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Unk’s Most Favorite Horror Scores

March 30th, 2011 by unkle lancifer · 29 Comments

UNK SEZ: I don’t know if these are the best scores (Hey, where’s Tubular Bells?!) but they are my personal favorites. Hope I didn’t neglect too many! BTW, both TENTACLES and THE VISITOR just barely missed the cut!


Let’s just get this one taken care of immediately. How can any list of horror scores not include this madness? So big, so brazen it nearly kicks the movie itself right off the screen! No small feat!


A good score lets you know what’s going down right off the bat. Sure this film is plenty romantic but KILAR’s work makes sure you remember there’s plenty of anger and vengeance seeping through its veins as well.


LANCE RUBIN is not only the name of me after I marry JENNIFER RUBIN, but it is also the name of the guy who did the score for one of my favorite slashers. The music box combo of sweet and creepy weaves throughout the film and culminates in a memorable theme song sung by SYREETA! If RUBIN’s work sounds a tad familiar it may be due to his talent lodging in another classic, MOTEL HELL!


THE SHINING used to have this spot until I found out that most of its music is not original to the film. That’s alright, I was feeling bad about leaving out PHANTASM anyway and now I don’t have to. Listen to how sad it is! It sounds like the seventies and it sounds like rain and it makes me want to go on a tandem bicycle excursion with KAREN CARPENTER. Shit, that makes me think of THE ATTIC and how I should have put THE ATTIC in here as well. Damn self-imposed deadlines!


MORODER is the man and his soundtrack for PAUL SCHRADER’s Meow Mix is something y’all need to get your paws on. Its influence is still felt to this day in fact, the band GOLDFRAPP recently admitted that their last album was strongly influenced by MORODER’s efforts here! That’s some staying power!


Wow. I guess you know you kind of rule when JOHN CARPENTER decides to hand over musical duties to you rather than tackling them himself. Well, MORRICONE is a legend and his minimalistic, heartbeat mimicking, icy cold contribution to CARPENTER’s film fits like a snug glove.


Talk about big shoes to fill. (Not that anyone involved in the making of this sequel didn’t have more than their work cut out for them.) JERRY GOLDSMITH pays homage to and follows trails paved by the great BERNARD HERRMANN but he adds something uniquely his own too. Almost as if in cahoots with ANTHONY PERKINS‘ performance, GOLDSMITH sways you toward the tragic and sympathetic side of Norman Bates’ soul. Look out! Once in your head, very hard to evict!


Speaking of BERNARD HERRMANN, composer PINO DONAGGIO does a fine job of tipping his hat toward the guy too. Sure, screechy stabby violins will always owe a debt to PSYCHO but PINO brings an extraordinary sincere velvet dark melancholy to the table too. I know this score like the back of my hand and I love it even though some of the creepy church vibes bring back strange unwanted memories of the DAVEY AND GOLIATH show. Aw, that reminds me I should not have forgotten CARNIVAL OF SOULS on this list either! I’ll just shove it in here. Cassie won’t mind, er, I mean Carrie…


Not everybody digs PHILIP GLASS but you have to admit that he’s an inspired choice for the soundtrack to CANDYMAN. His signature repetitive synth blips reek of urban insect existence. I’m gonna rate this baby extra high on originality alone and for the simple fact that “Helen’s Theme” may be one of the most beautiful things that ever happened to my ridiculous ears. Here be the proverbial bee’s knees…


Number one score for me forever for sure. I know CARPENTER’s HALLOWEEN theme will always shadow over his other fine work but the truth is, on an emotional level it can’t really hold a candle to what he accomplishes with THE FOG score. Sometimes gentle, slight and ethereal, sometimes pounding like a primal alarm to flee. It does more than set the mood, it blankets you in the otherworldly and it does not let go as it pushes you further and further away from safety. To put it simply, THE FOG score sounds like a ghost story being told without words…

UNK SEZ: that’s my top ten folks but wait I’m not done yet! Here are TWO EXTRA BONUS TRACKS!

My choice for outstanding opening theme song goes to ROSEMARY’S BABY by KRZYSTOF KOMEDA featuring MIA FARROW!

…And my choice for most annoying theme song goes to TOURIST TRAP! I love you TOURIST TRAP (and PINO DONAGGIO) but once I fell asleep with your DVD in the player and woke up to a menu screen playing this track over and over and I just about lost what little of my mind I had left.

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Tags: Caution: I break for geniuses! · General Horror · Horror Scores · Kinder-Topix · My own personal Jesus

29 responses so far ↓

  • 1 turnidoffNo Gravatar // Mar 30, 2011 at 10:03 am

    GREAT POST. I agree with most but when it comest to horror scores I have to go with Fabio Frizzi. City of the Living Dead and The Beyond are goose bump worthy. by the way, that torist Trap .gif is TERRIFYING!!!

  • 2 Buck TheoremNo Gravatar // Mar 30, 2011 at 10:19 am

    That’s a great list that hits all the right buttons for me. I adore the soundtracks for “Suspiria”, “Phantasm” and “The Fog”, and have a long-term soft spot for Moroder’s “Cat People”. The only glaring omission, in my book, is John Harrison’s “Creepshow”, which I consider to be one of horror’s quintessential scores (and which I rave about here, if you don’t mind.: http://bucktheorem.blogspot.com/2009/02/creepshow-george.html)

    I will also have to look further into some of the other scores you rate which I don’t know of… yet.


  • 3 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Mar 30, 2011 at 10:30 am


    Good call on Frizzi!

    When I was a teenager in the dark ages I used to record with a cassette player the music that played over the closing credits of horror movies. (I would die to hear that cassette tape now.)

    Anyway, besides the HBTM theme I remember one of my favorites was the music over the closing credits of Zombie……Fabio Frizzi!


    That’s another great addition!


    I don’t have that one but I will soon., great stuff!

  • 4 ChrisNo Gravatar // Mar 30, 2011 at 10:43 am

    I’ve always loved Wojiech Kilar’s Dracula stuff, but for my money, his work on The Ninth Gate will always be tops, especially the opening theme…


    That there is one song that’ll never fail to raise the ol’ goosebumps! Also, the song “Bath Attack” from The Entity (also heard in Inglorious Basterds) will scare the Hell outta me, no matter what…


    I think that song may be the reason I can’t watch that film at night. 🙂

  • 5 Will ErricksonNo Gravatar // Mar 30, 2011 at 11:37 am

    An excellent list! Fine listening.

  • 6 cmcmcmcmNo Gravatar // Mar 30, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    Even though it’s probably one of the more overplayed (on my playlist anyway) horror scores, Halloween and the variations on the Halloween II soundtrack always make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. But every time The Omen theme song comes on I have to skip forward. There’s something about that one that always creeps me out (not unlike Tubular Bells).

  • 7 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Mar 30, 2011 at 12:38 pm


    Oh, Ninth Gate is a good one! I don’t remember that Entity song too well. Can you believe I have still not seen Inglorious Bastards? And I know it’s got the Cat People song in it too! I gotta watch that soon.


    Thanks buddy!


    I second the Halloween love & I’ve even got the Halloween 3 soundtrack in my itunes, can’t live without that one. The Omen music is too horrifying for casual listening for sure.

    I got pretty close to including

    Trevor Jones’ THE SENDER but it’s a bit too depressing


    and I almost did Lalo Schifrin’s Amityville 2: The possession but I wasn’t sure how much was lifted from the first film?


    Also…Just found this…pretty amazing….

  • 8 bdwilcoxNo Gravatar // Mar 30, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    You forgot this one:

  • 9 bdwilcoxNo Gravatar // Mar 30, 2011 at 4:29 pm

    But on a serious note, the theme music from The Hitchhiker, Tales from the Crypt and, of course, Tales from the Darkside never fail to creep me the hell out (not to mention the seminal favorite, The Twilight Zone). What’s interesting is that much of the music in the shows themselves was just as creepy but would get lost in the background which is a shame because they’re like little hidden treasures.

  • 10 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Mar 30, 2011 at 4:49 pm


    That’s a great collection of TV themes! Don’t forget this one though, it’s still plenty creepy…

  • 11 bdwilcoxNo Gravatar // Mar 30, 2011 at 4:51 pm

    Oh, and listening to that Philip Glass piece, he might as well have scratched Bach’s name off a fugue and written his in its place. I normally like Philip Glass and other minimalist composers, but that piece sounded like plagiarism.

  • 12 bdwilcoxNo Gravatar // Mar 30, 2011 at 4:55 pm

    Oh, almost forget this gem:

    Also, love their use of the very Magritte-esque Jerry Eulsman photo:

    Mr. Eulsman was the man before their was Photoshop.

  • 13 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Mar 30, 2011 at 4:59 pm


    The Glass piece reminds me of this Shubert from “The Hunger”….


    Oh boy, all my limited knowledge of classical music comes from horror films!

    That can’t be good.

  • 14 bdwilcoxNo Gravatar // Mar 30, 2011 at 5:00 pm

    OK, final one. Sorry, I didn’t mean to spam your forums here, but I totally got into a groove of creepy show intros. Actually, their intros are more disturbing than 99% of the shows they had on.

    And, as an aside, the weird music during the old Leonard Nemoy show “In Search of” used to literally make me want to crawl out of my skin. That show, with it’s poor film stock, bad lighting and freaky music was pure Kindertrauma for me.

  • 15 stevil1981No Gravatar // Mar 30, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    One of the creepiest ever for my money.

  • 16 Joanna BoeseNo Gravatar // Mar 30, 2011 at 7:13 pm

    I know the “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” theme was reused for the trailers for the “Mummy” films…except not reused for “Van Helsing”, for some weird reason. (Although it’s so fitting…)

    And now I want to see the first “Phantasm” after that slideshow…

  • 17 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Mar 30, 2011 at 7:52 pm


    I LOVE that. That is so fantastically off kilter and odd…

    Our pal Andre just recently reviewed CH over at the Bloodslpayer….


    See, I’m not that familiar with the CH soundtrack because I am one of those people who have only seen it once on account of I can’t watch the turtle death again!

    Which is sad because I really enjoy Ruggero Deodato’s “House on the edge of the Park” as insane as it may be.

    I read that there is a turtle death free version…maybe I can track that down.

    In any case, LOVE that music.

    I just read that Riz Ortolani’s music appears in “Inglorious Bastards” too. I’m gonna have to watch that one for the music alone.

    Joanna Boese,

    Have you never seen “Phantasm” before?

    If not, I’m completely jealous that you get to watch it for the first time!

    If feel like my adolescence is permanently incased in that film!

    Listening to that music I’m gonna have to watch it again now soon.

  • 18 aunt johnNo Gravatar // Mar 30, 2011 at 8:00 pm

    Admittedly, not horror scores — but both pretty horrifying flicks — I do love me the music from Liquid Sky & Requiem for a Dream:

  • 19 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Mar 30, 2011 at 8:06 pm


    As soon as I read the title “Requiem for a Dream” that exact track gets lodged in my head and won’t split.

    I just heard it in something else recently but I forget what it was….a commercial or something.

  • 20 FatherOfTearsNo Gravatar // Mar 30, 2011 at 8:14 pm

    I have the “Suspiria” soundtrack as part of that 3 disc collection. I’ll play it at times with the lights off! Oh, Keith Emerson was featured on the sequel “Inferno” which has a chilling theme: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Qf52PXBKAc For a few recent ones I was always a fan of the main theme to “The Descent”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22pUX0TOE_0&feature=related Yes, if listened to without seeing the movie one may think it’s for either some sci-fi space epic or even a western. I find it at times gripping.

    There is also this Hans Zimmer gem from “The Ring”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CkM4u1LFOp4&feature=related

    Oh, remember this from “The Innocents”?- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_annB8AsLcI&feature=related A child’s voice can be so chilling, no?

  • 21 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Mar 30, 2011 at 8:20 pm


    Ah Yes, “Inferno” has got some serious great stuff too. Those are all good choices…

    I am currently kicking myself for neglecting this one!!!…..

  • 22 bdwilcoxNo Gravatar // Mar 30, 2011 at 9:44 pm

    Aunt John,

    That piece from Liquid Sky is a synth version of “The Bells of St. Genevieve” by French Baroque composer Marin Marais.

  • 23 Joanna BoeseNo Gravatar // Mar 30, 2011 at 10:03 pm

    Am watching “Phantasm” now…that film is a thing of epic surrealism and I love it. 🙂

  • 24 hostelNo Gravatar // Mar 31, 2011 at 2:32 am

    ROSEMARY’S BABY by KRZYSTOF KOMEDA is great theme really like it on of my favorite up there.

  • 25 elgraysoNo Gravatar // Mar 31, 2011 at 2:55 am

    the producer RJD2 made a hip hop beat by speeding up SUSPIRIA’s theme, looping it and adding some drums. Horror-core rapper CAGE from NYC raps on it. great stuff.

  • 26 Amanda By NightNo Gravatar // Mar 31, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    Wow, there’s been some great titles mentioned here. I would have had Tentacles in the Top 10, glad it came close on yours Unk! I also think the Card Player soundtrack is really amazing (and, yes, I’m one of the few who liked the movie), and someone else mentioned the 9th Gate, which is also excellent.

    I just got the Liquid Sky soundtrack. I love it!!!

    Btw Unk, I’m not positive, but I believe a lot of the music from Cannibal Holocaust was re-used in Madhouse.

    I have a bunch of CDs of songs from horror movies, mostly slasher, and I have that eerie HBTM song, which I love. I also have stuff from New Year’s Evil, Maniac, Happy Hell Night, Graduation Day, The Mutilator and many more…

    Oh and two more mentions, while I love the entire Prom Night soundtrack, Fade to Black is definitely one of the eeriest songs of all time. And not technically a horror movie, well sorta, the Eyes of Laura Mars soundtrack is fierce!

  • 27 Amanda By NightNo Gravatar // Mar 31, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    Oh and Body Double! Again not horror, but thriller-esque enough!

  • 28 godmonsterNo Gravatar // Mar 31, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    I read yesterday that the upcoming re-make of Suspiria will also use the original score by Goblin, but orchestrated. Now I’m looking forward to it. Good call on many of those titles, “Carrie”, “Phantasm”, “Requiem for a Dream” are all outstanding. Among my other favorites are “Humanoids from the Deep” and Bernard Herrman’s score for “It’s Alive”.

  • 29 Holly LoiaconoNo Gravatar // Apr 4, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    I know I’m little late to the party but I always loved the opening title music for ‘Friday the 13th The Series’. It both scared me & made me excited as a kid because it was one of my favourite shows heh.

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