10 Horror Musicals You Need To See

A musical dream come true.

Sweeney Todd
Warner Bros.

Thanks to its fourteen Oscar nominations, La La Land could well herald the return of the musical to multiplex screens, which is all very well if you want to see the kinds of films critics refer to as “soaring and gorgeous” but not so much if you’re a poison-hearted misanthrope who thought A Serbian Film was a knockabout comedy.

If you fall into the latter category, fear not – there are musicals you can sit back and enjoy without compromising either your manliness or your bleak worldview. These are the movies that take suicide, deformity and cold-blooded revenge as their subject matter and think subtle is a city in the Pacific Northwest.

If you thought that horror movie musicals began and ended when Carrie The Musical died on stage after only five performances, you’re missing out on some of the most vibrant motion pictures that ever met a projector bulb. Loaded with wit, style and colourful characters, these are neither your traditional musicals nor your average horror movies.

In some circles, it’s even a badge of honour to admit you own these films on Blu-Ray but have never seen My Fair Lady, Cabaret, Fiddler On The Roof or any other “respectable” musical. Horror movie musicals aren’t gunning for respect – hell, some of them aren’t even “good” – but they have a style and an attitude you don’t get with the more mainstream stuff.

Judge for yourself.

10. Shock Treatment

Sweeney Todd
20th Century Fox

Scripted by Richard O’Brien and directed by Jim Sharman, Shock Treatment is the belated sequel to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and let’s get this out of the way first: it is not of the same quality.

Nobody could make two pictures like Rocky Horror, but O'Brien gives it a shot with a spirited story about Brad and Janet (played here by Cliff De Young and Jessica Harper) appearing on a sinister gameshow hosted by the improbably named Bert Schnick, a role Barry Humphries embraces with his trademark flamboyance.

Also among the supporting cast are O’Brien, Rik Mayall, Ruby Wax and, encoring from Rocky Horror (although playing different characters), Patricia Quin, Little Nell and Charles Gray. If Rocky Horror was a fringe movie that entered the mainstream, then Shock Treatment is the exact opposite, a studio picture that failed to find widespread acceptance and is remembered mostly as a curio.

It's worth embracing, though, because in an age where satire is all but extinct in mainstream movies, Shock Treatment is all attitude and anarchic spirit.


Ian Watson is the author of 'Midnight Movie Madness', a 600+ page guide to "bad" movies from 'Reefer Madness' to 'Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead.'