For a hot second, movie soundtracks were where heavy music fans could find some of the best metal, hardcore, punk and industrial out there. The intensity of contemporary metal and hard rock in the ’90s and early 2000s made it perfect backing music to horror and action flicks. Not only that, but these soundtracks were places where record companies could try out new bands and give old hands a chance to share some of their bonus tracks. The result was a legion of metalheads discovering their new favorite artists via film-centric compilations, and soundtracks selling like hotcakes.
Unfortunately, the movies weren’t always as promising. The truth is that these soundtracks often shone far brighter than the shit sandwiches to which they were attached. There was nothing sadder than watching some frosted-tip megastar trying to promote their new blockbuster on camera and then being asked what they thought of Slipknot, and sadly, that was much of Hollywood around the turn of the millennium.
Here are 12 soundtracks that easily surpassed the movies they were made for in terms of artistic merit…
Heavy Metal 2000 (2000)
The long-awaited sequel to 1981’s epic animated film Heavy Metal was supposed to be a cult smash, an underground animated blockbuster whose violence and nudity would instantly win over rock and metal fans (it even included the voice talents of late Heavy Metal Magazine model Julie Strain). Instead, this confused retelling of Simon Bisley’s Melting Pot felt long, typical, and not nearly titillating enough. That said, the soundtrack, featuring original songs by Pantera, Coal Chamber, Machine Head, and Bauhaus, was fucking awesome, elevating it far above the film for which it was released. There’s no grown-up cartoon greater than Monster Magnet.
As a whole, Singles isn’t a terrible film, especially as a snapshot of the then-exploding grunge scene in Seattle. But you know what’s better than a cinematic examination of a music scene? The music scene! The Singles soundtrack, featuring pounding tracks by Alice In Chains, Soundgarden, Smashing Pumpkins and Pearl Jam (who actually portray Matt Dillon’s band Citizen Dick in the movie) is a much more accurate and compelling look into what was going on in the Pacific Northwest than this stark romantic comedy. Who would have thunk?
Scream 3 (2000)
By its third installment, the Scream franchise had become deeply confused, overfocused on matching the original’s profits and switching out the ‘scary movie’ meta moments for broad Hollywood commentary. But Scream 3’s soundtrack contains a who’s-who of heavy music’s hottest names in 2000 (Slipknot, System of a Down, Sevendust), not to mention tracks by some impressive up-and-comers (Finger Eleven, Full Devil Jacket). The result was a soundtrack purchased with an excuse on the lips of the buyer — Hey, I hated the movie, too, I just kind of dig this Orgy track. No shade on Wes Craven — we all have bills to pay.
If we’re being perfectly honest, any soundtrack would be better than XXX. The sound of ham slices hitting a wall would be more interesting than this confused Vin Diesel vehicle; there’s a scene where Vin says something to a cop like, “Stop thinking Prague Police, start thinking Playstation!” But the OST’s inclusion of Hatebreed, Rammstein, and Queens Of The Stone Age definitely helped this movie make up for its lackluster script and acting. And sets. And costumes. God, what a terrible film.
Dracula 2000 (2000)
On paper, Dracula 2000 sounded cool — Count Dracula reawakening in contemporary America and starting a new army of the undead. Unfortunately, the film was made during the height of industry excess, resulting in some awful costumes, cringey performances, and ridiculous one-liners. That said, the soundtrack includes some truly exceptional tracks — Slayer’s “Bloodline,” Pantera’s “Avoid the Light,” and Linkin Park’s “One Step Closer” among them. The soundtrack’s slight lean towards extremity made it far better than others like it, though it’s a shame that the movie did the Count such an injustice.
Freddy vs. Jason (2003)
Fuck it, we’ll say it: we actually like Freddy vs. Jason. While the film has significant flaws, it’s also got a lot of slasher charm (the whole fire/water dichotomy was kind of cool). That said, the movie’s soundtrack is without question better than the film itself, with tracks by Ill Niño, Killswitch Engage, Chimaira and DevilDriver illustrating that the movie’s makers had their fingers on the pulse of modern metal at the time. Not a bad flick, but a fucking killer album.
The Matrix Reloaded: The Album (2003)
Given how huge the first Matrix film’s soundtrack was, the makers knew they had to match it for the sci-fi thriller’s big-budget sequel. As we all now know, The Matrix Reloaded itself was a mess, complete with digital panty shots, sweaty underground dance sequences, and an awful CGI version of Keanu. But the soundtrack, featuring bangers by P.O.D., Rob Zombie, and Rage Against The Machine, certainly matched the sheer power of its predecessor, which was impressive given how well the first one’s OST did. We’ll see what the new movie has in store in the coming year.
Night of the Demons 2 (1994)
The original Night of the Demons is a classic of bizarre low-budget Halloween horror. The second movie? Not so much. That said, the movie’s soundtrack features two tracks from Morbid Angel’s ripping 1993 album Covenant, not to mention a hard-to-find track by heavy electronic group DV8. Consider this one a footnote in the annals of killer metal horror soundtracks, but hey, Covenant rules.
Dee Snider’s Strangeland (1998)
In the end, Dee Snider’s Strangeland isn’t a terrible film, it just has problems, and its depictions of the heavy metal and body art community aren’t great. However, the movie’s soundtracks shows that Snider was still keeping up with metal music long after Twisted Sister’s heyday. Killer songs by Snot, Bile, Anthrax and Crisis took the film’s simmering aggro atmosphere to the next level. Hey, good on Dee for keeping it real beyond “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”
Zombie Nightmare (1986)
Man, what a bizarre relic of the ‘80s. Zombie Nightmare stars metal star Jon Mikl Thor as its reanimated protagonist and Wayne’s World star Tia Carrera as its femme fatale, but man, that’s pretty much where the film’s charm ends. The soundtrack, on the other hand, focuses heavily on the era’s hard-hitting street metal, showcasing Motörhead and Girlschool prominently while giving a chance to acts like First, Battalion, and Virgin Steele. It’d be damn hard to locate this album, but the movie’s available on Prime, so hit the bong, order a pizza, and prepare to laugh your ass off.
Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004)
When the first Resident Evil movie wasn’t terrible, fans rejoiced that their favorite game franchise had somehow been translated into a pretty decent movie. But woof, Resident Evil: Apocalypse was a whole lot of nothing, attempting the broaden the world’s scope while instead offering viewers a lot of confusing bullshit. However, the film’s prominent use of Slipknot, Cradle of Filth, and Killswitch Engage automatically won over moviegoing metalheads, who saw their current favorite artists getting much-deserved screen time. Hopefully, the bands saw some money from this.
Spawn: The Album (1997)
The ambition behind Spawn was impressive — taking the ultimate underground comic book sensation and making it a big satanic superhero movie with a black lead. That said, the film just came too early in CGI history, and the technology wasn’t there to support its effects. But the similarly-ambitious soundtrack brought some really interesting texture to the film, with each song pairing a metal band with an electronic artist — Marilyn Manson and Sneaker Pimps, Stabbing Westward with Wink, Slayer with Atari Teenage Riot — to impressive results. A troubled film across the board, but a record definitely worth revisiting.
Words by Chris Krovatin