The Ten Scariest Horror Soundtracks
Derry-based DJ Dano sifts through his collection for the spookiest scores, ahead of a pre-Halloween vinyl party at the Tower Museum
On Friday, October 26, the Tower Museum in Derry transforms into The Dark Tower, an adults-only club night with a focus on the frightening. Featuring live music from BAIRIE, Aul Boy, Waldorf and Cannon and Ryan Vail, the evening finishes with a rooftop Horror Soundtrack Vinyl Party with DJ Dano, aka Daniel McGarrigle. Here, McGarrigle counts down his Top 10 horror flick theme tunes. You can also check out a specially-made mix to get you in a suitably spooky mood for the event, below.
The Dark Tower is part of The Late Shift, a series of events organised under the Museums at Night initiative which sees museums, galleries, libraries and other historical buildings across Northern Ireland stay open beyond daytime hours for special, one-off happenings. To find out more and see other events coming up click here.
10: It Follows (2014) – Disasterpeace
It Follows is a stylish throwback to the slasher films of the 1980s and I’m a big fan of the synth heavy score by Disasterpeace, aka American composer Richard Vreeland. With shades of John Carpenter’s electronic minimalism, it’s no surprise that Disasterpeace cut his teeth scoring video games before moving into film.
9: Zombi 2 (1979) – Fabio Frizzi
Zombi 2 features a fight sequence between a shark and a zombie – that’s probably all you need to know about the film itself. However, Fabio Frizzi, who composed the score, is a legend of Italian horror movies of the 1970s and 80s and the title cut from Zombi 2 is a startlingly beautiful piece of moody soundtracking. Fun fact: the relentless kick drum in the title track is actually Frizzi tapping on a microphone.
8: Maniac (2013) – Rob
Franck Khalfoun’s 2012 remake of William Lustig’s seminal slasher Maniac (1980) is notable because it’s shot entirely from the killer’s point of view – which is a good thing, because the killer is played by Elijah Wood and the less screen time given to his bulbous hobbit face, the better, in my book. For such a brutally violent film, it features a surprisingly beautiful, melodic score by Robin Coudert, originally a session musician for French indie pop merchants Phoenix.
7: Under the Skin (2013) – Mica Levi
Under the Skin isn’t a conventional horror film and this isn’t your conventional horror soundtrack either. Jonathan Glazer’s slow burning, meditative story sees an alien (played by Scarlett Johansson) prowl modern day Glasgow hunting down lonely men, while Mica levi’s unsettling score perfectly complements the film’s haunting, dreamlike imagery.
6: Suspiria (1977) – Goblin
Goblin are pretty much the godfathers (prog-fathers?) of the horror soundtrack. Working with iconic directors like George A Romero and Dario Argento, the Suspiria soundtrack remains their highpoint. I was lucky enough to catch Goblin on their first ever American tour back in 2013. It was great to see a bunch of joyful, aging Italian blokes rocking out to material they had written in the 1970s and never got to play live at the time.
5: Carrie (1976) – Pino Diaggio
The main theme from Brian de Palma’s Carrie – a bloody an adaptation of Stephen King’s stunning debut novel – is a masterpiece of dreamlike film scoring from Italian composer Pino Diaggio. The soft focus strings and plaintive piano perfectly encapsulate the yearning of Carries character and Diaggio’s handling of the climactic Prom sequence is an example of tension building at its best.
4: Psycho (1960) – Bernard Hermann
Bernard Hermann established the template for soundtracking a horror film. His masterful shower scene motif has, of course, been parodied to death over the decades but that hasn’t, in any way, dulled its urgency. It remains as potent and terrifying as ever. Full disclosure, though: the first I actually heard of this score, having not seen the film, was via Busta Rhymes’ sampled banger “Gimmie Some More” in 1998.
3: Slumber Party Massacre (1982) – Ralph Jones
Though Amy Holden Jones’ flick is, regrettably, a forgettable trashy relic, Ralph Jones’ lo fi, pulsing score is an absolute classic. Using only a toy casiotone keyboard and the rim of a wine glass, Jones creates a haunting yet playful soundscape that also happens to have a bunch of catchy motifs that are serious earworms.
2: Halloween 3 (1982) – John Carpenter and Alan Howarth
It would be easy for me to drop John Carpenter’s original Halloween score onto this list, but being the ultimate contrarian, I’m going for the soundtrack to Halloween 3. The film, directed by Tommy Lee Wallace, bombed at the box office as it ditched the original movie’s premise, but it’s a neat standalone slice of sci-fi horror nonetheless. Full of menacing dread and relentless arpeggiators, Carpenter and long-time collaborator Alan Howarth create the ultimate synth horror soundtrack.
1: Cannibal Holocaust (1980) – Riz Ortolani
My favourite horror flick score happens to come attached to my least favourite film on this list, Ruggero Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust: a thoroughly unpleasant and mean spirited video nasty that just so happens to have one of the most beautiful title themes in cinema history. Enjoy!