Why is it the when children's nursery rhymes are slowed down and used in horror movies they become very unsettling and disturbing? Although these songs are supposed to be fun, when presented in the right way they become quite dark, and even morbid.
When used in movies an TV shows, the songs are often sung be a creepy child and are slightly distorted, which gives them that eerie feel. They are either sung too slowly or slightly out of key, it's jarring and psychologically gives us a feeling similar to that of the "uncanny valley effect" which we sometimes experiences with dolls.
As well as being sung, the creepy ditty are often played in the style of a Victorian music box. These plinky-plunky tones are another example of the uncanny valley, the music is familiar but not quite right. When the music box is winded slowly and the music plays slower, it becomes all the more creepy.
Here are some of the creepiest songs which were originally written for kids but became spin chilling when they were included in horror movies and spooky television shows.
Ring Around The Rosie
In the 1981 movie, 'The Evil Dead', Linda sings a creepy rhyme to the tune of 'Ring Around The Rosie', "we're gonna get you, we're gonna get you. Not another peep, time to go to sleep." But even without the change of lyrics, the tune has sinister undertones as it's a about the Great Plague of London in 1665.
The symptoms of bubonic plague included a rosy red ring-shaped rash, which inspired the first line. It was believed that the disease was carried by bad smells, so people frequently carried pockets full of fresh herbs, or "posies." "A-tishoo" is of course the sound of someone infected sneezing, and those who are infected "all fall down."
Ring-a-ring o' roses,
A pocket full of posies,
We all fall down.
Round And Round The Garden
There's nothing sinister about this nursery rhyme at all, it's not based on any kind of grim history, it's simply a fun song for children. Its origins are relatively new, as the teddy bear only became a popular gifts for newborn babies in the early 1900s.
But when the lyrics are recited out of context, slowly and with a gruff voices, the innocent song gets a whole lot creepier as we learnt in the 1992 BBC drama, 'Ghostwatch'.
Round and round the garden,
like a Teddy Bear.
One step, two step
Tickley under there!
One, Two, Buckle My Shoe
This rhyme is traditionally sung by young girls while skipping or playing jump-rope. The ditty got a new lease of life when it was used in the 'Nightmare On Elm Street' movie series, although the lyrics were changed to include a mention of Freddy Krueger, "one, two, Freddy's coming for you."
Buckle my shoe.
Knock at the door.
Pick up sticks.
Lay them straight.
A big fat hen.
Dig and delve.
Maids in the kitchen.
Maids in waiting.
My plate is empty.
Three Little Pigs
In the movie version of Stephen King's 'The Shining' as Jack Nicholson's character recites lyrics from 'Three Little Pigs' in the infamous scene which see him hack his way through the door before delivering the line "here's Johnny!" While he's stood outside the door, he teases his family with the lyrics from the nursery rhyme, "little pigs, little pigs, let me come in. Not by the hair on your chinny-chin chin? Then I'll huff, and I'll puff, and blow your house in!"
O Willow Waly
The the 1960s British horror movie, 'The Innocents' features a chilling rendition of a song called 'O Willow Waly'. The only thing that really makes this song creepy is the haunting echo that has been added to the child singer's voice.
Tunnel Of Terror
Then there's the creepy song which the quirky factory owner sings to his guests in 'Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory', the seemingly off-the-cuff song is sung in a menacing tone while aboard a terrifying boar ride through the bowls of the chocolate factory.