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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!

SUSPIRIA (GOBLIN)

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!

BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA (WOJIECH KILAR)

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.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME (LANCE RUBIN)

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!

PHANTASM (FRED MYROW & MALCOLM SEAGRAVE)

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!

CAT PEOPLE (GIORGIO MORODER)

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!

THE THING (ENNIO MORRICONE)

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.

PSYCHO II (JERRY GOLDSMITH)

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!

CARRIE (PINO DONAGGIO)

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…

CANDYMAN (PHILIP GLASS)

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…

THE FOG (JOHN CARPENTER)

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.

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




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Holly Loiacono
9 years ago

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.

godmonster
godmonster
9 years ago

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”.

Amanda By Night
9 years ago

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

Amanda By Night
9 years ago

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!

elgrayso
elgrayso
9 years ago

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.

hostel
9 years ago

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

Joanna Boese
9 years ago

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

bdwilcox
bdwilcox
9 years ago

Aunt John,

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

FatherOfTears
9 years ago

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?

aunt john
Admin
9 years ago

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

Joanna Boese
9 years ago

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…

stevil1981
stevil1981
9 years ago

One of the creepiest ever for my money.

bdwilcox
bdwilcox
9 years ago

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.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KF-yh4mU6ps

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.

bdwilcox
bdwilcox
9 years ago

Oh, almost forget this gem:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2I7vPbthvWo

Also, love their use of the very Magritte-esque Jerry Eulsman photo:
http://www.modernbook.com/jerryuelsmann.htm

Mr. Eulsman was the man before their was Photoshop.

bdwilcox
bdwilcox
9 years ago

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.

bdwilcox
bdwilcox
9 years ago

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.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ae5XwkSguNI
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9eRUpjlZNMU
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UnE3-0X-174

bdwilcox
bdwilcox
9 years ago

You forgot this one:

cmcmcmcm
cmcmcmcm
9 years ago

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).

Will Errickson
9 years ago

An excellent list! Fine listening.

Chris
Chris
9 years ago

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…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uDl0GkTAWgw

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…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BVZZJVpRU-A

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

Buck Theorem
9 years ago

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.

Thanks!

turnidoff
9 years ago

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!!!