[Written By: Liam Valentine]

More so than most genres, music is intrinsic to horror; almost becoming a character of its own right. These soundtracks have become so ingrained into pop culture that they are easily recognised, even by those that are not familiar with the accompanying movie. This month I want to talk about some of my own personal favourite horror soundtracks, so if your favourite didn’t make it on here…cry about it somewhere else (yes, I’m talking to you Hitchcock fans!

Candyman (Philip Glass; 1992)

From the moment the opening credits start, we are treated to the chilling delights of Philip Glass’s phenomenal score. The dizzying scares of this modern gothic is accompanied by a score that utilises chorus, piano and pipe organ to truly elevate the horror – both human and otherworldly. From the iconic Helen’s Theme to the bone-chilling Cabrini Green theme, Glass creates an uneasy hypnosis by switching between major and minor keys. The religious quality of the music further posits the status of the Candyman figure being a dark deity to the residents of Cabrini Green and the semi-romanticism of the music mirrors Helen’s own allure to the titular character himself. Glass would go on to create more music for the film’s sequel and elements of his 1992 score would appear in the 2021 ‘requel’.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer (Cristophe Beck; 1998 – 2001)

Buffy The Vampire Slayer remains one of the greatest tv shows ever made. Full of horror, heart and humour and accompanied by a beautiful soundtrack, particularly while main composer Christophe Beck was part of the show. Beck took the phenomenal performances on screen and elevated it with sweeping, beautiful music that really hammered the emotional stakes in the audience’s hearts. In the series finale of season 5 (The Gift), as Buffy’s emotional monologue is partnered by Becks stunning swansong ‘Sacrifice’. We as the audience cannot help but bawl our eyes out as Buffy delivers the iconic line “The hardest thing in this world is to live in it.”, as a beautiful piano ballad is playing. Similarly, when Buffy is awarded the class protector award in series 3 episode 20, Beck composed a hauntingly beautiful piece of music as we realise that the teen body of Summerdale High knows that they have somebody fighting for them against the forces of darkness. In the same season, Beck shows off his ability to induce complete terror through the score of episode 9 ‘The Wish’, invoking the atmospheric dread of classic horror scores with a contemporary, industrial twist. Cristophe Beck is also responsible for the incredible music in the season 6 musical episode ‘Once More with Feeling’ – a collaboration between himself and he-who-shall-not-be-named, creating one of the most iconic episodes of television to ever exist.

The Shining (Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind; 1980)

It’s no secret that I am no fan of Kubrick but it The Shining undeniably has some of the most brilliant and effective uses of music in cinema history, no thanks to the genius of Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind. The film does feature a lot of pre-existent music but it is the original tracks that truly uplift the terror of the movie (and the terror of working with Kubrick); The swooping, hair-raising synths of the main theme is a disorienting masterpiece that perfectly sets the tone from the outset. Interestingly, a full soundtrack was composed and created by Carlos before Kubrick had even finished a first draft of the movie. Carlos was inspired by the Stephen King novel and then presented this to Kubrick but unfortunately, it went mainly unused. You can find this unused score preserved on the internet and it is sublime work. Truly atmospheric and haunting, I personally like to have it playing while writing as it is the perfect accompaniment when trying to conjure up some scares.

Annihilation (Geoff Barrow & Ben Salisbury; 2018)

Hauntingly mesmerising, Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury created aural dread with their score to the underrated 2018 sci-fi horror, Annihilation. Barrow lends the dark, revolutionary sound from Portishead and married it to the cinematic highs of Salisbury’s work to create a intense soundtrack that blends acoustic guitar to thrumming industrial sounds, culminating in one of the most intense soundtracks in modern cinema. Highlights include the hair-raising tracks ‘The Alligator’ and ‘The Bear’ and the (now iconic) ‘The Alien’. As the movie’s thematic tale of the corruption of form progresses, as does the accompanying soundtrack which culminates in an alien ferocity that perfectly captures the complete desolation of the finale. Both the movie and the soundtrack has kept me inspired as a writer; I highly recommend whacking this on when you are at a creative stalemate.

Us (Michael Abels; 2019)

After the success of the incredible Get Out, Jordan Peele teamed up once again with composer Michael Abels to create one of the greatest horror soundtracks in recorded history. Horror movies have notoriously been snubbed at big award shows and this movie is no exception; deserving of awards for both its performances and score. Incorporating classic horror violins, hip-hop inspired beats and haunting choral voices, Abels created an instant classic that perfectly captured the twisted world shown on screen. The stand-out track ‘Pas de Deaux’ is a dark twist on Luniz’s ‘I Got 5 On It’, creating a sinister, sharp tune that builds into a jarring crescendo and quickly went viral when first appearing in the trailer. The use of chorus in the score really drives home the dark humanity at the heart of Us with Abels using children for the track ‘Anthem’, highlighting the notion of innocence and morality which the movie constantly questions.

Elisabeth Lutyens (1906-1983)

Affectionately dubbed the “horror queen”, Elisabeth Lutyens’ scored numerous horror movies for both Hammer and, their rivals, Amicus Productions and was the first British female composer to score a feature film. Her legendary library of work includes Dr Terrors House of Horror, The Terrornauts and Theatre of Death. She had an awe-inspiring talent for capturing fear and her work was tantamount to the success of the movies that she scored. A pioneer in the world of cinema, and often one of the unsung heroes; she was a true trailblazer.

That’s your lot! Thanks for checking out this month entry and as always – until next time, keep it creepy!

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