There are many horror films out there that have stood the test of time. But what makes them truly recognizable by their audience is through their music. Horror films have long been known to create fear and terror, but the soundtrack is what really helps to provide that bone-chilling, spine-tingling feeling you get when you feel suspense, or when you see the villain creeping through the dark, following someone unknowingly. It adds to the already creep factor of a scene and gets your blood pumping.
Soundtracks have long been known in the entertainment world for truly setting the mood and feeling with the movie. Musical scores provide so much more to help push the story along, giving depth to a character who doesn’t speak, creating that fear we all desire when watching horror movies. Here we will look at some well-known horror soundtracks that have made their stamp and because of their completely original music, will be sure to continue to scare audiences for many years to come.
John Williams’ musical scores have been long renowned, but more in the likes of action movie hits. Not many out there know that he has also composed music for horror films. However, this introduction of a title character has the perfect dark, yet romantic style of music.
There are numerous horror films out there with unusual musical soundtracks, but this is one that definitely captures haunting music in an almost beautiful way. Composed by Christopher Young, this soundtrack has a slightly psychedelic feel to it, giving a real punch with the clangs and echoes you hear throughout the effective sound design. This is a great example of how, when filmmakers utilize custom music services for their film and collaborate on an original composition, they not only have a unique musical score but one that feels like it was meant exactly for the movie as well.
The Omen (1976)
The religious aspect of this movie is demonstrated very well with the choral music that accompanies the score by composer Jerry Goldsmith. When you listen to choral music like this, it is usually in a church setting and isn’t very scary, but the creepy, ominous-sounding chants in these unique pieces give the appropriately disturbing feeling that pulls the story along. The songs become even more erratic, leading to the build-up of the climax within.
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
This soundtrack contains dream-like sounds, complete with chilling “la la la’s” almost like a lullaby, but not a comforting one. Composer Krzysztof Komeda nailed the musical score here, creating the emotion that tells you something is wrong throughout, even though you can’t quite pinpoint exactly what it is, just like the title character of Rosemary herself.
Even today’s younger generation recognizes this stringed musical masterpiece. Although the movie has been remade, the original Alfred Hitchcock black and white film stands to be one of the most influential horror films of its time. The music within it is no exception—everyone knows the sound of the staccato strings from composer Bernard Herrmann’s “The Murder”—where Janet meets her gruesome end in the iconic shower scene.
Even though we’ve already mentioned John Williams’ musical genius in Dracula, this film’s score is much more recognizable to most. Two notes – and you have a dark, creepy villain in the sea. The amazing thing that Williams accomplished here was giving life to a character who can’t speak—a shark that just constantly searches, never giving up. You feel the relentlessness of the diabolical creature captured through an incredible musical score that will linger long into the future.
Even though this movie is not as well recognized as many of others, and an almost-remake was done more recently with some big-name stars, the original Suspiria music score is creative in utilizing instruments that you don’t normally hear in most horror movie settings. It was created by Italian rockers Goblin and utilizes a lot of chimes, Moog synthesizers, and bouzoukis incorporated with harsh whispers that aid in giving this movie an exciting soundtrack that hits the mark in both suspense and terror.
The Return of the Living Dead (1985)
This is one of those soundtracks that are just fun to listen to, with psychobilly-sounding deathrock and punk in this comedy-horror semi-sequel to Night of the Living Dead. With songs by bands known as The Cramps and The Flesh Eaters, it’s sure to entertain, even if the movie itself is not the ultimate horror movie that it might have attempted to be. however, it’s still a treasured horror film by many fans.
It Follows (2015)
Rarely might you believe that a more modern horror film would have a soundtrack to withstand time, but this musical score warrants it being on the list. Composer Rich Vreeland seems to be right up there with John Carpenter or Hitchcock, having created an authentic feel with electronica throughout this album. The feelings of fear and tension are built well throughout, bringing the movie and storyline to life in what is truly to become a horror classic.
No doubt John Carpenter completely got this one right, having written, directed, and composed for this horror movie-turned-franchise, also taking on this first movie’s official sequel much later in 2018. This totally recognizable soundtrack of horror, with its eerie piano riff, will continue to haunt all those who listen. Michael Myers is another one of those villains who has no words, but the score does all the speaking for him throughout the film. Elements of surprise with keyboard sequences that are simple instead of complex, he created an incredible musical score that for sure will never die.
There are plenty of other great horror movie soundtracks out there, from the likes of classics such as Candyman and The Lost Boys, so be sure to give the lot of them a listen to, so you can pick your favorites. Music in horror movies creates a perfect balance with elements of spooky, suspense/tension, and fear to be able to last a long time. Original and customized musical pieces are the best ways to obtain those direct emotions. Horror movie soundtracks are great at pulling the audience into the story, and moving them in a way that the dialogue alone cannot do.