Split Decision: Hot Horror Tracks
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This week’s question:
What is your favorite horror movie score?
Bernard Hermann's score for Psycho. It's a really compelling piece of music even if you aren't watching the famous shower scene. Hermann really understand the way to build suspense from strings, and his influence is everywhere.
On a more contemporary note, I also really like the soundtrack to Ravenous.
Krzysztof Komeda's haunting theme music for Rosemary's Baby is the entire movie wrapped into sound...Mia Farrow even does the job of singing the vocals to her own haunting lullaby. A lot of people believe that the movie production was cursed- Komeda died after falling into a coma, when he sustained head injuries at a drunken party with friends. This occurred six months after the release of Rosemary's Baby, further adding to the lore, and tragedy, surrounding this masterpiece.
THEME FROM FRIDAY THE 13TH PART III by Harry Manfredini and Michael Zager
Don’t @ me.
I always like when a horror score allows for a few bars of bliss-- a good recent example that I revisited for our decade in horror countdown is Mica Levi's "Love" from Under the Skin. The rest of Levi's soundtrack is creepy, with lots of hard to identify sounds, and then during a moment of attempted connection, this beautiful synth piece flies out (see also: the final moments of Hereditary).
Shout out also to the Fantomas cover of Bernard Herrmann's Cape Fear theme, which makes an already tense piece of music metal as hell.
I like my horror scores as synth-y as possible, apparently. There’s something otherworldly about music created entirely with machines that adds to the level of discomfort in my lower back. My favorite example of this are the opening credits of The Shining, filmed at Glacier National Park where Jill and I took a recent vacation, and scored by Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind.
I also must shout out John Carpenter and Alan Howarth’s synth score for Halloween III: Season of the Witch, especially the excellently-titled track “Chariots of Pumpkins,” which is the name of my next band.
Since we just saw The Brood the other night and I think that film has a terrific score I wanted to highlight that! Howard Shore did a lot of Cronenberg's films including Crash, Videodrome, Dead Ringers, and another great score for The Fly. I think he is up there with icons like Carpenter and Goblin as far as amazing genre scores. The Brood especially is so intense and much like the end of the film the music sticks with me long after I watched it!
The score from Halloween (1978) is simple, but so effective. It was created by John Carpenter himself in just two weeks due to budget limitations. From beginning to end, this movie relies heavily on its music to create tension — and I don't think Halloween would have succeeded the way that it did without this score being so good.
I've got to second this love for Halloween's simple and iconic score. I asked John Carpenter about it at a Q&A a few years back, specifically why it was that he, a relatively untrained musician, was so into making the scores for his films.
"Because I work quick and I work cheap."
That's as good an answer as any, and it's also the most on brand for Carpenter, who also indicated that his dreams had come true since he has earned himself the financial freedom to "smoke cigarettes and watch basketball" all day.
A more contemporary soundtrack that I listen to more than any other is the It Follows score by Disasterpiece. It owes more than a little to the stylings of John Carpenter, but is also its own synth-creeper beast. Even without a movie to layer it over, it rocks!
Hans Zimmer's score for Gore Verbinski's The Ring (2002) is not just my favorite Horror film score, but is one of my favorite scores period. The use of "noise", churning cello strings, spacious tones, dissonance, strong bass notes with gentle lullaby melodies layered on top, and so many more subtle but thoughtful decisions make for one of the moodiest, most unsettling, emotionally powerful and effective scores. It is so intuitive to that overcast world, so much a part of the sensory poetry of the film and its horrors, I am transported immediately, mentally, bodily, emotionally whereupon hearing it.
The score for Under the Skin is particularly memorable for me, especially "Death", the piece that plays as Johansson's victims slowly submerge into the dark abyss. It's creepy and otherworldly like Johansson's character, yet primal with its call and response and slow rhythmic drum beats.