Spook yourself out this Halloween with these iconic horror film soundtracks...
Friday the 13th
The mother of all horror movie soundtracks, Friday the 13th is always guaranteed to haunt you for days with its creepy whispers. The chilling sounds of the repetitive “ki ki ki, ma ma ma” come from “Kill her mommy” which composer Harry Manfredini spoke "harshly, distinctly and rhythmically" into a microphone and then ran them into an echo reverberation machine. The sound became synonymous with the movie's killer Jason Voorhees’ menacing presence and got spoofed and referenced in numerous films and TV shows.
Interview with a Vampire
This classical-heavy soundtrack is the perfect accompaniment to this iconic vampire movie, ably weaving a chilly, gothic atmosphere and building emotional intrigue. It opens with the arresting “Libera Me”—a Roman Catholic chant sung as part of a service of prayers for the dead, performed beside the coffin before burial. The song was slightly altered for the film to reflect Louis’ (Brad Pitt) dramatic predicament, and so the opening line, "Libera me, Domine, de morte æterna" ("Save me, Lord, from eternal death") was changed to "Libera me, Domine, de vita æterna" ("Save me, Lord, from eternal life").
No horror movie soundtrack list is complete without John Carpenter’s masterpiece, of course. The story behind its creation (which took Carpenter a breezy three days) is an interesting one—especially its odd 5/4 signature. Icy, worrying and insistent, the piano melody is in fact based on a beat that Carpenter would play on bongos. The result was the urgent energy of a drumbeat executed via heavy minor-key synth chords. Anxiety guaranteed!
The creepy, supernatural-sounding score for the giallo classic was written by an Italian band called Goblin. It pays homage to the orchestral music of Psycho and the bizarre vocal effects from The Exorcist, but it also marks one of the first appearances of synthesizers on horror movie scores. In 2018, Goblin’s Claudio Simonetti went on a Suspiria tour to coincide with the film’s remake and performed the entire soundtrack with a live screening of the original film.
I Saw the Devil
The soundtrack to this brutal Korean horror is a disturbingly quiet one. It gradually builds urgency and intensity with clever usage of dissonance and an increasingly speeding rhythm section. It’s also notable for its sophistication and eclectic sensibility, throwing everything from elements of tango to contemporary classical music into the mix. The music is mournful and sad, perfectly reflecting the main character’s grief when he finds out his fiance has been brutally murdered. Juxtaposed with the bloody atrocities happening on screen, it is one incredibly unnerving soundtrack.
There’s nothing not to love about this Japanese cult classic that spawned numerous remakes and spin-offs. Including the soundtrack. Reminiscent of horror master John Carpenter’s (see: Halloween) soundtracks, it’s minimal, spine-tingling and incredibly cinematic. While the score is mostly quite delicate (some parts could easily be played as background to a relaxing massage at the spa), it’s nevertheless very powerful and firm, perfectly capturing the isolation and anger that grew within the little girl after she was put in a well by her father. Brrr.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
The heaviest and quite possibly the most brilliant entry on our list has got to be the gritty Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Mostly because it’s so much more than just a soundtrack—it’s a spooky, masterfully crafted soundscape mixing music with sound effects and various diegetic sound elements from the film. Wayne Bell, the composer, said, “Both Tobe [the director] and I loved that boundary between music and sound. That wonderful mushy grey area between "is it music?" or "is it just sound?" is an area we loved playing in.” The soundtrack was also a huge influence on bands like Wolf Eyes and Animal Collective.
Keep up with the top stories from Reader's Digest by subscribing to our weekly newsletter