What's Your Favorite Scary Movie... Soundtrack? A Look Back At All Four SCREAM Soundtracks

Flipping through CD's and diving into liner notes for the standout soundtrack stars (and deep cuts) of the SCREAM franchise.

By James Wallace · @JamesWallace · January 19, 2022, 6:34 PM EST
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Has there ever been a Horror franchise with such star-studded soundtracks?! From '90s nostalgia to Alternative Rock & Hip-Hop chart toppers to…Creed. I flip through CDs and scan the liner notes of the slasher franchise with the oddest, decade-defining track-lists.

Scream (1996)

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 rockstars and emerging artists alike. The first Scream soundtrack was certainly no exception to this trend, with a perfect Gen X blend of Grunge, Hard Rock, Industrial, Techno, and a kind of brooding gothy nineties singer-songwriter vibe.

Fittingly for Kevin Williamson's groundbreaking script, there are even a few meta music references, with tracks like Gus Black's cover of Blue Öyster Cult's "Don't Fear The Reaper" — an obvious nod to the song's use in John Carpenter's Halloween.

There are additional interesting covers of '70s and '80s hits, SoHo covering The Icicle Works' "Birds Fly (Whisper To A Scream)" which sadly does not appear on the actual soundtrack release. And then, of course, a loungey yet screechy cover of Alice Cooper's "School's Out" from supergroup The Last Hard Men, featuring Skid Row vocalist Sebastian Bach and The Breeders guitarist/vocalist Kelley Deal. That, of course, is featured on the soundtrack, while Cooper's original version is the one iconically used in the movie.

The thing about these ten tracks (plus a couple of B-sides) is a majority of them actually appear in the film, not only used but used well! I mean, can you imagine any song other than "Don't Fear The Reaper" over Sidney and Billy's makeup and makeout scene? Or anything other than Birdbrain's "Youth of America" to kick-off Stu's murder party?!

I can hear every track and tell you what scene it plays over. The songs are so inherently scored to the scenes that they go hand in hand, which is maybe why this is the most nostalgic of the Scream soundtracks—needle-drop after needle-drop.

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Main Track:

"Red Right Hand" - Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

The Scream soundtrack also gave us the first use of what would become the franchise's kind of unofficial theme with this Nick Cave greatest hit from 1994, used pitch-perfectly over The Town That Dreaded Sundown sequence in which Woodsboro closes up shop due to the curfew. Now it's impossible to imagine a Scream movie without this song!

Funny enough, this track was something of a hot commodity for '90s soundtracks, also appearing on Dumb and Dumber and Songs in the Key of X: Music from and Inspired by the X-Files.

Deep Cut:

How do I even pick one?!

I think I have to go with Moby's "First Cool Hive," which scores the final scene into the credits with such hauntingly emotional musicality that I can't imagine any other song, or even a piece of Marco Beltrami's iconic score for that matter, over it.


Scream 2 (1997)

How do you follow up a surprise hit slasher that redefines the genre and revitalizes the subgenre with a sequel? Better yet, how do you make a sequel soundtrack?!

By graduating with 1997's top Alternative artists, that's how! I mean, the Ghostface gang is in college now, thus it's only fitting that the Scream 2 soundtrack plays like a college radio TRL featuring the likes of Collective Soul (used pretty heavily in the movie), Foo Fighters, Everclear, Dave Matthews Band, Tonic, Kottonmouth Kings, The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, with some D'Angelo thrown in for good measure to open the movie. Even Jessica Craven (yes, daughter of Wes) and then-husband Michael Maccini have a track!

And who could forget Less Than Jake's cover of "I Think I Love You" - a nod to Jerry O'Connell's grand romantic gesture of an a cappella performance in the cafeteria scene to woo Sidney and convince us that there's no way this guy could be the killer if he's singing The Partridge Family in a polo and khakis. RIP Derek. You shouldn't have given Sid your fraternity letters, bro.

Main Track:

"Scream" - Master P ft. Silkk The Shocker

The NOLA No Limit rapper and Don of late '90s hip-hop was tasked with taking a stab at a trend from the '80s where hip-hop duos produced songs for Slasher movies. In the grand tradition of "Are You Ready for Freddy" by The Fat Boys, "A Nightmare on My Street" by DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince…ok, maybe this trend was just for the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. But there's really nothing more 1997 than Master P cutting a track for a Scream sequel. And hey, he even throws in his own meta-reference with the verse "one-two I'm comin' for you…"

Bonus: The single's music video is a real treat, featuring the No Limit Soldiers hyped on a stage with giant Ghostface masks and wearing their own Halloween masks as they dance with plastic skeletons.

Deep Cut:

"Rivers" - Sugar Ray

From the sound of this one, you might initially think it was a Weezer song... plus the fact it's called "Rivers" but it was actually written as an ode to Weezer's lead singer, Rivers Cuomo. As far as Sugar Ray songs go, it's not half-bad (or a half-bad attempt at a Weezer spoof).

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Scream 3 (2000)

By the year 2000, we were all well out of our angsty teen high school phase, beyond our moody college phase, and just full-on angry. Which is why for the Scream 3 soundtrack, the movie aimed to take us "higher" by looking to none other than radio rock gods Creed, who not only appear on the soundtrack but also fully produced and released it on Wind-Up records (know for bands like Creed as well as Evanescence, Seether, etc.) The band has the opening track on the album with "What If" and the closing track with "Is This The End - Scream Edit."

By this time, we were fully in the throes of Radio "Cock” Rock and Nu Metal. So the Scream 3 tracklist reads almost like a greatest (and worst?) hits list of the period -Slipknot, Finger Eleven, System Of A Down, Sevendust, Godsmack, Static-X, Incubus, Fuel, Powerman 5000, Orgy, Staind. Basically, if you added Korn, Limp Bizkit, and Linkin Park, it could have been Woodstock '99 all over again.

Oddly, less music from this soundtrack was actually used in the film, compared to the first and second films respectively. But hey, Sidney did have a Creed Human Clay poster on her bedroom wall on the set of Stab 3, so that's something. Far from the Indigo Girls poster she actually had on her bedroom wall in Scream!

Main Track: "What If" - Creed

What is there to say about this song? The band produced this track, but it was not an original song recorded for the soundtrack album. "What If" was an existing song, pulled from their 1999 album Human Clay.

If listening to Creed makes you wish they would die, then you should check out the music video (directed by Dave Meyers who helmed the 2007 remake of The Hitcher) featuring a David Arquette cameo and the band running around a movie studio at night, playing basketball and making-out with scantily clad Creed groupies as Ghostface stalks them. The twist? Creed was the killer all along. The victim? Our ears.

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Deep Cut: Do I have to pick one? No, seriously…do I have to pick one?

It's not even on the album, but there's a kind of jazzy yet orchestral reworking of Nick Cave's "Red Right Hand" with Marco Beltrami's strings and some Scream themes interwoven, which is strangely absent from the actual album. Sadly, Scream 2 was the last soundtrack the song would appear on despite being used in every film in the franchise.

Scream 4 (2011)

This is the first Scream soundtrack that really doesn't feature many, if any, easily recognizable artists - full of synth-heavy 2011-era UK indie pop & rock. It mostly sounds like bands or songs you feel like you've heard - a CW series of greatest hits.

No, that's not the Yeah Yeah Yeahs you spotted - that's "Yeah Yeah Yeah" by Swedish indie rock band The Sounds. They have two tracks on the album along with "Something To Die For" and songs from Ida Maria, The Novacaines, The Chain Gang of 1974, 6 Day Riot, Locksley, Say Hi, and Stereo Black Stereo (Featuring Logan Mader of Machine Head & Soulfly. What's this guy doing on here?! He belongs on the Scream 3 soundtrack!)

And then there are the two pieces from Marco Beltrami's score, oddly placed - "Don't Mess With The Original" and "Jill's America" right in the middle and at the end of the soundtrack.

Scream 4 sadly represents maybe the laziest and stereotypical soundtrack efforts, where labels pushed unknown bands in the hopes that a track in a teen Slasher movie and on its soundtrack helps gain exposure. Typically, such tracks would be filler for a soundtrack, but Scream 4 seems to be all filler, no killer. This certainly represents the era where soundtracks for these kind of movies died a sad, slow-spinning death with the phasing out of physical media.

Main Track: Sadly, there just isn't one?

Deep Cut: "Axel F" by composer Raney Shockne. Because why not? It's Dewey's ringtone in the movie so why the hell not just throw it on the soundtrack! They were stretching to get to twelve tracks by this point.


Scream (2022)

With the requel of Scream (2022), the soundtrack as we know it is getting a bit of a reboot with the likes of "The American Scream" by The Alkaline Trio, "Turn to Hate" by Orville Peck, "Aww Shit!" by Tha Alkaholiks, "Fall Out Of Love" by Salem…and of course "Red Right Hand" by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds just to name a few. All songs that feel more hand-picked, purposeful, and curated compared to the last effort. With Scream (2022), could the Scream soundtrack as we know and love it finally be back?!

But this entire piece ultimately begs the question…when are we finally going to get a Ghostface Killah track on a Scream soundtrack?!

As a welcome back to Woodsboro, we've made you a little treat, (most) of the songs from Scream 1996-2022. Enjoy, just don't turn your headphones up too loud in case Ghostface sneaks up on you..."Look behind you!" Click here or stream below.