Who can imagine horror movies without sudden, sharp clangs and eerie sounds? Music is an integral part of creating a sense of fear, tension, and suspense in horror movies. We can even say that it’s impossible to achieve the goal of horror movies, which is to scare people, without properly chosen sound effects.
The composers who create music for horror movies usually aim to make people feel uneasy and on edge. Wondering what kind of music we’re talking about exactly? Let’s reveal 5 of the scariest horror movie soundtracks that can actually impact your consciousness long after hearing them.
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Haunted Movie Soundtracks
1. ‘The Shining’ — Wendy Carlos
The Shining is familiar and one of the most highly appreciated movies for horror movie enthusiasts and not only. While it’s hard to resist Stanley Kubrick’s directing talent and Jack Nicholson’s acting skills, people rarely realize that music created by composer Wendy Carlos could be the main reason why they felt such intense dread and unease.
Talented composers like Carlos know the importance of sound effects, like futuristic voices, fast heartbeats, laughter, or a baby’s cry. Let’s admit it: that’s exactly what makes specific scenes of horror movies like ‘The Shining’ unforgettable. But unlike authors of horror classics who had to create eerie sounds all by themselves, today a wide range of sound effects are available for anyone who wants to get this chilling effect in their own horror projects.
2. Rosemary’s Baby — Krzysztof Komeda
A few seconds of Krzysztof Komeda’s soundtrack for ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ is enough to feel the role of music in creating deep tension. Komeda is a Polish composer and jazz pianist and therefore, the music features some jazz elements that create dream-like sensations. Interestingly, the soundtrack features the voice of lead actress Mia Farrow, who plays Rosemary.
Komeda’s composition is a lullaby that can evoke a sense of innocence, which contrasts with the movie’s dark themes. Even if you haven’t watched the movie, just listen to its main theme and we’re sure you’ll soon agree that ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ features some of the best horror soundtracks in the genre.
3. The Exorcist — Mike Oldfield
The mix of The Exorcist’s frightening scenes and Mike Oldfield’s iconic composition “Tubular Bells” almost always manages to create a haunting viewing experience. This masterpiece was created in 1973 and quickly became a hit album after the premiere of the movie. Even though the musical score was composed by Mike Oldfield, we shouldn’t forget the contribution of the director, William Friedkin, who took a long time to adapt the soundtrack and curate it to his preference.
The power of this soundtrack remains in the audience’s head even after the movie ends. And that’s exactly what the director aimed for — to leave a lasting impact on the viewer and maintain disturbing scenes of “The Exorcist” in their minds forever.
4. Psycho — Bernard Herrmann
‘Psycho’ is a true masterpiece in the genre of horror and not surprisingly, the movie’s soundtrack plays an important role in its long-lasting impact. The soundtrack of ‘Psycho’ is composed by Bernard Herrmann. It turns out that his skills align perfectly with Alfred Hitchcock’s needs because ‘Psycho’ isn’t the only movie they’ve collaborated on. Other than this, Herrmann has written music for 7 Hitchcock films, including Vertigo, North by Northwest, and The Birds.
Hermmann’s music is minimalist but still so powerful that he takes suspense and terror to new heights. We can even say that the soundtrack of ‘Psycho’ is considered the foundation of thriller and horror soundtracks. The best track from the movie, “The Murder”, easily manages to evoke fear, suspense, and a sense of terror. That’s how this music has left an indelible mark on the film industry.
5. A Nightmare On Elm Street — Charles Bernstein
And the final chilling score is featured in the classic horror movie ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ directed by Wes Craven. The main theme of this music is composed by American composer Charles Bernstein, who has been nominated for a Primetime Emmy two times for his impactful music. In contrast to most horror movie soundtracks, his music in ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ leads to a strange chilling sense.
The reason is that his melodies sound like lullabies but they feature dissonant harmonies, which is sometimes enough to trigger disturbing nightmares. In either case, it’s obvious that Bernstein has inspired numerous composers to create something as haunting and memorable as his music.
In the end, we should point out that these 5 soundtracks from horror movies are just a few of the many eerie pieces that have influenced the viewer’s emotions and sometimes even shaped the success of the movies. As you can see, what makes horror music so impactful is definitely its ability to connect to our primal fears and create an atmosphere of anticipation. That’s why it’s hard to imagine horror movies without eerie sound effects that create spine-chilling experiences.
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