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By: Maniac E
Date: October 19, 2011

The best horror movie themes EVER!

If you let the word “horror” slip your tongue towards most friends, family and/or collogues they will only associate it with violence, blood-letting, elaborate fatalities, dingy settings, serial killers, cheap budgets. What goes overlooked a lot of the time is the musical score of a horror film, an emotional avenue that not only augments a picture as a whole, but cuts right down to the basic of human emotions. Horror scores, more than any, hold the arduous task of reflecting the fears and uncertainty in the characters of the narrative and much stock has to be invested in them in order to pull it off effectively. Here is a top 10 from us to you.

#10 The Beyond (Fabio Frizzi)

When the march-like drum-roll kicks in I feel like getting my dance on, don’t you? It’s perhaps an unheralded score, as is the film, which never saw an uncut version in America until 1998 when Quentin Tarantino re-released the film in all its gory glory through his Rolling Thunder Pictures company, which tamed with Grindhouse Releasing to bring the correct version to light.

#9 Carrie (Pino Donaggio)

Let’s hope they won’t completely rape this in the remake that is set to be made pretty soon. What starts off shrill and unrelenting, Pino Donaggio's score for Brian De Palma's Carrie flips halfway through to give us a moving, sympathetic song to identify with the troubled title character.

#8 Friday the 13th (Harry Manfredini)

When most of us think of the soundtrack or background noise in Friday the 13th, we immediately think of the chilling "chi chi chi, ha ha ha" montage that has since been lampooned many a time. First off, according to Manfredini himself, those sounds are actually the syllables "ki ki ki, ma ma ma" - as abbreviation to "kill kill kill, mom mom mom." Either way, we don't believe those reverberations would be nearly as effective without the jarring crescendo of crashing strings and slowly drawn out bits of near silence that incur a false sense of security.

#7 Killer Klowns from Outer Space (The Dickies)

While this movie wasn’t any real treasure to watch the score was nifty and had lots of punk influences. More of a kick ass theme song than a true film score I suppose, but The Dickies titular rock rendition is no less impressive. From the wicked opening riff of shred-metal to the quintessential '80s lyrics, The Dickies elevate Killer Klowns from Outer Space from rote b-cinema to bona fide cult status.

#6 The Omen (Jerry Goldsmith)

The Latin chant is as follows: "Sanguis bibimus, corpus edimus, tolle corpus Satani" which translates to "drink the blood, eat the flesh, raise the body of Satan." Like Hitchcock to Bernard Hermann, director Richard Donner gives much of the credit of the films success to composer Jerry Goldsmith, whose absence would have made the film much less scarier. With well over 200 screen credits to his name (big and small), Goldsmith earned his only Oscar for his work on The Omen, though don't be surprised if you see his name pop up again on our tribute.

#5 Poltergeist (Jerry Goldsmith)

Innocent, childlike and dreamy, Jerry Goldsmith is back at it with his score of suburban dread for Tobe Hooper's Poltergeist. Much like Rosemary's Baby (aesthetically) and somewhat hinged to The Omen (sentimentally), this score is dependent on our fears of children, either of them personally or for their safety. What begins with a pretty harp melody quickly becomes something a bit more melancholy when those all too precious kiddy lullabies start ringing aloud. It's a comforting score on its own, but given Carol Ann's whole story arc it actually becomes quite disconcerting. I've said it before, for my money it's Kane in part 2 that derives the most fright in the series - but Goldsmith's Oscar nominated work earns legitimate chills.

#4 Halloween (John Carpenter)

We can’t of course keep this out of the top 5. This movie did so much to show audiences worldwide that horror movies matured. Described by Carpenter himself as perhaps being scarier than anything in the actual film, his hauntingly basic high pitched refrain is as memorable as any on our list. What Carpenter does here is create a sense of dread through repetition, and we come to identify his striking chords with an impending sense of true doom. From the opening to closing credits, Carpenter inundates us with the score in away that is damn near as inescapable as Michael Myers himself. Credit carpenter for working within the strictures of his budget, composing the score in a mere 4 days.

#3 Hellraiser (Christopher Young)

Rather epic in scope, if you told us that it was a Danny Elfman score for a Tim Burton film, we wouldn't be shocked. As it is, Christopher Young's original score has that transcendent horror/science fiction sound that branches out from all too familiar horror themes. It comes as no wonder then that Young was nominated for a Saturn Award back in 1988 for his work in Clive Barker's Hellraiser. The score just keeps gaining and growing, finally crashing into an apex of demoralizing madness, at the same time embodying a sense of serenity. It's pretty strange to think that the industrial band Coil originally produced the soundtrack, one that studios spurned and Barker referred to as "the only group whose music made my bowels churn."

#2 Psycho (Bernard Hermann)

Chalk another Oscar winning composer to our list, though Hermann was dubiously not nominated for one of his most salient film scores - that of Alfred Hitchcock's seminal horror effort Psycho. We're all familiar with the infamous shower scene, but try to imagine how effective it would be without those searing string arrangements. Originally conceived as a silent scene, Hitch was so impressed with Herman's work (who went ahead and scored it anyway), that he not only doubled the man's salary, he publicly lauded the Hermann by adding "33% of the effect of Psycho was due to the music." High praise indeed! Looking back, it'd be hard to imagine the brutal shower scene in total silence, absent of Hermann's legendary work.

#1 Zombi (Giorgio Cascio & Fabio Frizzi)

Goosebumps nothing more than goose bumps this theme brings me. Every time that I hear this my head turns and I can’t stop bumping my head. Hand the reins over to Giorgio Cascio and Fabio Frizzi to score the damn thing, that's how! No joke, the pre-80s low-fi synthesizer and glowering chord arrangements are straight up ruling. Then add the thudding heartbeat like back-drums and what sound like creepy wind gales - there's no wonder why this ranks high upon the pantheon of all time horror scores.

Honorable mentioning: The Thing (Ennio Morricone)

Morricone's spare, momentum building work on John Carpenter's The Thing compliments the film extremely well. It kicks off with that unnerving electric bass note and gradually grows into something more complex, just like the film itself. When the bass drops out, we're left with some old time gothic Phantom of the Opera type organ sounds.

Honorable mentioning: Re-animator (Richard Band)

You know Re-animator is a Psycho rip-off but I can’t help myself to enjoy this 80tees remix. For me this is more of an homage towards Psycho and let’s face it we bitch about it but it has already been made. Richard Band wanted Bernard Herrmann's name in the credits because of this... but in the end he was not credited on the film due, if memory serves, to a mix up.

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