Unlike many other genres of film, horror movie soundtracks play as important a role to the storytelling as the dialogue. The music tells you when to watch out for the killer, or when some is RIGHT BEHIND YOU! Many composers have made many different horror scores, but synthesizer music has helped change and shape the genre. The best horror synth scores either create something completely new, or they turn the conventions of film music on its head. Obviously, John Carpenter’s influence weighs heavy in the world of synthesizer-based horror music, but he doesn't stand alone.Many composers have spent years honing their craft to perfect creepy moments in film.
Film scores like those of Halloween, and Suspiria have gone on to have a life outside of the films that gave them birth, but they’re never better than when you’re hearing them pumped through the speakers of your local theater as a waft of fake fog blows across the screen and a terrified young woman brandishes a machete in the middle of an empty street. The scores listed here aren't just “the best.” They’ve managed to transcend the realm of non-diagetic music and effect the culture in terrifying ways.
What are some of your favorite synth based horror film scores? Did we miss out on something that you believe truly defines the genre? If so, tell us about it in the comments.
No matter what you think about It Follows, the breakout indie horror hit of 2014, the immersive and genuinely frightening score by Disasterpiece is one of the coolest pieces of music set to film in a decade. It's one of the rare scores that works just as well in the theater as it does on a long overnight drive.
While a lot of horror films and their scores allow a haunting minimalism to creep out the audience, A Nightmare on Elm Street and its composer, Charles Bernstein, threw everything at the wall and made all of it stick. The breathy synths of the main theme are only a precursor to the heavy digital orchestral stabs lifted straight out of an early New Order track, and by the time the introduction is finished you've basically taken a semester of MIDI classes.
Wendy Carlos has mentioned that she scored so many scenes that didn't make it into the final cut of The Shining that she has no idea how many pieces actually exist. First of all, that's crazy, but it also sounds exactly how we assume working with Stanley Kubrick was.
Carlos' score makes use of early vocoder technology and even a few vocal samples. By itself the music is a masterpiece, but with the film it's transcendental.
Starry Eyes should have been one of those movies that people don't shut up about. It's one of those rare films that takes its influences and turns them inside out while creating its own breathtaking set pieces. Jonathan Snipes, the film's composer, uses an analog synth sound to create a fine texture that adds to the sometimes dream like, and often horrifying visuals of a young woman doing whatever it takes to make it in Hollywood.
At times the score is reminiscent of the music of some of Disney's classic animated films, which adds to the existential terror.