05/15/2023 | News release | Distributed by Public on 05/15/2023 09:43
We're officially halfway to Halloween!
The spookiest day of the year is still a long way off, but that doesn't mean we're not super hyped for it. There's never a bad time to settle down and enjoy a good horror film, and some of the best even take place during the summer (we're looking at you, Midsommar).
Of course, horror movies would be nothing without their soundtracks. The right pitch and tone can take a scene from scary to downright terrifying. That's why we've put together a list of iconic horror film themes to help get you ready for Halloween!
Whether you're already planning your costume or just need some inspiration for your next movie night, we've got you covered. If you want to keep the spooky vibes going, be sure to tune into Octane (Ch. 37) where it's Halloween every day!
We're kicking things off with one of the greatest horror movies ever made and its equally iconic soundtrack. While "Tubular Bells (Pt. 1)" is instantly recognizable now, Mike Oldfield's prog-rock album Tubular Bells, which the eery theme initially appeared on, sold poorly at first. When director William Friedkin scrapped Lalo Schifrin's original score for his 1973 film The Exorcist in favor of Oldfield's music, the album became a worldwide phenomenon. It's understandable, as the repeating piano riff is nothing short of mesmerizing. Fittingly, today (May 15) also marks Oldfield's 70th birthday. What better way to celebrate the multi-instrumentalist than by listening to his classic theme?
Speaking of hypnotic piano riffs, this theme has become as synonymous with the Halloween season as the film itself. The story goes that director John Carpenter showed a final cut of his 1978 film Halloween without music and sound effects to a young movie executive, who ended up not in the least bit scared. So, Carpenter became determined to save the film with music. Owing to the low-budget nature of the production, he opted to write the theme himself, and the rest is history. The piano is chilling enough, but the stabs of percussive synth build on it to ramp up the tension. The theme truly reflects Michael Myers's unstoppable drive to kill, making it both fitting and terrifying.
While Carpenter drew a lot of inspiration for Halloween from Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, he drew just as much from Bernard Herrmann's score. Written for a string orchestra, despite Hitchcock's request for a jazz ensemble, the music is a vital part of the movie. The granddaddy of slasher horror wouldn't be as effective if it wasn't for the score. Hitchcock himself commented that "33% of the effect of Psycho was due to the music." While the careening "Prelude" from the title sequence foreshadows the violence to come, it's "The Murder" that truly makes the movie. One of the most imitated film cues, the high-pitched screeches of the violins emphasize the viciousness of the famous shower scene, elevating it to new heights.
Dario Argento previously collaborated with the Italian prog-rock band Goblin on his 1975 film Profondo Rosso. When he began to work on his supernatural horror Suspiria, he sought them out again. Over the course of three months, the band experimented with multiple instruments to create one of the most memorable horror soundtracks. The title track is the highlight though. Synthesizers, tablas, and bouzoukis all mix together to make the music box theme instantly chilling. This unique sound compliments the occult vibes at play throughout the film and also makes for a total bop. The album is considered Goblin's masterpiece and it's hard to disagree.
When Mica Levi wrote the soundtrack for Under the Skin, they were aiming for sexy rather than creepy. While there's something oddly seductive about the film's music, the altering pitches and tempo also make it incredibly unsettling. "Love" in particular captures the horror at the heart of the movie. The recurrent droning makes it feel like you're slowly being pulled into an abyss. Just like Scarlett Johansson's alien character, there's something undoubtedly human there, but scratching past the surface you'll find something unrecognizable and terrifying.
The late Ennio Morricone was synonymous with the spaghetti western genre, but his work on The Thing proves he was a master of horror too. While large parts of the soundtrack went unused in John Carpenter's final cut of the movie, the main title "Humanity Pt. 2" perfectly captures the film's themes. The swelling strings establish the foreboding sense of isolation while the pulsating electronic percussion hints at something unnatural lurking within. By the time the organ and keyboard kick in, it's far too late to escape. It's an iconic horror soundtrack from one of the greatest composers to ever live.