Reflecting the same grungey attitude of its largely adolescent audience base and featuring the same wild violence, anger and subversion, it’s no wonder that horror movies and rock music go so perfectly hand-in-hand. Often inspiring each other in a symbiotic relationship, Rob Zombie is a shining example of how the two mediums can cross over, with the musician and film director instilling both his creative endeavours with a dose of horror and rock ‘n’ roll.
Lathering his films with a layer of dirt, blood and grunge, Zombie has become an icon of the genre thanks to films such as The Devil’s Rejects, House of 1000 Corpses and The Lords of Salem which purposely subvert the manners of ‘good taste’. Often collaborating with such actors as Richard Brake, Richard Edson and the late Sid Haig, Zombie also has a self-aware side, filling his 2019 film 3 From Hell with a range of cameos from across the world of TV, film and music.
Wishing to cross the boundaries of music and cinema, many iconic performers have appeared throughout the landscape of horror, including the likes of rappers such as Busta Rhymes, Snoop Dog and Ice-T, as well as influential rock artists including David Bowie, Debbie Harry and Tom Waits.
Looking under each and every rock of the genre, let’s take a look at the ten most incredible musical cameos in the history of horror.
The 10 greatest musician cameos in horror movies:
10. Aaliyah – Queen of the Damned (Michael Rymer, 2002)
Representing just one of the many films the American singer, actress and model appeared in, Aaliyah’s leading role in the forgettable Queen of the Damned remains a remarkably strange performance.
Playing the monstrous queen of vampires, Akasha, in Michael Rymer’s strange gothic horror, Queen of the Damned would mark Aaliyah’s final on-screen appearance, with the film being released just six months after her tragic death. Adapted from Anne Rice’s novel of the same name, Aaliyah put on a compelling, if bizarre performance, standing out as her most memorable film in a confusing filmography.
9. Dee Snider – Strangeland (John Pieplow, 1998)
The frontman of the band Twisted Sister, Dee Snider wrote and starred in this poor quality horror film from the late 1990s, that couldn’t quite decide what it wanted to be, becoming very forgettable in the process.
Following the sadistic story of a detective pursuing a serial killer who lures teenagers to their deaths over the internet, the film is a Se7en wannabe that never reaches the heights of the David Fincher classic. Dee stars as the frightening antagonist Captain Howdy, a terrifying tattooed stalker who kills his victims in disturbing, yet undeniably creative ways. It’s not a particularly fun watch.
8. Snoop Dogg – Bones (Ernest R. Dickerson, 2001)
If there’s one person you can always count on for a cameo it’s Snoop Dogg, with the eccentric rapper appearing in Brüno, Scary Movie 5 and Pitch Perfect 2 among many other films. Rarely, however, does he play a leading role.
This is exactly what happened in Ernest R. Dickerson’s 2001 Blaxploitation film Bones where the rapper plays a vengeful ghost who comes back from the dead to kill his murderers and fix his community. Also featuring the likes of Pam Grier, Clifton Powell and Michael T. Weiss, Bones is a surprisingly thrilling watch, with Snoop Dogg taking on the lead reigns with a good dose of charisma.
7. Busta Rhymes – Halloween: Resurrection (Rick Rosenthal, 2002)
When horror movies were going through a period of reinvention at the turn of the new century, the genre was truly living out its darkest days, with endless sequels to old properties such as Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween.
The eighth film in the ongoing series, and the last before Rob Zombie reimagined the series in 2007, Halloween: Resurrection follows six teenagers who spend the night in the childhood home of Michael Myers as part of a new reality show, only to meet a predictable end. Surprisingly the appearance of Busta Rhymes may be the film’s saving grace, playing the show’s director who remarkably goes up against the horror icon at one point to hilarious results.
6. Ice-T – Leprechaun In The Hood (Rob Spera, 2000)
Horror movies don’t get much sillier than the Leprechaun franchise, constantly riding the line between slasher horror and parody as it tells the story of a murderous, humourous Leprechaun played by Warwick Davis.
Playing a hip hop producer, Ice-T appears in a tremendously silly role in this straight-to-video horror, delivering an iconic scene as he shares a joint with the titular villain, whereby the Leprechaun says: “A friend with weed, is a friend indeed”. Despite his role in the film, however, Ice-T did feature in several cinema classics, including New Jack City by Mario Van Peebles and Surviving the Game by Ernest R. Dickerson.
5. Kelly Rowland – Freddy vs. Jason (Ronny Yu, 2003)
The genre cycle certainly went full circle in 2003 upon the release of Freddy vs. Jason, a film that reduced two icons of horror to mere figures of strange ridicule in this satirical horror action movie.
Returning to terrorise the teenagers of Elm Street, Freddy Krueger runs into difficulty when he finds that this time Jason Voorhees is out to get him. Several bystanders get caught up in this chaos with the Destiny’s Child star Kelly Rowland being just one of these unfortunate victims, appearing as Kia Waterson, a woman who gives Krueger a shocking piece of her mind before she’s brutally dispatched by the Freddy.
4. Tom Waits – Bram Stoker’s Dracula (Francis Ford Coppola, 1992)
Tom Waits is a singer that is very familiar with the silver screen, having appeared in several iconic greats including The Ballad of Buster Scruggs by the Coen brothers and Mystery Train by Jim Jarmusch.
Appearing alongside Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, Keanu Reeves and Anthony Hopkins, Waits’ role in Bram Stoker’s Dracula is up there with one of his finest screen performances, playing Renfield, Dracula’s deranged loyal servant. Less a cameo and more a genuinely great supporting performance, Waits proves that he is more than just a singer in Francis Ford Coppola’s gothic take on a classic.
3. Alice Cooper – Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (Rachel Talalay, 1991)
Appearing on several soundtracks for horror films such as Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives, Cooper has also taken cameo roles in movies such as Monster Dog and John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness.
In Rachel Talalay’s Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, Cooper shows up as the unlikely character of Freddy Krueger’s adoptive father, an abusive drunkard enthusiastically played by the iconic musician. Starring in a major moment of the beloved franchise, Alice Cooper managed to worm himself into the history of A Nightmare on Elm Street becoming a key character in the eccentric series.
2. David Bowie – The Hunger (Tony Scott, 1983)
As well as being one of the finest musicians ever to grace the stage, David Bowie also became a cultural icon in the late 20th-century, starring in several cult classics including The Man Who Fell to Earth, Labyrinth and The Hunger.
From the late Top Gun director Tony Scott, Hunger is a gothic romance that details a love triangle between a dangerous vampire, a cellist and a gerontologist. Playing the erotic vampire, Bowie brings his signature style and eccentric mystery to the lead role, helping to make Scott’s film a seductive, elegant success. Appearing alongside Catherine Deneuve and Susan Sarandon, it is Bowie who shines among the professionals.
1. Debbie Harry – Videodrome (David Cronenberg, 1983)
Recognised as one of the greatest body horror films of all time, Cronenberg’s Videodrome is an enigmatic study into the role of mass media on the fragile human psyche, featuring James Woods and the surprising appearance of Debbie Harry in the lead roles.
The lead singer of Blondie, Harry plays the lead love interest, the seductive Nicki Brand in her very first starring role. Putting on a surprisingly fantastic performance, Debbie Harry demonstrates her sheer versatility as a performer, becoming a key part of Cronenberg’s classic film. Pulling the lead character further into the dark, sinister world of ‘Videodrome’, Harry plays an unforgettable lead character.