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Posted on: March 10th, 2015 by Lewis Mindenhall No Comments

20 Killer soundtracks

By Lewis Mindenhall




Music and Cinema fit perfectly together, but other than in musicals none more so than in a horror, thriller or a suspense film. Music that accompanies a horror film is an integral element that is  just as important as the cinematography. So we have decided to round up a few of the best horror soundtracks on planet Earth for you to enjoy with your cup of cocoa, preferably late at night?. As well as some of the more obvious ones to choose from we have also decided to find some other beauties that are a bit more obscure and less well known for you to enjoy. We want to mix the list up to include a variety of different composers and film directors so we made the conscious decision not to have more than 2 films or scores on the list by the same person. So if we might of missed a great soundtrack off the list then it’s just because we want to showcase different artists.

So if you like haunting vocals, moody tones, dark ambience  and eerie synths? then turn off the lights, sit back and let the music tear your soul apart. Mwahahahaha!!.

20. Libre. Shock aka Beyond the door 2 (1977).

Mario Bava’s last film is a supernatural one and although not regarded as one of Bava’s best films the score is a real gem from Italian prog rock band Libre. With connections to the band Goblin through occasional Goblin keyboardist Mazurizio Guarini and percussionist Walter Martino.

19. Richard Einhorn. Shock Waves (1977).

For lovers of B-movies, Shock Waves (directed by Ken Wiederhorn) is a classic. Full of Nazis, Zombies and plenty of blood and gore. The Shock waves score is mostly electronic with long drawn out chords and with water drenched sound effects throughout the composition that build into dark electronic chords punctuated by howls of synthesizer sounds which sound mysteriously sinister. Einhorn went on to compose the music score for the early 80’s slasher films Eyes of a stranger (also directed by Wiederhorn) and The prowler (1981).

18. Fred Myrow and Malcolm Seagrave. Phantasm (1979).

Don Coscarelli’s classic horror film Phantasm has spawned a huge cult following over the years and the soundtrack is regarded as a must for soundtrack collectors and enthusiasts. What the film lacked in budget was made up with a splendid soundtrack score heavily influenced by the great Prog rockers Goblin , John Carpenter and a clear nod to Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bell’s.  Myrow had previously worked on horror soundtracks like Soylent Green and Reflection of Fear before teaming up with college friend Seagrave who then went on to compose Operas.

 17. Claudio Gizzi. Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein aka Flesh for Frankenstein (1973).

Claudio Gizzi was a classically trained pianist who started scoring film soundtracks after meeting Luchino Visconti when filming Death in Venice about the life of composer Gustav Mahler. Visconti hired Gizzi for his next film Ludwig and was asked to transcribe Wagner’s Tannhauser for carillon. After this Gizzi met Roman Polanski who asked him to arrange music of Mozart and Shubert. It was Polanski who introduced Gizzi to Andy Warhol and Paul Morrissey when they were in Rome filming Warhol’s versions of Frankenstein and Dracula. In these two films director Morrisey wanted a strong contrast between the humor of the scenes with the dramatic and romantic music score.

16. Riz Ortolani. Cannibal Holocaust (1980).

This cannibal shocker from director Ruggero Deodato achieved notoriety for it’s portrayal of graphic violence, brutality and images of genuine animal slaughter, which subsequently led to Deodato’s arrest for making a real snuff film. He was later cleared after everything came to light that no one was actually killed or harmed in the making of the film. The soundtrack was composed by Italian composer Riz Ortolani mainly because of his previous work for the “shockumentary” Mondo Cane in 1962.

Yet apart from the harshness of the films subject matter, Ortolani manages to somehow create an aesthetically pleasing and fascinating score which juxtaposed next to the horrific elements gives off a false sense of security and a feeling of dread. It’s a remarkable truth that some of the most effective music of the genre is also beautiful to listen to as well.

15. Ennio Morricone. A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin (1971).

Mixing post-sixties funk/jazz and the ethereal vocals by regular collaborater Edda dell’Orso to uncomfortable and haunting sounds provide a beautiful backdrop to director Lucio Fulci’s psychedelic giallo A Lizard in a Woman’s skin, which blurs the line between dreams and reality. The score complements the strange mood created by Fulci’s innovative camerawork perfectly to create a unique experience. Sex, Drugs, Murder and Ennio Morricone, what more do you want in a soundtrack?.

14. Acanthus. The Shiver of the Vampires (1971)

This richly atmospeheric entry from gallic erotic vampire afficionado film maker Jean Rollin is stylishly sexy, surreal and often quite humorous. And with a freaky pop/jazz soundtrack by the hard-hitting prog rock band Acanthus thrown into the mix, It’s a beautiful soundtrack that deserves a place in any Eurocult enthusiasts music collection. Organs, flutes, bongo drums and occassional Black Sabbath inspired riffs interspersed with creepy sound effects make this score a crucial aspect to the film.

13. Mica Levi. Under The Skin (2013).

This critically acclaimed soundtrack by indie band Micachu and the Shapes frontwoman Mica Levi has been compared by critics to the work of avant-garde composers Krysztof Penderecki and Gyorgi Ligeti and their collaborations with filmmaker Stanley Kubrick. The process for writing the score was improvised as director Jonathan Glazer wanted the film to happen in real time and led narratively by Scarlett Johansson’s character. Levi explains  that “It was important that you weren’t reflecting on the past or looking to the future; you’re experiencing the plot as the character does”. The music is an expression of the characters feeling as she is going through her story.


 12. Goblin. Profondo Rosso aka Deep Red (1975).

After failing to get Pink Floyd to write the score for Profondo Rosso and unhappy with jazz pianist and composer Giorgio Gaslini’s efforts, director Dario Argento turned to Italian band Goblin to provide most of the soundtrack. It is an ambitious affair that blends jazz, prog rock and heavy metal into an effective and distinctive style that builds tension between quite intricate riffs to surging gothic sounding organs. Profondo Rosso was the beginning of a long association for the band with many great soundtracks to follow.

11. Fabio Frizzi The Beyond (1981).

For decades the films of Lucio Fulci have often been celebrated as horror classics. Italy has also produced a long list of brilliant film composers throughout the years, and one of the most respected in the horror genre is Fabio Frizzi. Using orchestras with full choruses gives an epic grandeur to the small scale production of the film. I could of easily chose Frizzi’s soundtrack For Zombi 2 or City of the Living Dead but considering that The Beyond is one of Lucio Fulci’s greatest films in the horror genre and not just another typical bloody zombie flick, it is therefore my choice for favourite Fabio Frizzi soundtrack to add to the list.

10. Bernard Herrmann. Vertigo (1958).

Since his death in 1975, Bernard Herrmann has emerged as one of the most important and widely studied composers of film music history, over four decades he revolutionized movie scoring by abandoning the illustrative musical techniques that dominated Hollywood in the 30’s and by imposing his own peculiar harmonic and rhythmic vocabulary managed to create a new experimental and original soundtrack. Herrmann’s collaborations with Alfred Hitchcock has attracted special interest, the pair managed to work on 9 films altogether before falling out over Torn Curtain in 1966 put an end to their partnership. But more so than in any other film by Hitchcock, Vertigo is considered by many critics and by Herrmann himself to be the finest film score. The film centers on the link between death and desire.  Longing and fear are interwoven together. Herrmann only received one oscar in his career  for The Devil in 1941 and wasn’t even nominated for Vertigo

9. David Lynch, Alan Splet,  Fats Waller and Peter Ivers. Eraserhead (1977).

David Lynch’s first feature film Eraserhead is a cult classic in the American underground culture of arthouse cinema. The stark, dusty black and white images of the film are beautifully submerged with dense industrial hums, fierce static and screams which perfectly captures the desolation and urban decay of the subject matter . Peter Ivers classic In Heaven (sung by the Lady in the Radiator Laurel Near) and Fats Waller’s organ rolls echoing in the background and featuring throughout the recording is Alan Splet’s sound design.

8. Various Artists. The Return of the Living Dead (1985).

You can’t go wrong here, a gloriously trashy and over the top mix of old-school Punk, with a slash of Psychobilly added to some Synth-pop to create a great soundtrack to accompany writer and director Dan O’Bannons tearing up the rulebook unique and hilarious take on the zombie genre. The 80’s was such a fantastic time to grow up on horror flicks and ROTLD is a film that you can watch many times and always enjoy the sheer audacity of O’Bannons abandonment of the Romero rules and code associated with zombies films. The most interesting thing about the movie apart from the dexterity and coherance of the zombies are the splendid performances of senior actors Clu Galager (Burt), James Karen (Frank) and Don Calfa (Ernie), never before have such strait laced and serious performances met with such hilarious consequences. And apart from the great acting we also get a rollocking soundtrack with the likes of The Cramps , 45 Grave and The Damned all on one glorious album. But for me the piece de resistance of the whole album is Francis Haines’s brilliant Trioxin Theme Afterwards you might just want to party hard and eat some spicy BRAINS!!!.

8. Howard Shore. Videodrome (1983).

The man behind almost all of David Cronenberg’s film scores. A genuinely creepy album that perfectly encapsulates the films feeling of anxiety, obsession and dreams through it’s subtle use and blend of small string ensembles with synthesized orchestrations. The film and score also questions our perception of what’s real or artificial?.  With it’s strong message about technology (especially t.v) and our fascination with violence and obsession with sex,  Videodrome is a dark and twisted parable thats even more relevant today and can be seen as a critique on modern society that remains one of Shore’s creepiest and atmospheric scores to date.

7. Tangerine Dream . The Keep (1983).

The second collaboration for director Michael Mann and German group (and founding pioneers of electronic music) Tangerine Dream suffered many legal issues during the years, from all kinds of delays and copywrite reasons that still no official soundtrack album has ever been released. Tangerine Dream did release something called an “official soundtrack” back in 1997 which actually contained  hardly any of the music heard in the film. Although there have been numerous bootleg versions floating about it wasn’t until a 2013 30th anniversary restoration project when the complete recordings of the album became available.Through the expressive possibilities of it’s synthesized sounds, Tangerine Dream manages to find new ways of heightening the tension on screen and create  a rhythmic ambient trance

6. John Murphy (composer) and Various Artists. 28 Days Later (2002) and 28 Weeks Later (2007).

This strangely reflective zombie flick from director Danny Boyle and screen writer Alex Garland has a fittingly eerie and volatile score that beautifully captures the desolate paranoia of a post-apocalyptic and desolate London.The original score was composed by John Murphy who uses anything from dark ambient passages to shrill anthemic blasts of guitar which are sampled and used throughout the score to create a theme to the soundtrack. With further tracks from alternative bands Grandaddy and Blue States to provide a nice contrast to Murphy’s numbers.  Brian Eno also contributes to the album and manages to blend an  appropriately haunting and ambient minamalistic tone to create an idyllic sense of calmness. 28 Weeks Later is an accompanying soundtrack to the first film and resembles the same atmosphere and musical experience, especially because of the repetitive use of the main theme song “In a Heartbeat” so therefore goes on the list too.

5. Ennio Morricone. The Thing (1982)

The soundtrack is notable for being one of Ennio Morricone’s earliest electronic scores and is arguably director John Carpenters finest film. Carpenters own scores worked wonders in the past with the repetitious minimalistic Halloween soundtrack that brilliantly mimicked the relentless nature of the killer, but seeking a more ‘European’ sound made an unexpected decision to hire the celebrated Italian maestro Morricone .  The Thing is one of the most claustrophobic horror movies ever made.  A dark, heartbeat pulse throughout the soundtrack gives it a particular tension and foreboding

4. Jerry Goldsmith. The Omen (1976).

This oscar winning score from Jerry Goldsmith and the National Philharmonic Orchestra is considered by many to be the ultimate horror soundtrack. The use of choral voices and religious themes is so powerful throughout the soundtrack. Goldsmith’s gripping musical depiction of darkness and evil is a big part of what made The Omen such a success.

3. Various Artists. The Shining (1980).

Of all the aspects of filmmaking that Stanley Kubrick had mastery over, the one which he was always deeply involved in was the music. Very little of the score Kubrick commissioned Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind to compose for The Shining made it into the final cut.  The music used throughout the film is the third movement from Bela Bartok’s Music for strings, percussion and Celestra. But the most prominent use of music in the film can be found in early 20th century avant-garde composers Krzystof Penderecki and Gyorgy Ligeti.

The Shining also utilizes the power of silence a great deal to create the atmosphere of the desolate hotel, the score is perfect in adding to the overwhelming feeling of malevolent isolation and impending disaster.


2. Vangelis. Blade Runner (1982).

The soundtrack to Blade Runner is regarded as a historically important piece in the genre of electronic music. The soundtrack wasn’t officially released until a decade after the film in 1994 but is considered a masterpiece of cinema scoring by Greek composer Vangelis. Fresh from his oscar winning soundtrack to Chariots of fire in 1981, Vangelis’s collaboration with director Ridley Scott’s “future noir” classic Blade Runner is pure gold. Vangelis manages to create haunting soundscapes, drawing inspiration mainly from middle eastern textures and neo-classical structures to sumptuously sultry saxophone driven  sounds which perfectly matches the films bleak, dystopian and neon glazed vision of a future devoid of human emotion. Enjoy!.

1. Goblin. Susperia (1977).

Throughout the 70’s Dario Argento made a string of excellent films that helped cement him and Italy’s place on the horror map. But it was with Argento’s seminal film Susperia in 1977 that deserves its place as one of the most influential movies ever in the genre. It is a stylish and hallucinatory experience of colour, sound and atmosphere, a twisted fairytale which is a mind bending nightmare ride in the realm of the supernatural  and  Susperia manages to go above and beyond the normal thought process that a film of it’s kind would typically do. Argento manages to create a moving canvas on which one beautiful image after the other is displayed in glorious colour. The central element that brings everything together though is the music provided by Italian prog rock band Goblin.  The band is driven by keyboardist Claudio Simonetti who cleverly crafts a more overall symphonic mood to the score. Goblin went far beyond traditional background scoring to create a soundtrack that is an integral part of the film.  and has a wonderful and obsessive soundtrack that adds to the films overall imagery.