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13 Terrifying Horror Theme Songs!

As horror fans we’ve all come to love shocking visuals and ominous storytelling. There’s nothing quite like the sensation of ncere fear. There is however, an element of cinema that often goes unlooked, and that element just so happens to be pivotal to our favorite genre; the score.

Memories grow from the strings of scores. Chills stir as the vocal overlays chant hauntingly in the mix. Yet for reasons unknown to me, we often discount the impact of a feature’s mucal compotion.

Well, we shouldn’t! We, as supposed fans, should head into a viewing experience with the same expectations of the muc as say, the gore, or even the actors performances. There are layers upon layers of work that must be invested to produce a terrifying film, and it’s time we acknowledge the fact that sound is one of those very, very important stratums.

Prepare to grab your headphones, as I walk you through 13 evocative themes!


Composed by: Goblin

Everything about this theme chills me to the bone. From the quirky intro that could be minterpreted as a child’s theme, to the rapid progreson, all the way to the chilling vocals. This one truly induces goosebumps!

Cape Fear

Composed by:

Elmer Bernstein/Bernard Hermann

Holy shit is this theme scary! Imagine the terror that the Jaws theme induces; just imagine it unfolding on dry land (for the most part). The orchestration here is gorgeous, and so remarkably haunting it must be recognized as one of my top 13 choices!


Composed by: Philip Glass

Despite the fact that Philip Glass was initially quite displeased with this project (buness related, not technical), it’s absolutely chilling. The score is extremely dark, very heavy on the strings and reverberates in the mind of the viewer (and listener, obviously) long after the final credits have rolled. This one is an all-time favorite of mine.

The Exorcist

Composed by: Jack Nitzsche

This bass heavy score juggles the highs and lows perfectly. A smooth melodic vibe almost lulls you into a nightmarish sleep before the keys really come to life. An appropriately terrifying score is this piece of wonder!


Composed by: John Carpenter

John’s mucal background has always made for big payoffs. The man holds so many technical capabilities behind the camera’s it’s amazing, to know he can conjure one of the most famous horror themes ever is so far beyond admirable I don’t have the adequate wording to issue appropriate praise.


Composed by: Bernard Hermann

I love it when a score actually feels dated. It adds a chilling sense of lost time for me, and I hold that sensation in high regard. Bernard Hermann’s work on the legendary film, Psycho taps that nerve for me, and the arrangement itself is what I might label flawless in its progreson.

The Fog

Composed by: John Carpenter

That’s right: John lands another pick on the list. While not quite as eerie as the Halloween theme, The Fog’s score is unnerving, and fits the “ghost tale” mold perfectly.

The Amityville Horror

Composed by: Lalo Schifrin

What I love about Lalo’s theme is how soothing it all feels. A beautiful introduction gives way to some melodic keys, right before that awful vocal layer lands. That’s about the point the bowels begin to loosen. Listen close to this compotion, as the complexity of this gem is often unjustly ignored.

Child’s Play

Composed by: Joe Renzetti

This is probably the most overlooked score in the history of horror. You’ll rarely hear anyone praise this piece, and that baffles me. This one has everything you could want out of a horror score, with an extra hint of sorrow that really sends it over the edge. Ahh, more sweetly chilling vocals…


Composed by: John Williams

What is so fantastic about this score is the fact that it feels more frenetic than the film itself. While the picture rolls along at a slow, steady pace, this gripping theme slams into the eardrums. The contrast makes for an almost tangible fear, and it only becomes more terrifying and frantic as the film unfolds.

Rosemary’s Baby

Composed by: Krzysztof Komeda

“La-la-la-la-la-la” Oh boy how those vocals are chilling. The concept of the score, which boasts a deeply melancholy essence, matches the content of the picture with such perfection I could almost call this production a match made in heaven. Somehow, that just wouldn’t seem appropriate.

Friday the 13th

Composed by: Harry Manfredini

Mr. Manfredini has lent his mucal chops to numerous terrific genre offerings. But nothing stands out in the mind like the creepy theme of Friday the 13th. Find a ngle horror fan unfamiliar with that spine-tingling “kill, kill, kill, ma, ma, ma” chant and I’ll Paypal you a dollar!

The Creature From the Black Lagoon

Composed by: Henry Mancini, Hans J. Salter, Herman Stein

There’s such a calm spookiness to this score that, while forgotten by many, should certainly be noted now. Though the score is extremely brief, it’s also extremely frightening. The soft organs gain intenty fast, and the theme peaks in perfect fashion…too bad it’s so damn short!
Matt_Molgaard Sunday 8/14/2011 at 06:12 PM | 80618
I've got the Dead lence theme muc as my ringtone lol Its creepy to hear in a dark room at night ,_,

Not to mention that damn One Missed Call ringtone. I remember when it came out my friends would try to scare each other with it!
BloodyAdored Sunday 8/14/2011 at 06:35 PM | 80619
Great topic, great topic, great topic! I luv this and AND you added all the theme songs. Matt you're my favorite Horrorbid writer next to Bnizzle and you both are tied for hotness as well, cuties!!

Halloween theme for me all the way. Still sends shivers up and down my spine!
Disturbed_voices Sunday 8/14/2011 at 06:54 PM | 80621
I (unfortunately) have what I like to call the "Suspiria Syndrome". Whenever I'm in a dark room, by myself, that theme starts running through my head, and it sucks. But what about Re-Animator, The Deadly Spawn, The Keep, Cannibal Holocaust, Body Count, The Burning, The Beyond, City of the Living Dead, Zombi 2, House by the Cemetery, Puppet Master, Creepshow, Bubba Ho-Tep, Phantasm, Saw, and Dreamaniac? I know a few of those aren't really scary, but they're all awesome.
ObscureCinema101 Sunday 8/14/2011 at 07:33 PM | 80624
Quite the impresve list to say the least Matt! You never cease to amaze me. This was one list that I was going to tackle if time permitted and we talked about it and whamo, I knew you'd nail it! Great list as always but this is what makes horror movies for me. The theme and the muc. I will add THE DEVIL'S REJECTS as one of my favs mply because I thought Rob picked some great muc for great scenes.

Terrific job as usual! If we get many more of these great lists from everyone we may very well need to add a special section here on the te for them. They are just fun to read!
Horror Domain - Cursed Evil Overlord Sunday 8/14/2011 at 07:35 PM | 80626
Excellent choices!
Creature Features Sunday 8/14/2011 at 08:17 PM | 80628







nightmareblade Sunday 8/14/2011 at 08:42 PM | 80629
The Fog is on the list nightmareblade.

That is why these lists are so fun, we can all add to them. Doesn't mean that just because he left some out that his list is the definitive list.

Good examples you added and great list from Matt.

Rock on Bidites! I love this place!!!!
indygogo Sunday 8/14/2011 at 08:46 PM | 80630
AgnesItsMeBilly Sunday 8/14/2011 at 09:21 PM | 80632
AgnesItsMeBilly Sunday 8/14/2011 at 09:25 PM | 80633


and I didnt really want to turn this into a masve piece - believe me, I could have definitely done so lol

appreciate the feedback from everyone, keep the suggestions coming in

DV: you've inspired me to begin moisturizing my skin again

Matt_Molgaard Sunday 8/14/2011 at 09:46 PM | 80636
Dare I say this is my favorite list of yours Matt and posbly my favorite of the te. I honestly can't change a thing on the list and even the order suits me. A+
BIGKen Sunday 8/14/2011 at 10:29 PM | 80641
thank you much!
Matt_Molgaard Sunday 8/14/2011 at 10:34 PM | 80642
Yeah I have to give it up to you once again Matt. Great topic and very well done!

You're a machine with articles and I love every minute of it!

I might bump up Halloween on the list a bit but other than that, mucho perfecto!

Congrats on all the praise!

You deserve it for all you do!

Now as for the girl who said she is fighting over you and Bnizzle on who looks better, can I just say that as a male horror fan I think you both would look better with a machete hanging out of your face! lol! Joking obviously, let the sex appeal flow!
Shakelford, J. Rusty Sunday 8/14/2011 at 10:46 PM | 80643
Oh BOY if you guys saw me without my mask on I would totally win this "whose the most handsome" contest! Ok, well maybe not. Now these guys are going to want sex symbol props every time an article is written. Damn you Disturbed_Voices, Damn you!!! :P
Horror Domain - Cursed Evil Overlord Sunday 8/14/2011 at 11:09 PM | 80644
Def great list and something that I think we as horror fans sometimes take for granted.

How about Indious also? The muc though the entire film is well done IMO.
JaneDoe Sunday 8/14/2011 at 11:12 PM | 80645
how can i obtain my sex appeal g? I have promo pics

Matt_Molgaard Sunday 8/14/2011 at 11:32 PM | 80646
Definitely NOT a playlist to breeze through when alone in a dark room! With Halloween and The Exorcist often noted as the go-to spooky scores, it was really fun to see some of the less noted get a mention!

I'd just add - and I realize that Requiem for a Dream isn't technically a horror film - Clint Mansell's Lux Aeterna. Honestly, it sounds like it should be attached to some deep film horror film relating to religion or something.
dew Monday 8/15/2011 at 02:32 AM | 80655
If we can add some themes here that really have nothing to do with horror (except) for being in horrifying scenes then I have one that sends shivers down my spine for no other reason than the movie, lence of the Lambs!
Shakelford, J. Rusty Monday 8/15/2011 at 02:39 AM | 80656
Great article Matt, I think so many people forget about Rosemary's Baby, damn glad you included it. But how the heck did you forget Phantasm!!!
Anonymous Monday 8/15/2011 at 02:52 AM | 80658
No doubt a creepy theme Bnizzle!

Phantasm is a great movie that I tend to forget about also!

Great themes coming out of this list!
Shakelford, J. Rusty Monday 8/15/2011 at 02:54 AM | 80660
Ass kicking article! How about Scream???
Dogdays Monday 8/15/2011 at 04:16 AM | 80662
elm street 4... opening track... brilliant.
jswaffxxx Monday 8/15/2011 at 12:06 PM | 80674
My all time favourite theme is "Plasma Pool" by Howard Shore from The Fly (1986). It soars with emotion and balances horror and tragedy perfectly.
joshk1986 Tuesday 8/16/2011 at 11:46 AM | 80757
This is one of my Fav's, Great lists tho fellas
TommyDoyle Wednesday 8/17/2011 at 09:51 AM | 80878
Totally agree Tommy! I love The Shinning theme!!
Shakelford, J. Rusty Wednesday 8/17/2011 at 05:31 PM | 80900
All of the muc in The Shining is terrifying. I think its plays a big part into why the film is so scary. It gets soo loud and intense at times.
AgnesItsMeBilly Thursday 8/18/2011 at 01:34 AM | 80931
How about the Creepshow title song???
TaRmAn1986 Thursday 8/18/2011 at 03:09 AM | 80937
Great list. Rosemary's Baby is a good one. I would have added Devils Rejects. The Shining haunts me. Halloween happens to be my ring tone.
BloodyMary Thursday 8/18/2011 at 05:08 AM | 80952
Xtroid Sunday 8/21/2011 at 05:19 PM | 81234
I'd have to go with the theme from Deep Red. Bloody awesome! ... re=related
hotdog Sunday 8/21/2011 at 09:12 PM | 81251
Awesome article! I agree with everything you said about the themes. The Halloween theme song has always been the one song that can make me turn on every light in my house just by hearing it. I can't listen to that song along because of the sheer terror it strikes in me. 0
AMadSquirrel21 Sunday 8/21/2011 at 10:46 PM | 81263

Dawn of the dead....pretty much the whole movie soundtrack
Bullet31 Wednesday 8/24/2011 at 10:33 PM | 81492