As Halloween approaches, I take a look at some of my favourite horror movie music. Many of these are the classic themes to the films, while a couple of the tunes, would be the more popular pieces of music from the film itself. Let’s take a listen.
Saw was a stand out hit of the noughties horror releases. Spawning a number of sequels, the original was a small, smart horror mystery. It had the killer Jigsaw pit people against a number of sick and twisted games, in order to show them their failures in life and give them a sort of redemption for what they have done.
The score is full of tension filled pieces, made of percussion, keyboard and mechanical or industrial like sounds. The main theme reminds me of a ticking clock, which slowly builds tension and enphasises the need to complete the dangerous game or task that awaits.
This nineties’s classic, is credited to reviving and popularising the once dead slasher film. It was one of many teen slasher films that released across the decade and came from horror icon, Wes Craven. Creator of such classic as The Hills Have Eyes and Nightmare on Elm Street, Craven made a very self-aware film, almost poking fun at the genre tropes, while giving a fun and intelligent spin on the genre itself.
I’m going with Nick Cave’s Red Right Hand for this pick, which appeared in the first three Scream films (in different forms) and has appeared in a number of films or TV shows, but is synonymous with the first Scream film in my opinion.
Candyman is sometimes missed in conversations about great horror films. Candyman is a supernatural slasher, that sees the titular killer being summoned by calling his name five time in a mirror. The summoner will then be pursued by the killer, with a deadly hook, while also controlling a swarm of bees for some chilling kills too.
The soundtrack was written by Philip Glass and contains a Gothic, church organ sound. This heightens the supernatural aspect of Candyman, with piano hooks and choir chanting.
Stanley Kubrick’s take on Stephen King’s novel The Shining, saw a twisted and dark look into the mind of Jack Torrance. Retreating to a secluded hotel with his family, Jack intends to use this solitude to write a new book. The location slowly drives Jack mad, which leads to him endangering his family.
The score, by Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind, creates unease throughout the film. It leads us down the winding path of madness with Jack, as the hotel begins to become chilling venue for him and his family.
Stephen Spielberg’s Jaws, is a horror and thriller, that sees the residence of a beach town stalked and hunted by a killer shark. The film was plagued with many problems during production, many involving the mechanical shark itself. This lead to the lack of on-screen time for the shark, which in-turn, only heightened the pay-off when it did arrive.
Now, we can’t talk about the tension build-up to the reveal of Jaws, without including the fantastic score by music legend, John Williams. It can’t be denied, that the combination of both how the film was shot and the music, created a truly blood curdling sense of unease. The dual-note pattern to the Jaws theme intro is legendary, ratcheting the tension when heard.
This inclusion of this iconic tune almost didn’t happen, as there was a different score created for The Exorcist by Lalo Schifrin. Director William Friedkin rejected this score and used a number of pieces from several other composers and musicians. One of these inclusions, was Mike Oldfield’s opening song from his album Tubular Bells.
It went on to be known as the theme for The Exorcist, while popularise Oldfield’s album across the globe.
One of the most iconic slasher horror movies ever created, this once independent film, was made on a shoestring budget. John Carpenter not only directed this horror classic, he produced and co-wrote the screenplay with Debra Hill. He was also the composer of the film’s score, creating a minimalist, yet chilling tone throughout. This was due to the fact, that Carpenter can’t read or write music.
The main theme was composed on keyboard and has gone on to be one of the most iconic themes in horror and movies in general.
So what are your favourite movie theme or piece of music from horror films? Let us know in the comments.