The Ten Best Horror Movie Soundtracks

Categories: Halloween


7. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Composers: Tobe Hooper and Wayne Bell

With the film on a shoestring budget, director Tobe Hooper decided it would be necessary to do The Texas Chainsaw Massacre score in house. Alongside musical aide Wayne Bell, Hooper chose to eschew traditional score components - such as themes, melodies, and, hell, anything resembling a song - in favor of a highly textured, non-musical patchwork of sound. What resulted was a disorienting mélange of improvisational clamor, analog tape effects, found sounds, and, yes, chainsaw growls. This near-tangible collection of "music" is every bit as gritty and stomach churning as the grotesque visuals they were meant to accompany on screen. Even when divorced from the context of the movie, the soundtrack is alarmingly effective, imparting a sickening feeling of claustrophobia, a sensation hinged on the score's macabre juxtaposition of industrial noise and organic sounds.

6. Lizard In a Woman's Skin
Composer: Ennio Morricone

Forgoing the typical synth-heavy horror score palette, here, Morricone chose an avant garde bent, a sound equally informed by modern classical and world music influences. Sounding at times not unlike Miles Davis' fusion opus On the Corner, The Lizard in a Woman's Skin score is a serpentine collage of droning high-pitched strings, nature chatter, grooved percussions, unnerving whistles, and the haunting vocals of regular Morricone collaborator Edda Dell' Orso. Shrill tonal shrieks and odd instrumental selections are buttressed by remarkably beautiful respites--often delivered in the form of emotionally hefty piano laments.


5. Eraserhead
Composer: David Lynch and Alan Splet

These aren't notes composed for film. This is un-music. An ambient mishmash of sound effects and sampled organ (Fats Waller) meant to enhance a surreal, ineffably dark narrative. Marked by a black-noise of sooty textures and crunchy sound-design, Lynch's and Splet's Eraserhead score conjures images of an industry-damaged wasteland--the groaning echoes and low-end whirls of a world chewing itself apart. An imaginative use of oddly chosen tools, including things such as glass tubing and engine parts, allowed the two masterminds to build one of the most esoterically rarified soundscapes in music history. It all culminates with the unsettling "In Heaven," the most crystalline example of David Lynch's nightmarish romanticism.


4. Psycho
Composer: Bernard Herrmann

Blood-curdling timing and screeching violins, these two things changed film music forever. Against Hitchcock's wishes, Bernard Herrmann scored what was to be a silent scene: Psycho's shower murder. After Hermann's bold move, soundtrack music was no longer seen, primarily, as a background feature to film, but rather as an integral component, fully capable of carrying dramatic burden and delivering additional emotional depth. Mere wallpaper music no more, film music was not so subtly catapulted into infamy with Herrmann's effectively monochromatic string-only Pyscho score. In one foul swoop, Hermann's composition helped make showers everywhere the most frightening places on earth. Hell, if it weren't for those horrid, bird-like screams striping every knife-slash, I would've endured infinitely less shampoo-burnt eyes in my lifetime.


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