Halloween may have come and gone but it’s never to late to enjoy a good horror film. Most horror films are simply known for a few things: the blood; the gore; the deaths; the sex scenes; the screaming (which also goes with the sex scenes); and most importantly the suspense. However, not all horror films hit their mark which can make the film all the more difficult to watch. These films are unique in their own way. If you can tell a great story with some of the right ingredients to making a fantastic film, then any horror film is ripe for success.
There are moments in this genre that creates tension and the feeling of hopelessness. It can be argued that some of the more famous movie soundtracks actually stem from certain horror flicks. But it’s honestly not just the score that makes it memorable. Instead, it’s how the composer is able to carefully craft the score and make it suitable for both the director and the audience. Some of the soundtracks listed below are sometimes played throughout the film or near the very beginning or very end of the movie. Either way, these scores are undeniably catchy and will likely stick in your head not long after listening to them. Scores have highly impacted the horror genre which is why I’d like to give you my list of “My Top 5 Favorite Horror Film Scores of All Time.”
#5. The Saw Franchise Score
A very techno-heavy sound with some drumming in the background from beginning to end in this score. It’s also very dark and eerie at the same time. Composer Charlie Clouser has crafted a very memorable soundtrack when it comes down to the “twist” in the film. Every one of the Saw films had some sort of twist to it and when it is revealed, this soundtrack immediately starts playing. This score is also a way to finish off the conclusion of the film. As soon as you hear the intro to this soundtrack, you understand you’re near the end of this film and perhaps the end to a character you may or may not have become attached to and cared for. If there’s one criticism I have with this franchise, it’s that NO ONE seems to survive. It’s a very depressing series of films to watch and this soundtrack makes it sound all the more bleak.
#4. Dead Silence Score
Dead Silence was another film that composer Charlie Clouser has worked on. This film was also directed from the creators of Saw so it should have been no surprise to have brought Clouser back on board to write this score. I have to say that I just recently watched this film and I really enjoyed it. Was it a great horror film? Not even close. But you know what the story wasn’t bad and it had it’s share of creepy moments. I mean c’mon who’s not scared of ventriloquist dolls coming to life!? I sure as hell was!
Anyway, without me going on a rant about the actual film let me just say that the very opening credits of this film immediately caught my attention. The first sound that you hear is of an old music box playing ever so slowly. Like any regular song or soundtrack, it builds and grows louder and louder. Shortly after you hear the sounds of people groaning. Then we get to my favorite instrument and that would be the piano. It may not sound like one, but it’s clearly a keyboard playing a sort of bell melody in the background. Like the Saw soundtrack, Clouser also throws in a techno build which eventually melds everything together coupled with a few drum beats. The way the song ends is the way it began which also makes this soundtrack truly unique. It ends when the music box slowly shuts off and disappears into the darkness.
#3. Psycho Theme
Alfred Hitchcock isn’t labeled “The Master of Suspense” for no apparent reason and Psycho is no exception. This film is full of suspense and is considered one of the greatest horror films of all time and deservedly so. Bernard Hermann who also composed some of Hitchcock’s other films including Vertigo, North by Northwest, and The Birds, created this perfect blend of quick moving notes with a lot of violins and cello instruments playing in the background.
The score is composed with all stringed instruments which keeps the theme flowing. You hear this theme throughout the film including the opening credits of the movie. This soundtrack does eventually come to a screeching halt which again builds up with all the stringed instruments playing different melodies. Like others on this list, it’s genuinely creepy and definitely informs you to NEVER check into the Bates Hotel.
#2. The Exorcist Theme
This theme has and always will remain near the top of my list. While a bit repetitive, the score does have some exclusive qualities about it. For instance, there are a variety of instruments that join in on the theme. First there’s my favorite instrument the piano. Then we hear a keyboard sound of the bells playing. Then we hear a bass guitar jump in while the keyboard and the piano continue to orchestrate. Finally, we hear an electric guitar join in on the fun! And of course we can’t forget about some good ol fashioned techno sound to go along with everything else. We are then taken back as the theme started which closes out as the piano and bells play continuously. It’s a creative way to blend in all these instruments which is why I MUST have this one near the top of my list.
Before I get to my number one horror movie theme of all time I’d like to run down a few of my other favorites that just couldn’t crack my top five.
Honorable Mention: Candyman Score
Definitely NOT one of my favorite horror films of all time, Candyman however does have a good listening theme that runs throughout the film. Once again, this soundtrack begins with the piano although this time it sounds much more classical in tone than some of the other choices on this list. As the theme progresses, we hear a choir join in almost sounding as if your in a church. If you hear closely, you can also hear an organ playing in the background which amps up this theme even more. While not a great movie, this film does have a soundtrack worth listening to.
Honorable Mention: The Fog Score
What can I say about this soundtrack other than it’s got it all. As it begins we immediately hear the powerful sound of an organ playing complete with a loud crackling noise of thunder. Sounds to me like we’re inside of Dracula’s Castle only the tone changes immediately. Next we hear the piano join in and take over as the lead with yet another bell sound similar to the The Exorcist melody. Two more sound effects are added to make you feel this ghostly tone as a fog descends upon a small city off the coastline of California. This soundtrack is surely one of the creepiest on this list and was very hard to not include in my top five. However, the next one I’ll surely get some hate from because EVERYONE seems to have this one near the top of their list!
Honorable Mention: Jaws Theme
Mind you, this soundtrack was EXTREMELY difficult to keep off my list which is why I had to at least place this one in my honorable mentions. Is there really anything to be said about this famous theme? This soundtrack has not only been used in the Jaws films, but also borrowed as a parody in other films like Airplane and Caddyshack. Perhaps the most recognizable theme on this list, composer John Williams has given us quite the scare since 1975.
With so many pop culture references, the theme sticks in our mind even when we least expect it. You can’t help but at least hear the tune play somewhere in your brain as you enter in the ocean waters hoping to never encounter a creature everyone seems to fear. John Williams may have conceived this wonderful piece of music, but you can thank Steven Spielberg for directing a film which made people think twice about going to the beach that summer.
And now for my #1…
#1. Halloween Theme
This is by far the single greatest horror theme of all time (in my opinion of course). This was one of John Carpenter’s first low budget horror films and boy did it deliver. Considered to be one of the greatest horror films of all time, Halloween revolutionized what we call the slasher genre. Sure The Texas Chainsaw Massacre came a few years before it, but this was the film that defined what a slasher film truly was. Once again this soundtrack starts off with a piano tune leading the way. Shortly after we hear a synthesizer join with some REALLY creepy music. We also hear some strings from a soundboard start to play off and on. This soundtrack is what defines what a horror film is and the theme encapsulates that magic. You may not know who Michael Myers is but there’s no denying that you have heard this theme somewhere before. The Halloween theme has been a staple for many horror fans (including myself) over the years which is why I have this theme at the very top of my list.
So now that you have read and hopefully listened to the movie themes, what is your personal favorite horror movie theme? Was there any theme I left off this list that should have been on here? I’d like to hear everyone’s thoughts in the comment section below and please share!