Now that most TVs can be hooked up to YouTube through devices like Roku or Amazon Fire, I’ve seen a lot of people do something fun during parties and get-togethers: they’re making YouTube video playlists that allow them to be video DJs (or VJs) during their parties. Sure, you can do things the old-fashioned way and just have the music playing on your iPod (if you still use one of those) or your phone (which is what most people do now), but instead of having the big hulking TV turned off (or playing something random), you can add some visual interest to your get-together this Halloween with a video playlist to set a lively mood for all your visiting ghosts and goblins. Here are 10 videos I found to help get things started:
10. “Thriller” by Michael Jackson
It’s really not Halloween season until you’ve heard “Thriller” play somewhere for the first time each year, so it’s my way of kicking off our party playlist. Back when this video debuted, people absolutely lost their minds. The local news even ran hour-long specials showing behind-the-scenes looks at how Michael Jackson and John Landis (the guy behind the “An American Werewolf in London” movie) pulled this all off. A lot of people still remember how to do that “Thriller” zombie dance, so make sure you have plenty of room in your living room for any undead line dancers!
BONUS: Right after you play the original, classic “Thriller,” you have options for a campy follow-up homage. The Jennifer Garner movie “13 Going on 30” has a memorable dance scene in which “Thriller” plays a big part. There are also many videos out there of flash mobs (and even prisoners in exercise yards!) lining up and doing the “Thriller” dance.
9. “Backstreet’s Back” by Backstreet Boys
Let’s face it, nothing can top “Thriller” as the best Halloween song of all time…and this little ditty by the Backstreet Boys doesn’t really have Halloween-themed lyrics. But the video is a very elaborate monster-themed production that I think is probably the best monster-themed music video after Michael Jackson’s zombie/werepanther masterpiece. It’s fun seeing all the boys in the band turn into different riffs on the vintage Universal movie monsters. It’s also fun remembering how we grooved to this song in our younger days (which feels like 300 years ago at this point).
8. “Day-O (Banana Boat Song)” from Beetlejuice
This is a fun number for your Halloween playlist that people will smile and remember. It’s where the snooty Manhattanite characters get possessed and are forced to do a silly dance to the tune of Harry Belafonte’s song about a hairy tarantula hiding inside bunches of bananas. Michael Keaton’s “Ghost with the Most” might not appear in this clip, but his presence is felt for sure!
7. “I Put a Spell on You” from Hocus Pocus
My kids go nuts for this movie every Halloween and love the part where Bette Midler and the other witches crash the local Halloween party and she sings her big number. Your guests will remember it too, and thank you for playing it!
6. “There’s a Light (Over at the Frankenstein Place)” from Rocky Horror Picture Show
It’s been a long time since I attended midnight showings of this campy classic. This song is a must for Halloween festivities because it distills that classic sense of dread in all the old spooky movies where two normal people wander off the beaten path and discover a haunted castle or someplace else creepy where all the monsters live. Plus, it’s fun for people to spot Susan Sarandon in this when she was so young. Most people don’t even remember she is in this movie. And they are shocked at how well she sings!
5. “Time Warp” from Rocky Horror Picture Show
There’s no way your guests won’t be singing and dancing along with the Time Warp. It’s a surprisingly good aerobic workout for anyone who wants to burn off some of the candy corn or caramel apples you’ve been serving at your party!
4. “She Wolf” by Shakira
Of all the songs about werewolves, this is the liveliest (which is a sentence I don’t get to type very often).
BONUS: You actually have a surprisingly large number of options to do a whole werewolf sub-set in this section of your playlist, if you want. There’s Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London.” You could also go with some “Bad Moon Rising” by Creedence Clearwater Revival. Maybe follow that up with some “Hungry Like the Wolf” by Duran Duran, just because. Any song about wolves, the full moon, or even just being incredibly hairy works thematically.
3. “Ghostbusters” by Ray Parker Jr.
I really wanted the “Ghostbusters” reboot that Melissa McCarthy made this summer to be good. But it sucked. Best not to ever think about it again. This song from the original movie — the best Ghostbusters movie — is unforgettable though. I forgot how many fun cameos are in it by different people popular in the ’80s. Who you gonna call (for some great party music)? Ray Parker Jr.!
2. “Self Control” by Laura Branigan
You wouldn’t think this is a Halloween song, but in addition to the lyrics being about “the creatures of the night,” in the video Laura wanders through a surreal 1980s cityscape and ends up at a super creepy costume party…and then gets stalked by someone like Michael Myers from the “Halloween” movies. The ’80s sure were weird sometimes (weird in a great way). Branigan’s voice is so smooth and haunting too.
1. “Monster Mash” by Boris Pickett and the Crypt-Kickers
There’s a cartoon video version of this, or the version where it’s just Boris standing there making spooky faces as he sings while on American Bandstand in 1964 with Dick Clark (which is fun too). I like the Hanna-Barbera style cartoon video better myself. The Frankenstein monster in it looks just like Secretary of State John Kerry and it has that Scooby Doo style of vintage animation I miss (since everything my kids watch is CGI nowadays and looks like video games). Everyone remembers the Monster Mash song. This is pretty much the only time of year you can get away with playing it (apart from John Kerry’s birthday, whenever that is).
BONUS: If you want to end on a funny bit, there’s actually a pretty biting parody of “Monster Mash” that updates the song to modern day. Instead of the kooky/spooky monsters featured in the Boris Pickett original, there is a “Modern Monster Mash” by a parody troupe called Key of Awesome that invites Hannibal Lecter, the little puppet from “Saw,” Freddy Krueger and other “monsters” from ’80s/’90s/2000s movies to the party. It’s a commentary on how much our society has really changed in such a short period of time…where things that used to be scary to people in the ’30s/’40s are almost cute and huggable compared to all the blood and gore and violence of “monsters” as we create them in movies now. Key of Awesome has a lot of fun videos, including one where men and women battle over who gets to wear the sexy Halloween costumes this year (adults only on that one). So there is plenty of Halloween video material to play in the background to keep your guests in the Halloween spirit during any party.