Reviews - Films

Epic Music in Horror Films

Dun dun duuuuuuun!

Today I want to talk to you about one of the most epic tools in a horror film and/or game makers tool kit. 

I am of course talking about sound design. 

Sound is essential to building tension, suspense and anxiety as well as signalling to you that you can breathe for a moment and when you should be wary. While all sound design is essential to managing this control of tension, I want to focus on Music today (though there will be a bonus video at the end of this blog re other kinds of sound). 

As I said, music is intrinsic to horror films, music invokes emotions, something movies and games use to their advantage. Music is an amazing communication tool, telling you want to think and feel without saying a word. A great way to ‘tell’ without ‘telling’. 

Composures are magicians. 

Think back to jaws as a good example, you hear that tiny clip of music, and you know to get the hell out of the water. Or the sharp violin screech in Psycho. All of these sounds resonate with us in a way that words sometimes struggle to. 

Today I want to share with you my top five favourite horror soundtracks. 

The Thing 

Composure Ennio Morricone did a fantastic job considering he didn’t seeany clips of the movie before producing his soundtrack. Though director John Carpenter also added his own touch to the soundtrack in the form of electronic instruments. Overall the two did an amazing job at building atmosphere in an iconic film. 

Halloween 

Who doesn’t know the Halloween theme? Even those who’ve never seen the film have heard this track and know Jason is on his way. It’s an iconic pice of music hat has permeated the wider culture. Again, John Carpenter shows him multi skilled chops as he not only directed the film but did the score too!

Dracula 

A man like john Williams needs no introduction, the man is an amazing talent. While he may be best know for blockbusters like star wars he also created the soundtrack for the iconic vampire lord himself. 

It Follows 

A slightly more modern example now, Rich Vreeland, also known as Disasterpeace, created a retro electronic feel for his debut. With the combination of bass-heavy synths and shrill orchestration and tranquil electronica Vreeland controls tension like a pro. 

The Exorcist 

Another classic and a piece that holds a personal place in my heart. Tubular Bells was the first song I learned to play on the piano because of this film. It made me popular in music class for a time, and I very much enjoyed teaching simple notes to my classmates. 

While Mike Oldfield created tubular bells it was not the original plan for the soundtrack of the movie. The original composure, Schifrin was dropped when his music proved to be too effective at terrifying audiences. The director Friedkin reverted to a minimalist soundtrack and popped tubular bells in not realising it would become iconic as hell. 

While this blog focused on music, I did mention that another sound design is also critical to raising, maintaining and lowering tension. 

The below video by the fantastic team at Outside X Box show this perfectly. 

2 thoughts on “Epic Music in Horror Films”

  1. Sound is key. Reminds me of a doc I watched on The Evil Dead. Sam Raimi and the rest of the filmmaking crew were very worried until Joseph LoDuca included the sound which made a film that, because of it’s extremely low budget which would have looked mostly silly without Joe’s amazing soundtrack, made the film frightening. Scary enough to get a quote by Stephen King right on the VHS cover launching the careers of Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, Ted Raimi, Joel Coen (yes Joel Coen if the Coen brothers), and Robert Tapert. And all of them have been very successful in Hollywood since. Sound is everything. Just axe George Lucas. Without John Williams and the Special Effects by Ben Burtt George Lucas seriously thought his movie career was finished.

    1. Sound really is key, I’ll have a gander about for the documentary, I do like a good filmmaking documentary, it lets you see into the rationale behind why things were crafted etc.

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