Happy (almost) Halloween, faithful fright fiends! My friend Christel had contacted me several weeks ago asking for suggestions of horror movie music that could possibly be used for a skit that one of the performers of her An October Evening event was planning to do. The request was for something a little unconventional rather than an obvious choice, so after brainstorming for a few minutes, I came up with what I thought were some cool, underrated horror movie themes.* The assignment got me thinking about this article I published about 2 years back where I listed out my TOP 10 horror movie themes. And while I still stand by all my selections in that piece, I thought it definitely warranted a follow-up article. So without further adieu, here’s 10 MORE horror movie themes for your Halloween!
DRAG ME TO HELL (Main Theme): One of the benefits of the falling out between director Sam Raimi and composer Danny Elfman on SPIDER-MAN 2 was that Raimi brought in composer Christopher Young for SPIDER-MAN 3. And because of that, it led to Young also scoring his follow-up film DRAG ME TO HELL. The movie is as close as we’ll ever get to an “EVIL DEAD 4” and quite frankly, that’s fine. It’s an absolute blast and full of Raimi-ism’s we’ve come to know and love from his EVIL DEAD trilogy. But the one thing that stands out for me after that kick-ass opening (that involves a child death at the hands of demons!) is the beautiful lush theme that plays over the opening credit sequence. Easily one of the coolest horror flicks of the last decade and equally one of the best scores courtesy of Christopher Young!
CANDYMAN (“It was always you, Helen”): I had almost completely forgotten that Phillip Glass was responsible for the score for CANDYMAN until I revisited the 2nd CANDYMAN movie FAREWELL TO THE FLESH last Halloween, which re-uses a lot of Glasses themes. There are multiple versions of this melody that play through out the duration of the film, but the most fully realized one is “It was always you, Helen”. It’s quite beautiful, wouldn’t you agree? Just remember not to say (or write) CANDYM… errr… his name 5 times.
TALES FROM THE CRYPT: This was the first Halloween that I was able to complete my TALES FROM THE CRYPT DVD collection! I am now the proud owner of all 7 seasons (yes, even that bizarre all British final season) and ironically enough, they’re all also airing on FEARnet now for those lucky enough to get the network via your local cable provider. I haven’t seen the episodes in years, but it’s been a complete joy to revisit them all this October. Part of the fun is seeing the barrage of talent involved in the series. It’s fun watching the names of each episodes guest stars, along with the writer and director of each. But more importantly, nothing sets the tone just right than Danny Elfman’s wonderful opening sequence theme music! Enjoy it, boils and ghouls!
POLTERGEIST Theme: I enjoy Tobe Hooper’s POLTERGEIST just as much as the next horror fan, but I can assure you that ICONS co-creator Mike C trumps us all and is absolutely the biggest fan of this movie! He watches and celebrates it often and all year round. So I thought I’d share this beautiful (yet kinda creepy?) theme for Carol Ann by Jerry Goldsmith on his behalf.
DAY OF THE DEAD “The Dead Suite”: Man oh man, do I love John Harrison’s score for George Romero’s DAY OF THE DEAD! It’s my favorite film of Romero’s original “living dead” trilogy, but above all, this music has always stood out for me, especially during the opening scene where the survivors are looking for signs of life in the empty streets and hoards of the undead start surfacing. “Helllllooooo, is any one there? Hellllooooo!” Harrison also composed the music for Romero’s CREEPSHOW, but later went on to direct TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE: THE MOVIE (the unofficial CREEPSHOW 3) and Clive Barker’s BOOKS OF BLOOD!
PSYCHO III “Maureen In The Desert”: Of all the horror franchises, I think it’s amazing that each of the PSYCHO movies has had an incredible composer for each film, all completely different yet unique in their themes for Norman Bates. The first one obviously had the unbeatable & memorable score by Bernard Herrmann; music that has become synonymous with the film to the point where you just can’t separate the two. How do you top that for a sequel? You don’t. You instead get Jerry Goldsmith, a legend in his own right to create his own themes for PSYCHO II. And then when Perkins was at the helm for PSYCHO III, he tapped a young composer named Carter Burwell whom had just done one of Perkins favorite movies BLOOD SIMPLE (the Coen Brothers!) to create completely new melancholia themes. And the main one titled “Maureen In The Desert” is probably my favorite of all the Norman Bates themes. Listen closely during PSYCHO III and you’ll even hear Norman himself playing this theme on the piano!
MANIAC theme: William Lustig’s debut feature film is one of the most notorious of the crop of early 80’s “slasher” flicks, but one thing that sets it apart from all the copycat films is the haunting score by Jay Chattaway. It plays like a slightly out of tune lullaby, yet perfectly encapsulates the conflicted character of Frank Zito as played by Joe Spinell. Chattaway encored his composing duties with Lustig several more times including on films such as RELENTLESS and MANIAC COP (another great theme, by the way), but it’s his score for MANIAC that remains a fan favorite; so much so that Anchor Bay once issued a limited edition tin case of MANIAC that came with a bonus CD of Chattaway’s score shaped in the head of Joe Spinell! Now that’s creepy!
FREDDY’S NIGHTMARES: In our first article for our top horror movie themes, we selected Charles Bernstein’s theme for A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. Well, for this one, I thought I’d go with the theme/opening credits song for FREDDY’S NIGHTMARES: A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET THE SERIES by Nicholas Pike. In retrospect, the series isn’t all that scary. In fact, it’s quite low-fi and somewhat cheesy, but back when I was a kid, these would air at around midnight and I remember being completely on edge and freaked out the moment I heard this music start!
THE FOG: Arguably, nothing can top John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN theme as the definitive Halloween music, but one of Carpenter’s other scores comes pretty darned close. His theme for THE FOG, which bares a striking resemblance to his Halloween theme is one of his most underrated works, both the music and the film itself! When the fog rolls in and if you see the reflection of the vengeful ghosts with their glowing eyes, you’d better hope you don’t hear this theme coming your way too!
TRICK ‘R TREAT: Last but certainly not least, if HALLOWEEN is the definitive Halloween movie, well then Michael Dougherty’s TRICK ‘R TREAT is the only contender to ever come close to it and at the very least is worthy of standing side by side with it as a modern classic! So Douglas Pipes opening theme music during the credit sequence takes our top prize as our best Halloween theme for 2012! Check it out, fright fiends!
DARK CITY “Sleep Now”: As with the previous article, I had to include an honorable mention here. While Alex Proyas’ DARK CITY is more science-fiction rather than horror, I’ll never forget seeing this trailer in theaters back in 1998. This trailer and the accompanying music are what got me to see the flick 4 times theatrically. The music? Courtesy of Hughes Hall.
What do you think of some of these music selections? How ’bout the ones from our original article? Did we miss any? Sign off below and let us know some of your favorite horror movies themes!
*If you’re curious which theme Christel picked out for her performer, it was Christopher Young’s DRAG ME TO HELL theme!