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Top 5 Horror Film Scores

On the eve of Halloween, many will be staying inside to watch their favourite horror movie. It is the music in a horror film that sets the tone and in many cases is imperative in making a certain film scary. So rather than thinking of what film to watch, we have decided to focus on the ears, debating what film we’ll listen to. Thus, we present to you our top five favourite horror film scores of all time.

5. Beetlejuice – Danny Elfman

To call Beetlejuice a horror film may be a bit of a stretch, but I have distinct memories of Elfman’s maniacal score bringing chills when I was a child. For the most part the film is just creepy fun, but no one can argue that some of those prosthetics are terrifying. As is often the case, Elfman’s scores set the tone of Tim Burton’s films, and his score for Beetlejuice is surely among his best.

4. Suspiria – Goblin

Dario Argento commissioned prog-rock band Goblin to create the score for his masterwork, the results of which are unprecedented. The band uses a strange mix of synths, drums, and ultra eerie. This is a score that is so out there that it could just possibly be scarier than the film itself.

3. The Exorcist – Mike Oldfield

This film arguably does not belong on this list. William Friedkin’s The Exorcist does not have an original score, rather it uses different pieces of mostly classical music throughout. Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells” was released in 1973, the same year as The Exorcist, yet it was not written for the film. Friedkin acquired the piece which is now associated solely with The Exorcist, with many referring to it as “The Exorcist Theme”. Thus, Mike Oldfield earns the number three spot for his chilling contribution to the film.

2. Halloween – John Carpenter

When you are making a list of horror films, for any reason, it is almost impossible not to include John Carpenter. Carpenter not only directed some of the greatest horror films of all time, but also famously wrote their scores as well. This score is particularly important because it is debatably what makes Halloween so damn terrifying. Sure Michael Myers is ultra-sketchy, but it is the Carpenter’s score that allows him to reach his full potential as a horror villain.

1. Psycho – Bernard Herrmann

Unsurprisingly, this list ends with Bernard Herrmann. Though celebrated for his scores for films including Vertigo and Taxi Driver, Psycho is certainly his most chilling. Composed entirely of string instruments, Herrmann’s score towers over the film throughout its entirety. While the score for the infamous shower scene is most easily recognizable, it is his “Prelude” that shows off his true talent and skill as one of the greatest film composers of all time.

Matt Hoffman

Matthew Hoffman is a Toronto-based cinephile who especially enjoys French films and actresses over the age of 50; including but not limited to: Isabelle Huppert, Meryl Streep, and Jacki Weaver.