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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!