Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Creepy by association, part 3

In our on-going exploration of things that aren't creepy by themselves, but rather by association, Warning Signs looks at pipe organs and "Rocky Mountain High."

Blame "The Phantom of the Opera" for the first one. Ever since the world saw Lon Chaney at his organ in the first adaptation of Gaston Leroux's Parisian novel (and maybe even before), organs have had sinister connotations. They are found in places such as the Phantom's underground lair, churches of the more conservative variety, and silent movie theaters.

These things are all a bit unnatural, behind the times technologically and always feel like one should be wearing their most modest, constrictive clothes.

And the songs are always unnerving. Pumped through an instrument that looks like a doubled-up piano, good organ music dominates a soundtrack. You don't use an organ when you want to be subtle.

Perhaps the most famous piece of organ music is J.S. Bach's "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor." You don't have to know anything about classical music to recognize the song. It was in Disney's "Fantasia" and opened 1975's "Rollerball."

If your local symphony does a Halloween show, chances are this song will be on their playlist.

John Denver's "Rocky Mountain High" is about as different from Bach as a T-shirt is from a tuxedo.
What they have in common here is effective use in film.

Even if the movie was "Final Destination."

I saw "Final Destination" with one of my little brothers and a cousin. At the time, there wasn't a lot of mainstream horror in theaters to choose from. By coincidence (or for whatever reason screenwriter Glen Morgan, James Wong, and Jeffrey Reddick decided), "Rocky Mountain High" plays when ever Death gets near of its victims.

The creep factor for this song is much more personal for your humble narrator.

After seeing the movie, I was in the car with my brother and our older sister driving. We ended up in a fairly sever snowstorm. I was flipping through the radio dial and lo and behold, "Rocky Mountain High."

After a minor freak out, we turned to laughter and then had to explain why to my sister.

The scariest part is that at the time, my sister wasn't the best driver. Getting in the car with her was just like the movie. You risked death every time.

She's much better now.

The fifth installment of the "Final Destination" franchise is due in theaters August 12. Warning Signs will probably go.


  1. I found the pipe organ playing in "The Ghost and Mr. Chicken" to be my first experience with terrifying organ music when I was a kid.

    No "Rocky Mountain High", but isn't John Denver terrifying on his own?

  2. John Denver IS terrifying on his own.

    And the pipe organ in "The Ghost and Mr. Chicken" is great.