one of the most famous. It’s still played at midnight showings to this day, with fans in attendance dressing up as their favourite characters. The music is great, offering many opportunities for those who want to sing along, and the experience of seeing it in costume is an absolute blast–IF you go to a welcoming screening. Very few movies have inspired such devotion or encouraged such vigorous audience participation. Though its examination of sexual fluidity and gender performance is at times off-base and has been criticized for tone-deafness, it’s still a fascinating and important film to many. Raw, sexual, psychedelic, and above all fun, you’ll want to do the Time Warp again after seeing this one.

1) The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

The Nightmare Before Christmas

Capturing the feeling of two holiday seasons instead of just one, The Nightmare Before Christmas has been pulling twice-a-year viewing duty from audiences for over twenty years. The story is touching, the art direction is inspired, and the stop motion animation holds up to this day. It’s timeless, frightening, and joyous in equal measure, with heart-breaking musical numbers bleeding into crowd-pleasing sing-a-long hits. It’s the movie an entire generation has grown up with, and one that will be passed down for generations to come. It’s a horror movie that isn’t horrible, a musical that isn’t cloying, and a Christmas movie that’s never saccharine. Chris Sarandon/Danny Elfman as Jack Skellington and Catherine O’Hara as Sally are the Gothic screen couple that everyone can root for, and the supporting characters are gorgeous and memorable. The Nightmare Before Christmas is one of those rare movie classics that transcends genre and personal taste to be something that almost anyone can enjoy. If you don’t like horror, or musicals, or Christmas movies, there’s still a huge chance you’ll absolutely love it. It’s a special film, a absolute classic, and the best horror musical ever made.

Do you think there’s anything missing from this list of the best horror musicals ever made? Would you have chosen a different order, or perhaps less (or more) Tim Burton? What do you think makes a horror musical work well, or do you think that horror musicals can never work because they’re so different? Lets us know your thoughts below, and, as always in October, Happy Halloween!

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About Jeremiah Greville

Jeremiah Greville is a pretty rad beard that's attached itself to a human face. The beard likes movies, television, comic books, and gentle finger rubs. The human likes pizza and sleep. When they work together, they write reviews. Hope you enjoy them!

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