Tag Archive: Horror


Betsy Palmer, Polaroid taken during a day of pick-ups after principal photography (copyright Bill Klayer, 1979)

Betsy Palmer, Polaroid taken during a day of pick-ups after principal photography (copyright Bill Klayer, 1979)

When the actor or actress who played the protagonist passes away, it’s easy for fans to celebrate their life and work. Likewise, the performer in the role of the lovable sidekick or the famous character actor who seemed to appear in everything. We tend to forget that a story is only is good as its villain and as such, we don’t often see praise heaped on the name of person who play the bad guy (or girl).

Betsy Palmer was a working actress known to my parents’ generation for roles on TV and film in the ’50s and ’60s of the girl-next-door variety and for her work on game shows in the ’70s, but it was one single role in a low-budget horror film in 1980 that she is best known to fans of the genre in my generation. Casual fans will remember her character even if they don’t remember Betsy’s name and honestly, isn’t that perhaps one of the best compliments and a testament to the quality of the performance? I think so, at least on one respectable level. The role I’m referring to is of Mrs. Pamela Voorhees in the original Friday The 13th.

Friday The 13th is one of the first teen slasher films. Roger Ebert called them “dead teenager” movies. There had been other such movies before, like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Black Christmas and Halloween, but Friday The 13th, for better or worse, never aspired to be more than it was: a Halloween clone exploiting the horror convention established in the likes of those earlier dead teenager films. It stood at the precipice of the era of the ’80s slasher flick. Halloween and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre received a certain degree of praise, recognition of the artful approach to the gruesome subject matter. Friday The 13th was lambasted by the critics and despite being a box office success, reviews were scathing. It soon launched a franchise and signalled to other studios to mine the depths of the slasher horror genre. And mine they did. The ’80s were a golden age for this sub-genre of horror. Friday The 13th had 7 sequels in the ’80s, Wes Craven’s A Nightmare On Elm Street saved New Line Cinema (who these days put out more “respectable” titles like The Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit), Halloween pumped out a number of sequels and hundreds of clones, copies and variations sprung up, sometimes dozens a year. Some were clever, most were at least fun and a bit over the top, but all of them can arguably thank Friday The 13th for helping truly open that door.

And they can thank Betsy Palmer for setting a standard by which all slasher villians would be judged, even her character’s own son, the infamous hockey-masked killer Jason Voorhees. Halloween had that faceless, voiceless Michael Myers, while The Texas Chain Saw Massacre had the gibbering Leatherface flanked by a family of nuts (whom I’m sure few of you truly remember in any real detail, unles you’re a horror film buff) and Black Christmas, well…I wont say any more because I know a lot of you haven’t seen it and I don’t want to ruin anything. Mrs. Voorhees as the villain in Friday The 13th gave us a real, emotionally and psychologically believable antagonist in a slasher film we could connect with. We cheered for Adrienne King’s character Alice, but Mrs Voorhees was in many ways more terrifying than Michael Myers or Leatherface because she was human. Her madness was just under the surface and so commanding on screen was Betsy Palmer in the role that we could not look away as she explained herself.

Gene Siskel, the other half of the famed Siskel & Ebert critic duo, famously took such and exception to the film that he choose to spoil plot points (including the ending) in his print review for the Chicago Tribune and was offended that Palmer was a part of this film, so much so that he encouraged his readers to not only complain about the film to Paramount Picture’s parent company, but to write directly to Palmer herself, even going so far as to print where she lived. I generally respect the late Gene Siskel as a film critic, but that act in that review crossed a line and he lost all the moral high ground in his case against Friday The 13th. Judge for yourself, I’ve linked his original review above.

Betsy Palmer herself didn’t think much of the film and assumed few people would see it. She reportedly only to the role for the 10 days work it offered and the pay cheque that would buy her a new car. She returned for a cameo in the sequel, Friday The 13th – Part 2, and went on about her career. The franchise grew into a horror juggernaut and a Jason and his hockey mask became pop culture icons. Mrs Voorhees being in Part 1 became one of the tests of how much of a horror fan you were. Everyone knows Jason, but did you know about Pamela? Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson made that bit of trivia famous in Scream, but it was point of pride for horror fans long before that.

Then came the conventions. Horror movies, science fictions and everything in between, all celebrated different weekends around North America and the rest of the world. The featured guests were the stars of these movies, cheerfully meeting the fans. Among the actors was Betsy Palmer, happy to meet the fans who appreciated her work. Friday The 13th wasn’t Citizen Kane or Casablanca, but it had a large, loyal fanbase and Betsy would tell them the stories of her time on set. She was a fan favourite, respected for her performance and loved for her warmth to those who came out to meet her, Her co-star Adrienne King, the ingénue in Friday the 13th, would also attend and the two were good friends 35 years after filming and a generation apart in age. Read Ms King’s thoughts on Betsy on her Facebook page here.

I never got to meet Betsy Palmer and though I’m aware of her other work, I haven’t seen much of it. I’m a horror fan, as well as being a fan of many other genres, and grew up in the ’80s during those golden years of slasher/dead teenager horror flicks. The only role I truly connect Betsy Palmer with is Mrs Voorhees. I think Friday The 13h is a better movie than it gets credit for, between a few really good performances, a beautiful location that reminds me of summer camps I’ve known in my youth, some simple and elegant sequences and a superb, truly memorable score by Harry Manfredini. It may not be high art, but it deserves some respect. Betsy’s turn in the movie is no small part of that, an excellent performance among a really good overall cast  (including Adrienne King, Harry Crosby [son of Bing], Kevin Bacon [yes, *that* Kevin Bacon] and the late Laurie Bartram and Walt Gorney).

The movie is and will remain a favourite of mine. Betsy Palmer’s performance helps in a big way to make it so as the antagonist, the villain (the bad “girl,” if you will) and I watch the outpouring of social media comments on her passing, I know the genre’s fanbase has lost a favourite, just as the world has lost a really wonderful person, a beautiful soul who will be remembered for playing a troubled mother.

Rest in peace, Betsy Palmer, and thank you.

The most fitting piece of music I can think of to share in tribute is the End Theme to Friday The 13th, the hauntingly beautiful, gentle piece that closed the film.

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I love Halloween!

HALLOWEEN!

I grew up in a quiet neighbourhood in a small town and though the end of summer meant a return to school, it also meant Halloween was coming. Decorations and costumes would appear on store shelves and I’d start thinking about what I was going to be when I went trick or treating. The leaves would go red, yellow and orange, the nights became that perfect touch cooler and the more imaginative neighbours would dress up their property as graveyards, mad science labs and haunted houses. Perhaps there’s a bit of nostalgia filter going on as I look back, but who cares? It’s a season of atmosphere, mood and things that go bump in the night. It’s the season of the witch!

So, having a party this Halloween? Awesome! Sitting on your porch giving out candy? Also awesome!

We’ve got 60 days till Halloween, so here is a useful list of 60 songs you can use for your party or whatever involves music. I’m sure many of you will know of songs I don’t mention here and if they’re perfect for what you’re doing, go for it and add them!

My criteria were two-fold: a) be thematically appropriate to Halloween and its many aspects (horror, science fiction, fantasy, etc.); and b) keep the momentum going! This last one is less obvious, I find. Many dark, Halloween-sounding possible inclusions can either be too slow, too vague or too serious. You don’t want to depress the listeners, you want them to have a good time.

The List:
(And note that the position of a track doesn’t reflect its quality or popularity, it’s about having ebbs and flows in the music and spacing out the really well-known tracks.)

01) Thriller – Michael Jackson
Nothing sets the tone for evening as well as this song. It’s a classic for a reason. When you’re ready for the party to get rolling after all the guests have arrived, start here.

02) Monster Mash – Bobby “Boris” Picket & The Crypt-Kickers
It’s a bit cliché, but it’s also fun and everyone knows it. Good to get it in there early. Feel free to use a cover version (the Misfits do an excellent one) if the original is too cheesy for you.

03) Hot Patootie (aka Whatever Happened To Saturday Night) – Brian May
The original is from The Rocky Horror Show musical and it was made famous by Meat Loaf in The Rocky Horror PICTURE Show. Either version works, but I prefer this one for parties.

04) Halloween (Main Theme) – John Carpenter
Time to get a little dark and remind the guests that it’s not ALL fun and games.

05) Tubular X – Mike Oldfield
From the first The X-Files movie, Oldfield’s reworking of the famous X-Files theme. Mark Snow’s original is good, but for a party, it’s a touch slow and very short (about 1 minute long). At almost 4 minutes, Oldfield’s is the perfect length and has moody interludes.

06) People Are Strange – Echo And The Bunnymen
A cover of The Doors’ classic (and use The Doors’ original if you can’t find this version). It gets some additional seasonal cred by having been featured in the vampire movie The Lost Boys.

07) Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) – David Bowie
Should be self-explanatory! 🙂

08) Grim Grinning Ghosts – Barenaked Ladies
The Ladies covered this for Disney and it appears on The Haunted Mansion: Haunted Hits CD. This is probably the last time I say this in the list, but the original or another cover is a perfectly acceptable alternative!

09) Horrorbeach – HorrorPops
A perfect ’50s/’60s surfer instrumental homage, in the vain of The Ventures and The Shadows. Fun and spooky!

10) Man Of Mystery – The Shadows
Speaking of The Shadows…

11) In The Hall Of The Mountain King – The Who
Found on their album The Who Sell Out (Deluxe Edition), this is a cool rock cover of Grieg’s popular incidental music from Peer Gynt.

12) Theme From Swan Lake – Ray Coniff
From his Concert In Rhythm LP, this rendition of the classic Tchaikovsky piece has a good jazzy tempo. This theme (not this version, though) was used for the famous 1931 Bela Lugosi version of Dracula.

13) He’s Back (The Man Behind The Mask) (Movie Mix) – Alice Cooper
Alice wrote this for Friday The 13th – Part VI: Jason Lives and it appears at the end of the film. The Movie Mix (my preferred mix) is on his boxed set, The Life & Crimes of Alice Cooper. The original album version is on his 1986 album Constrictor. Either work.

14) Rock And Roll (Part 2) (Small Soldiers Remix) – Gary Glitter
At first, this may seem an odd choice, but trust me, this remix is just the right touch of eerie. The track has samples from the movie (about toy soldiers with minds of their own) of actor Tommy Lee Jones asking “are you scared”? You should be, in a fun way, those toys meant business!

15) Red Right Hand – Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds
Used in several ’90s movies, like Scream (and Dumb & Dumber, unfortunately, which dents its Halloween credibility a bit), it’s a devilish, catchy number.

16) Werewolves Of London – Warren Zevon
The best and most fun werewolf song ever written.

17) Moribund The Burgermeister – Peter Gabriel
A weird, but great, song about a town possessed (I think…?). Perfect atmosphere.

18) Moon Over Bourbon Steet – Sting
A jazzy bit directly inspired by the novel Interview With The Vampire, years before the Tom Cruise movie came out.

19) (Don’t Fear) The Reaper – Blue Oyster Cult
You should know this one, everyone else does!

20) The Storm – Jim Steinman
Steinman will appear on this list a few times, and rightly so, as no one does Wagnerian Rock with delightfully over-the-top production like him. This classical instrumental from his Bad For Good album is just as the title describes, a thunderous, scene-setting symphonic masterpiece.

21) Bad Moon Rising – Creedance Clearwater Revival
CCR’s timeless track.

22) Ghouls – HorrorPops
A driving little ditty about dating monsters who only want to see horror movies and try to get lucky with the girl. Yup.

23) The Enemy Within (Part 1 Of “Fear”) – Rush
Rush did a trilogy (in four parts…don’t ask) on the subject of Fear. All are great (except maybe Part 4…don’t ask), but this is the most party-music-friendly track in the set.

24) Ghostbusters – Ray Parker, Jr.
Obviously!

25) Somebody’s Watching Me – Rockwell
Featuring Michael Jackson singing the famous chorus, this ’80s classic came from a time when popular music embraced the spooky and weird with gleeful abandon.

26) His Eyes – Psuedo Echo
Like Somebody’s Watching Me, this Psuedo Echo track is all atmosphere and pop, this time wrapped up in New Wave synthy goodnesss. This song also appeared in Friday The 13th – Part V: A New Beginning.

27) Twilight Zone – Golden Earring
The Twilight Zone (both the TV series and this song) and Halloween go together like chocolate and peanut butter!

28) Enter Sandman – Metallica
Dreams and nightmares set to classic rock!

29) Hands Of Death (Burn Baby Burn) (Spookshow 2000 Mix) – Rob Zombie & Alice Cooper
From the collection Songs In The Key of X: Music From And Inspired By The X-Files, this meeting of the two reigning rock icons of the macabre is a must.

30) Release The Bats – The Birthday Party
Nick Cave’s previous band gave us this quirky song about vampire bats. It doesn’t get much more Halloween than vampire bats!

31) Bat Out Of Hell – Meat Loaf
Another Jim Steinman composition, who worked with Meat Loaf through much of their respective careers, this track was inspired by Alfred Hitchcock, his film Psycho and ’50s teen tragedy songs, and was written for Steinman’s Neverland rock musical.

32) Tubular Bells 2003: Introduction (Single Remix) – Mike Oldfield
The original version is a beautifully delicate piece that is probably a bit too subtle for the purpose of a party, despite being known by most as the music used in The Exorcist, but this is a remix of Oldfield’s own 2003 re-record of the entire album (yes, he re-recorded all 50 minutes of it, but don’t fear, the original is still available, too). For me, it’s perfect for a Halloween party.

33) Science Fiction Double Feature – The Rocky Horror Picture Show
The opening track of the movie (and the stage musical) pays tribute to the classic science fiction and horror films of writer (and singer of this version) Richard O’Brien’s childhood.

34) I’m Flash
And
35) Space Pirates – Flash Fearless Versus The Zorg Women, Pts 5 & 6
Alice Cooper sings these two tracks off the concept album Flash Fearless, which itself is a homage to old Saturday morning serial adventures like Flash Gordon and Commando Cody, the kind you’d see at a science fiction double feature! You can find these two tracks on Alice’s Life & Crimes boxed set, as well.

36) Carmina Burana: O Fortuna – Carl Orff
The thunderous vocal track of countless film ads. You and everyone in the room will hum along!

37) No Exit – Blondie
Opening with a piece of Bach’s famous Toccata in D Minor, this rock/rap fusion about gangsta vampires (…yes, indeed) also features clever uses of other classical themes (like In The Hall Of The Mountain King).

38) I’m Going Slightly Mad – Queen
A tongue-in-cheek song about being “one card short of a full deck.”

39) Frankenstein – Edgar Winter Group
The rock instrumental ode to the most famous mad scientist of literature and film, Dr. Frankenstein.

40) Doctorin’ The Tardis (12″ Version) – The Time Lords
The Time Lords (aka The KLF) created the first real hit mash-up (before mash-ups were a thing, really) by backing the famous Doctor Who theme with samples from Gary Glitter’s Rock And Roll Part 2 and Sweet’s Blockbuster!

41) Weird Science – Oingo Boingo
There are two versions of this, the soundtrack version to the movie of the same name (for which it was written) and the later album re-record. Either works! If you need Halloween credentials past being a mad scientist song, later-composer Danny Elfman was in the band (you know, the guy who wrote the music for many Tim Burton films!)

42) Feed My Frankenstein – Alice Cooper
The Monster this time, not the doctor (I know, I know, Frankenstein’s not The Monster’s name, tell that to Alice…).

43) The Invisible Man – Queen
A rarely considered song for Halloween, but it’s the only song I know of about the character of the Invisible Man, one of Universal Picture’s classic movie “monsters.” It’s got a pop-rock riff similar to Ghostbusters and practically begs to be on a Halloween playlist! Time to give it its due.

44) The Time Warp – The Rocky Horror Picture Show
‘Nuff said.

45) Clones (We’re All) – Alice Cooper
Science out of control with a catchy synth riff.

46) Cyborg – Brian May
A video game character forever destined to battle evil in a computer.

47) Who Made Who – AC/DC
The machine revolution has begun with this song from the soundtrack album of Stephen King’s film Maximum Overdrive.

48) The Headless Horseman – Joe Satriani
Riding through the Halloween night, Washington Irving’s famous spectre of books and film may still be out there…somewhere…

49) Night On Bald Mountain – Modest Mussorgsky
The epic orchestral account of witches casting spells atop the mountain!

50) Welcome To My Nightmare – Alice Cooper
You shouldn’t be surprised that there’s a lot of Alice Cooper on this list, he’s made a career out of all the things that make Halloween great.

51) This Is Halloween – Marilyn Manson
A cover of the famous track from the film A Nightmare Before Christmas.

52) This Corrosion – The Sisters Of Mercy
Jim Steinman teaming with Andrew Eldrich for a gothic rock opus.

53) Theme From Friday The 13th – Part 3 (3D) (12″ Version) – Hot Ice
An extended version of Harry Manfredini’s disco-styled Theme From Friday The 13th – Part 3 (3D).

54) I Put A Spell On You – Screamin’ Jay Hawkins
Seriously, listen to this song. They just don’t make’em like this anymore!

55) Fire – The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown
…or like this!

56) Race With The Devil – The Gun
As cool and insane as a race with the Devil probably would be!

57) Sympathy For The Devil – The Rolling Stones
A classic.

58) Monster Friend – Tea For The Voyage
A fun ska number about the difficulty of a man faces dating a woman whose friend is an indescribable hell beast. Literally.

59) The Curse Of Millhaven – Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds
A jaunty number about about a killing spree, much more fun than it you’d think and good luck not singing along with the chorus.

60) Nature Trail To Hell – “Weird Al” Yankovic
Not a parody of any one song, but of the style of ’80s horror pop songs like “Thriller,” sending up that decade’s slasher movies and killer icons like Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers.

Honourable Mentions:
(Really, they’re on the list, but 60 tracks for 60 days left to Halloween made for a better looking list. Screw it, it’s my blog!)

61) Horrorteria – Twisted Sister
A two-part track, from their album Stay Hungry, this was dedicated to Stephen King himself!

62) A Nightmare On My Street – DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince
Will Smith & Jazzy Jeff’s tribute to A Nightmare On Elm Street, wisely employing Elmer Bernstein’s theme from the original film. A bit ’90s cheese, but come on, these two liked the movies as much as we did!

63) Maniac House – Katrina & The Waves
The neighbours nobody wants.

64) La Villa Strangiato – Rush
Supposedly based on a dream of guitarist Alex Lifeson’s, this 9:33 long instrumental has him in Wonderland, chased by monsters, and other bizarre things!

65) A Kind Of Magic – Queen
A remix of one of the songs Queen wrote for the fantasy film Highlander, this ode to the mysteries of the movie’s immortals is fun and danceable.

66) Teenage Frankenstein – Alice Cooper
Also featured in Friday The 13th, Part VI: Jason Lives, comes a rocker in the vein of B-movies like “I Was A Teenage Werewolf” and (literally) “I Was A Teenage Frankenstein.” I guess some some kids’ growing pains were worse than others.

67) Bad Things – Jace Everett
Fans of the HBO series True Blood will instantly recognize this, since it’s used as the theme. That context and the eerie undertone qualify it for inclusion on this list.

68) Song From The Bottom Of A Well – Kevin Ayers
Finally! Somebody uploaded this song to YouTube. I’ve had this list up for two years and at least can share this song with you! I guess this makes up for “Maniac House” being taken down.

By no means is this list definitive. Some sites list songs I didn’t mention here, either because I don’t know them or they don’t fit the parties I throw. Or I forgot about them. So let me know in the comments section what you like here or what I missed, or what you love to listen to at Halloween!

I look forward to your thoughts and suggestions!

Have a fun, safe Halloween, folks.

Trick or treat, smell my feet…