Ba da da Ba da da Ba da Ba da Ba da da… and on and on it goes. We all know this one.
10 .Suspiria (1977) Music: Goblin and Dario Argento Plot: A witches’ coven is discovered in a Vienna girls’ dancing school.
Respect to Dario and his merry men who named their band rather foolishly. Hey, I’m sorry, but ‘GOBLIN’??? It’s a good job that their music redeemed them from having one of the worst band names in music history. Susperia was the score that established Goblin as horror soundtrack pioneers. Argento had worked regularly with Ennio Morricone before this point, so they had follow in some rather accomplished footsteps. Argento and Goblin adopted an ‘anything goes’ sort of approach to scoring here. As with others on this list, we have the classic ‘la-la’s along with strange sonic experimentation that is undeniably unnerving and so intense. It seems that Argento was all-too aware of its fear-inducing potential, and played the music at maximum volume on the set so that he could get the desired horrified expressions from the actors. Respect.
9 .Amityville 2 : The Possession (1982) Music: Lalo Schifrin Plot: A family is doomed when they move into a very haunted house.
La la, la la, la-la-la-la-la-la-la,la. Childrens’ voices singing ‘la la la’s is a sure-fire way to feel uncomfortably close to the devil who apparently lives in a nice big house in Amityville. This prequel is a more robust piece of work than the original Amityville Horror but still provokes a frustrating reaction at times. Burt Young (AKA Paulie from the Rocky films) is brilliant as the cruel, short-tempered father of the unfortunate family who move into this diabolical residence with great windows. The highlight in this film is the scene where Sonny kills his family, all asleep in the house at night – the music Schifrin provides for this nasty scene actually makes my hair stand on end every time I see this film. It’s also an extremely well-shot scene, and his music just makes it so intensely evil. Lalo Schifrin is without doubt one of the world’s greatest soundtrack composers. Almost every film he’s provided a score for that I’ve seen, I’ve loved. Is that because he chooses wisely, or is it because his music has a transcendental effect on the film as a whole? He scored The Amityville Horror as well as this film but to my knowledge has never done another horror picture before or after. A regular Don Seigel collaborator, he scored numerous brilliant classics including Dirty Harry, Enter the Dragon, Charlie Varrick, Bullit, Mission Impossible, Cool Hand Luke – we could be here all day really. Distinctive and memorable, his music has been an indelible influence to musicians the world over. God Bless you Lalo.
8 .The Beyond (1981) Music: Fabio Frizzi Laaa la-la-la-la! Frizzi’s score for The Beyond was a touch more daring and adventurous than ZFE. Some pieces in this score are truly mesmerising and more than enhance Fulci’s mise en scene – let’s face it, he needed all the help he could get. You can leave logic and plot at the door of the cinema for this visual treat. A hotel in Louisiana built over one of the 7 doorways to Hell is swarming with zombies who appear with no explanation and they seem to be everywhere at the same time as if there’s an underground tunnel linking locations within the film. Frizzi’s score leans heavy on the dramatic side of horror and with the female voices he becomes more reminiscent of another great Italian soundtrack composer, the prolific (over 500 films & TV series!) Ennio Morricone, who was a sometime Dario Argento collaborator. Unfortunately the music in Fulci’s movies is often the best feature. Sometimes it’s the zombies…grrr.
7 .Zombie: Flesh Eaters (1979) Music: Giorgio Tucci & Fabio Frizzi Plot: A remote island, a mad doctor, nosy New Yorkers and pedigree Italian zombie gore.
During those dark, dark years when ZFE was very hard to find, my memories of seeing it as an 8 year-old were none too clear. I remembered a crab walking across the frame, that it was set on an island, and I remembered that I LOVED the music. Frizzi’s synthy-sonic meanderings for ZFE are universally loved by zombie fans. The music reminds us of the golden age of the crappy Italian Romero rip-off zombie flicks and are all pretty similar-sounding. Very basic musical structures with the occasional syncope thrown in for good measure and a purely electronic and “modern” (at the time!) backdrop make for highly palatable listening as we watch Fulci’s great zombies rise from the earth in search of human flesh on Matul Island.
6 .The Fog (1980) Music: John Carpenter & ‘electronic realization’ by Alan Howarth Plot: Small town inhabitants try to survive a vengeful Fog.
John is back. He’s been tinkling those synth keys again. And he’s made a story about a ghostly fog bringing terror to a small coastal Californian town. In JC’s earlier scores, he tended to rely more on insistent rhythms compared to the way he scored his more recent films. The Fog features another repetitive piano melody, albeit slightly more complex than the Halloween score. Again, he marries scare tactic of jumpy sound effects (which make us throw the popcorn everywhere) with the musical score, as he did in Halloween. In The Fog, the music is giving the audience background information on the characters as well as the setting – the small town of Antonio Bay, CA. His use of harpsichord, which echoes the main descending piano motif, is so effective as it hints at what happened in the PAST, which is what The Fog is all about – wrong-doings of the past catching up with us. Carpenter strikes again. See also his soundtracks for Assault on Precinct 13 and Escape from New York.
5 .Psycho (1960) Music: Bernard Hermann Motel owner dresses up as mum and kills girls he fancies. Go figure.
All the films on this list are so enhanced by the music on the soundtrack – that’s its purpose, and in most cases, just hearing a single note of the music will bring a barrage of images back into your head, like, say, a single ‘shriek’ from the Psycho shower sequence. The opening title music, while not as easily recognisable as the shower sequence music, is still pretty amazing. It’s like Bernard Herrmann getting a score and an orchestra together with one, single purpose – to make us PANIC! His dizzying, swirling strings are so characteristic of his own particular style. Interestingly, the entire score for Psycho involved only a string section – no other instruments. His style has been imitated so many times but never equalled. Recently at Zombie Club, myself and the boys watched Re-animator. I think I probably became annoying in that I couldn’t stop expressing my disbelief at how much the soundtrack was SO incredibly similar to Hermann’s Psycho score – I’ll consider it a homage, not a rip-off! Check out his soundtrack for Vertigo and North by Northwest too.
4 .The Omen (1976) Music: Jerry Goldsmith Plot: The Son of Satan is born to Gregory Peck and Lee Remick and many people die nasty deaths.
A soundtrack to give you the shivers for sure, this one. I think it’s safe to say that most people will identify Goldsmith’s score for The Omen with Beelzebub himself. Or his fictional son Damien. This film completely terrified audiences around the world upon its release with an advertising campaign declaring "Today is the SIXTH day of the SIXTH month of Nineteen-Seventy-SIX!" Goldsmith won his only Oscar for this piece of work while he was nominated for 17 other soundtracks. Its combination of diabolical chanting voices and the most pounding instrumental passages set this piece in a different league, way past and beyond anything even he had achieved before with films like Planet of the Apes, Patton, Chinatown, Logan’s Run, Alien, and over 200 (!!!!!) other films. Consummate and highly prolific, Goldsmith died of cancer this year aged 75. Jerry Goldsmith R.I.P.
3 .Dawn of the Dead (1978) Music: Goblin Plot: Second Instalment in Romero’s dead saga. It’s the one in the shopping mall.
The electronic progressive rock sounds you hear in Dawn of the Dead are provided by Goblin AKA Goblins AKA The Goblins. Claudio Simonetti and his band mates became very well-known for providing soundtracks to many Italian horror films, including Deep Red, Susperia, Contamination, etc, and it wasn’t uncommon for some music from, say, Dawn of the Dead, to be used on ultra cheap trash like Zombie Creeping Flesh AKA Virus AKA Hell of the Living Dead (AKA The HELL OF HAVING TO SIT THROUGH ‘THE HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD’!!!) The Goblin score for DOTD is a fantastic mixture of traditional 70's progressive rock fare juxtaposed with more ambient atmospheric pieces. Dario Argento, as one of the executive producers of Dawn, was responsible for Goblin’s involvement, as the band was regularly hired to score his own films. Argento’s European version of Dawn replaces much of the library music (which Romero mostly preferred) with that of Goblin, and he made sure their music was higher in the mix, giving it the prominence it probably deserves. Very disappointing it is that Romero didn’t feature Goblin’s music more heavily in Dawn... you’d think he would known better. Never mind. You gotta love him anyway…
2 .Jaws (1977) Music: John Williams Plot: Great White Shark ruins 4th July for Amity Islanders and holidaymakers while Robert Shaw out-acts everyone else.
John Williams made Jaws scary, just as John Carpenter made Halloween scary (after he decided to put some music to it!). As with Halloween, the music is 100% part of the film, almost as if it was played by an Amity Island underwater orchestra while Spielberg and his crew shot the film. This soundtrack is probably more well-known than Carpenter’s Halloween, but lets face it folks, Carpenter is a cooler guy than Spielberg, so the top spot goes to Carpenter. Please forward any complaints regarding this decision on a postcard please and address it to my ass
1 .Halloween (1978) Music: John Carpenter Plot: Masked killer terrorises suburban babysitters.
Ba da da Ba da da Ba da Ba da Ba da da… and on and on it goes. We all know this one. Every horror enthusiast should be able to play the Halloween theme on piano, even if they can't play anything else. Its the horror buff’s Chopsticks in piano lessons the world over. That’s Lord Almighty JC for you; keeping it simple with a pounding, insistent 5:4 rhythm and using more laid-back but still brooding incidental parts elsewhere in the film’s action. The ‘chase’ music is also worth a mention – a simple da da-da one-note piano motif which is layered with various percussion, gathering more and more momentum with every 8 bars or so. Halloween’s financial backers got very worried when they had a screening of the film sans score. It wasn’t scary, they said. When the icing went on the cake, it all became clear how this was meant to work. Like the film itself, this music is a piece of genius. Carpenter does his own scores because he’s “quick and cheap”. Bargain.