Film composer Marco Beltrami and late director Wes Craven teamed up for the first four films of the Scream franchise and their loud and brash collaboration gave fans a pulse-pounding score. “Trouble in Woodsboro” and “Sidney’s Lament” are iconic, but the Scream movies had some additional support. If a slasher flick was going to be made, at a time when the horror genre was believed to be well past its port-mortem, great music would be a major factor in grabbing the attention of young audiences. And it would certainly help with CD sales.
Magazine and website Fangoria, dedicated to everything horror, took a deep dive into the music of Scream and all its gory glory. In an article by James Wallace, he wrote about the first film’s sweet sounds, saying “Coming out of the ’80s into the mid-’90s, you couldn’t have a movie targeting teens without a soundtrack full of bangers–a cinematic mixtape made up of chart-topping rock stars and emerging artists alike.” For the next two sequels, alongside Beltrami’s original compositions, there would be 90’s nostalgia, Alternative Rock, and Hip-Hop. And for the most part, the Scream movies could always be relied upon to boost a fantastic soundtrack. For a meta-slasher series, it makes a lot of sense in using covers of well-known classics. In reinventing the songs for a new generation, it’s very much like what Scream did to slasher films and the horror genre.
“Don’t Fear the Reaper” by Gus Black
Despite audiences having witnessed a brutal opening kill, the bulky computer Sidney (Neve Campbell) is busy typing on might be scarier for modern-day viewers. After her boyfriend Billy (Skeet Ulrich) climbs in through the bedroom window, cue Gus’ moody and slow vocals playing over the young doomed lovers. It’s much different from Blue Öyster Cult’s original, all the more perfect for the teen angst displayed on screen. For those who know what’s to come, the song is given an extra level of dark insight into Billy’s true intentions, making its inclusion all the better for repeated viewings.
“Red Right Hand” by Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds
Whether considered the Scream theme or simply thought of as a signature song, it’s just as iconic as Marco Beltrami’s “Trouble in Woodsboro” in setting the tone. Peaky Blinders might have gone on to use it in its opening credits but for horror fans, Ghostface will always be the perfect match with Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds. It plays as the town’s curfew goes into effect, twisting Woodsboro’s small town charm into resembling something closer to The Town That Dreaded Sundown, courtesy of Deputy Dewey’s (David Arquette) little piece of horror movie knowledge. Somewhat surprisingly, the song was never played over a Ghostface attack until Scream (2022) course corrected that with a swift throat slash.
“Drop Dead Gorgeous” by Republica
As Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) slips into Stu’s (Matthew Lillard) party house to hide a prying camera, someone with a good ear for music must be at the radio. It doesn’t take someone with a keen eye to realize who the “Drop Dead Gorgeous” is referring too. Tatum (Rose McGowan) heads to the garage for an unfortunate surprise and Republica’s music blasts until the door locks her in. Or maybe it refers to Randy’s crush on Scream Queen royalty herself, Jamie Lee Curtis, whose name-dropped as Sidney looks through the VHS rentals of the actress’ horror filmography.
“First Cool Hive” by Moby
There was no better way to end a ’90s flick than with this. Although she lost her cameraman Kenny (W. Earl Brown), Gale gives her breaking news story in stirring words. She has her spotlight and she won’t let it fade. Wes Craven shows off his directing prowess by letting the scene breathe, the camera slowly panning away from Gale, away from Stu’s house of horrors, and to the hazy sunrise. It’s a beautiful image that could give audiences a sigh of relief even if the red of the sky might remind the film’s survivors of the blood caked on their clothes. It wouldn’t be the last time the exhilarating use of Moby was used to signal the end of a film, such as in The Bourne films but sadly, a Jason Bourne/Ghostface crossover has never been in the cards.
Scream 2 (1997)
“Rope-A-Dope” by Hans Zimmer
Originally used for a test screening of the film, a sequel rushed into production, the reception for the Zimmer piece was so well-liked, it was kept in for the final cut. In doing so, the guitar riff became “Dewey’s Theme,” the western-like twang perfect for a law man willing to step into danger to save those around him from a looming threat. It returned again in the 2022 film, as the then ex-sheriff Dewey makes his return to helping the new victims on Ghostface’s hit list.
“Right Place, Wrong Time” by The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
When Derek (Jerry O’Connell) gives his Greek letters to Sidney, it ends up being one bad decision for the college kid. Later, he’s snatched up by his frat brothers for a hazing which leaves him tied up. In other words, perfect prey for Ghostface. The cover of Dr. John’s classic plays as the sorority and frat houses party it up, oblivious to their consequences.
“She Said” by Collective Soul
Although she survived the sequel, the last image of Sidney is of her walking away, defeated and alone. She survived a copycat’s attempt at a real-life sequel and desperately needs some quiet time to recover. The opening is heard, if only very briefly, when Sidney and Derek make amends in the campus cafeteria after her anxieties over whether she can trust him. It holds a bittersweet meaning when the song is played in full before the credits, especially with the Greek letters still around her neck.
Scream 3 (2000)
“What If” by Creed
Cotton (Liev Schreiber) takes a call from what he believes is a fan with a crush, until the reveal that its one superb voice changer. A new killer threatens his girlfriend who’s home alone, and as Cotton tries to rush home, she investigates the house. “What If” blasts on in one room, like a jump scare. Pretty soon, carnage is left behind at Cotton’s residence. The band Creed would go on to create a song specifically for the Scream 3 soundtrack (“This Is The End”), but it was “What If” which got its own music video, with a cameo by Woodsboro’s finest, Dewey.
“So Real” by Static-X
It’s heard very briefly as Sarah Darling (Jenny McCarthy) arrives at the Stab production studio, soon to be added to the victim’s list. The techno beats were a perfect addition to the busy star-struck location of Hollywood, Los Angeles. Although Scream 3’s soundtrack wasn’t quite up to par to the past two flicks, ten years later, the third sequel would try to remedy that.
Scream 4 (2011)
“Something To Die For” by The Sounds
Heard right after the opening kill and title card, it returns Sidney to her childhood home of Woodsboro. And she has quite the welcoming sight. Lamp posts around the streets are fitted with the Ghostface mask, no doubt limiting the stock at the local Spirit Halloween. It’s the town’s youth attempt at commemorating the anniversary of the original killings, however messed up that is.
“Cup of Coffee” by The Novocaines
Kirby (Hayden Panettiere) drives past Sheriff Dewey on a residential street, going way above the speed limit. It’s an energetic way to introduce what would become a fan-favorite character, so beloved in fact the status of her ambiguous fate was officially answered in the newest film. Like the name of The Novocaines’ song, Kirby’s drive-by is one powerful way to blast off and get the morning started.
“Make My Body” by The Chain Gang of 1974
Gale sneaks into the Stab-a-thon to plant cameras and capture Ghostface. What should a group of teens be doing during a new killing spree? Gather together and watch the movies inspired by the past murders, of course. Unfortunately, for the no-nonsense legacy character, it’s a trap. The music is dark and frantic, matching the mood of teens soaking up their town’s past terrors.
“Just Us” by DJ Khaled (ft. SZA)
If Sidney and Billy got a moody cover as an anthem for their romance, Sam (Melissa Barrera) and Richie (Jack Quaid) got a way more upbeat “love song.” It was just one of many red-herrings sprinkled throughout the film. Unlike Billy, Richie was far closer to the “nice guy” vibes of Derek from Scream 2. That is, until the end plot twist that places him much closer to Billy than even Sam, ironic too as she’s Billy’s illegitimate daughter.
“American Scream” by Alkaline Trio
A new group of teens is introduced, reminiscent of 1996 and 2011. What would make a perfect song for the scene than the appropriately named title of this song from Alkaline Trio. The teens sit outside the high school, with a modern revamp. Too bad over the next few days as the body count rises, the friendships will fracture and dwindle. So much for a yearbook full of signatures.
“Turn to Hate” Orville Peck
It made perfect sense to include Peck among the other music artists. With his fringe-laced mask keeping his face hidden, it’s the best and most stylish disguise, one which might even make Ghostface jealous. Peck’s deep vocals roll out across the bar as the new kids play pool and realize everyone should now be considered a suspect. The past repeats once again.
“Guilty Conscience” by 070 Shake
As Chad (Mason Gooding) rejects going for some alone time with girlfriend Liv (Sonia Ben Ammar), 070 Shake blasts throughout the house, which just so happens to also be Stu’s old house. Chad will definitely have something of a guilty conscience in the potential sequel, as Liv was never close to being the killer. But, even if it’s a small positive, at least the dreamy, indie soundscape of 070 Shake is soothing.