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The Best Horror Movie Synth Scores

Updated September 10, 2019 493 votes 152 voters 5.3k views13 items

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. 

  • It Follows - Disasterpiece
    Video: YouTube

    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. 

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  • Beyond The Black Rainbow  - Jeremy Schmidt
    Video: YouTube

    Jeremy Schmidt's score for Beyond The Black Rainbow somehow manages to double down on the psychological terror of the film while tipping its hat to the compositions of Tangerine Dream, John Carpenter, and Giorgio Moroder, all the while creeping everyone out. 

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  • John Carpenter's The Fog - John Carpenter
    Video: YouTube

    Few people make better genre films than John Carpenter. One thing that helps set him off from the rest of the pack: he likes to have a hand in creating a lot of his scores. Released in 1980, The Fog has a score that relies heavily on the unnatural sounds of a synthesizer to work as atmospherics around the atonal piano pieces that Carpenter uses for melody in the film.

    It's an interesting technique that would go on to inspire film composers for decades to come. 

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  • The Shining - Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind
    Video: YouTube

    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. 

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