The Best Horror Movie Soundtracks to Inspire You
If you’re like us, you’re packing your October schedule with horror movies! So far, this year has included The Relic, The Babadook, The Witch and The Addams Family. One of the best things about horror movies is definitely their scores, so we’ve compiled a list of the best horror movie soundtracks to inspire you!
Whether you’re writing a screenplay, shooting a short film or editing in a dark, spooky room this Halloween – these horror film scores are bound to set the mood.
The main theme from John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978) is an ultimate classic. You might be surprised to learn that it was also made on the cheap. Working with a $300,000 budget for the entire film, Carpenter couldn’t afford a composer – so he booked a synthesizer studio in LA and put down the music himself. (It helped that he had played in bands himself.)
“I only had three days to do the music to Halloween,” Carpenter told NPR. “I recorded five or six themes. And this wasn’t scoring to picture. This was just scoring blind, and then I would cut the themes into the movie. I had to guess at various moods. What surprised me is, they actually fit pretty well into the movie. It’s a cheap but effective way of scoring.”
Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
We also have to include the score from John Carpenter’s Halloween III, filmed four years after the original. This movie’s score, by Carpenter and Alan Howarth, doesn’t use the original one at all. Still, it’s equally memorable, with atmospheric, creepy synth that makes you want to put on some black lipstick and find a club full of ghosts. Highlights include “Starker and Marge,” “Robots at the Factory” and “The Rock” and “Chariots of Pumpkins.”
Horror fans have mixed feelings about Candyman, the Bernard Rose-directed story of a graduate student who summons a killer with a hook for a hand. But Phillip Glass’s soundtrack is a horror gem that chooses piano, glockenspiel and organ over synth. We dare you to listen to it five times.
The Thing (1982)
In 1982, John Carpenter also released The Thing – another one of the best horror movie soundtracks we’ve heard. Its score, by Ennio Morricone, makes use of strings and horns to create unnervingly discordant sounds. Carpenter called Morricone, who passed away earlier this year, “brilliant.”
“He was like an X-ray composer,” said Carpenter.” He brought out the theme of the movie that hadn’t been thought of before.”
Suspiria, the 1975 horror film directed by Dario Argento (and remade in 2018) boasts a prog-rock soundtrack that’s experimental and effortlessly cool. Listen for tabla (a pair of twin hand drums), bouzouki (a Greek lute) and Moog synthesizer. The main theme of Suspiria‘s soundtrack is that of a creepy music box – which somehow never loses its ability to freak us out.
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Polish composer Krzysztof Komeda scored Rosemary’s Baby, the classic horror film from Roman Polanski. He had a background in Eastern European jazz, which you can hear via the saxophone in “Making Love in the Apartment” – but the rest of the soundtrack evokes an unfamiliar alien atmosphere. The “Lullaby” certainly won’t send us off into a restful sleep anytime soon.
We had to include at least one 2000s soundtrack in our list of the best horror movie soundtracks. Enter Maniac, the 2012 remake of the 1981 slasher film about a brutal serial killer. Maniac‘s soundtrack, by Robin “Rob” Coudert, sometimes sounds legitimately beautiful – but it’s also melancholy and haunting.
Which ones do you think are the best horror movie soundtracks? We’d love to hear your comments over at the FilmUp Instagram!