The olden days. Sitting in the back seat of your parents’ car, windows down, your back glued to the pleather seats with a combination of sweat and dried root beer adhesive. The mellow sun-soaked melodies of 97.3 Easy Rock fill the dead space where your family should be talking to one another. But it’s too hot to talk. All you can do is look out your window, pray for a breeze, and imagine everyone on the sidewalk bursting into flames and melting into oozing Roger Rabbit people puddles. Forget iPhones and even travel Scrabble, if we’re talking pure entertainment, I’ll take the imagination of a young apple-cheeked pyromaniac any day. And the thing that makes the spontaneous combustion game sing, when it’s at its peak, is when that perfect sad old song comes on the radio to score your violent visual and really bring those flames to life. A brutal scene does wonders to revive an ominous old tune. Here are my top three.
The Searchers - "Needles and Pins"
"And one day she will see just how to say please, and get down on her knees. Yeah, that's how it begins…"
This is already one twisted love song. It’s about a guy who loves a girl, but whenever he sees her, is overcome with a crippling case of “needles and pins.” Let me get this out of the way, the phrase is not “needles and pins." Don’t go around changing the order of common sayings because you can’t think of a good needle rhyme. (How's about 'fetal’? Nothing’s more romantic than a fetus!) Presumably a serious medical condition, his needles and pins case is so severe that he flees in pain and is reduced to tears, literally praying to god that his torture ends swiftly. Is this what true love felt like in olden times? It’s a miracle nobody got divorced back then. Instead suffering though decades of debilitating pin attacks at the hands of their own emotions. (Fun fact, Sonny Bono co-wrote this song with Jack Nitzsche and Lou Gehrig.) And going to the doctor would have been pointless in this era, as he (or she) (but most certainly he) would have prescribed mercury to balance the humors and a pack of Camel cigarettes to cool the T-zone. This track doesn’t need much help to be an instant horror classic. And there couldn’t be a more fitting scene than the ten-minute human pincushion torture scene from Audition, where a lovely Asian woman injects her victim with paralysis juice and pokes dozens of needles into his body and eyeballs. The upbeat love song adds a macabre jauntiness to the torture, really putting the spotlight on how much fun she’s having stabbing that jerk in the eyes. Seventeenth century poet Phineas Fletcher said it best in his glowing review, “Love's tongue is in the eyes.” And if you sync it up properly, the line, “Why can't I stand up and tell myself I'm strong” lines up perfectly with the part where she’s sawing his leg off with a wire saw. Enjoy!
Sarah McLachlan - "(Arms of the) Angel"
"In this sweet madness, oh this glorious madness that brings me to my knees."
This song should fire its PR guy. Any tune can reduce a strong person to tears when coupled with images of diseased three-legged puppies and neglected kittens with their faces ripped off. So kudos to Sarah Mclachlan for consistently taking top honors at most depressing one minute of my day.You've discovered quite a niche making people miserable. Apparently this song is about being lonely on the road, and finding a loyal companion in smack. Was there a clinical trial that discovered people give more money when they're depressed? After a promotion, during a bikini carwash, when your enemy is stung by a bee, that's when you want to donate money. When you're feeling good! Not after you've just witnessed the extremes of animal cruelty at the hands of your fellow humans. If you’re going to manipulate me, at least do it right. Show me some funny cat videos. I think the internet has some. Abandoned animals are a nice companion image to this song, but I'd argue even better would be any scene from the Saw franchise (each better than the last!) Maybe the one where the guy actually saws his arm off. Throw it in slow motion to create some tension and you've got the "arm" in the title for symmetry already. Voila. You can stop being bothered by this song, and start being bothered by it in a new and original way.
Roy Orbison - "Crying"
"It's hard to understand, but the touch of your hand can start me crying."
Visions of a betrayed man pining over his lost love. Tears rolling down his face because he knows he’ll never be the object of her affection. That's when the jumper cables come out and someone’s nipples get lit up. Harmony Korine did a decent job of tapping into the unsettling side of this song in Gummo where it was played behind two redneck kids shooting a dead cat with a pellet gun, and a tornado destroying a farm town. But there's still so much horror left to be tapped in this haunting rock ballad. A little background on Roy Orbison: He married his teenage sweetheart, Claudette, who inspired the songs "Pretty Woman" and the Everly Brothers' "Claudette." When he was 30, Claudette died in a motorcycle accident. A couple years later, two of his sons died when their family home caught fire while he was touring. And Roy himself almost died when he suffered a heart attack in his 40s. He was a non-fairytale version of Job and knew a thing or two about heartache. Maybe that's why this particular spooky oldie would slot nicely into the scene from Oldboy where Old Boy is prying that guy's teeth out with the claw end of a hammer. The song in there now is Vivaldi's "Winter." A little predictable. Put in some Roy Orbison and you won’t be able to put a hammer in your mouth ever again. Oh did I mention the guy getting his teeth pried out was CRYING?? Uncanny!