As we enter the later weeks of October, many of us return to our horror movie favorites to welcome in the holiday and relive those iconic on-screen moments. While many horror films have become a staple of October festivities for their exciting and chilling moments on-screen, many of these films produced accompanying soundtracks that perfectly encapsulate not just the mood of the film but the entire spooky season. Ranging from neon-tinged synth scores to gloomy, atmospheric drone soundscapes, we’re taking a look at some of the best original horror movie soundtracks across the years.
Apocalypse Domani (1980) - Alexander Blonksteiner
Alternatively titled Cannibal Apocalypse, Antonio Margheriti’s 1980 horror film features flesh-eating zombies, biker gangs, flamethrowers, and the Vietnam War. With a film encompassing so many different genre tropes, the soundtrack composed by Alexander Blonksteiner is no less varied. Ranging from smooth jazz to funk-inspired grooves, Apocalypse Domani’s score is a highly entertaining set of changing sounds to fit the ever-changing pace of the movie. At only thirty minutes long, this is a soundtrack that takes you across many different genres in such a short amount of time.
Recommended Tracks: Apocalypse (Main Theme), Jane
Mandy (2018) - Jóhann Jóhannsson
Scored by the late Jóhann Jóhannsson, Mandy features music that, like the film, is heavily inspired by the pulpy revenge exploitation genre films of the 1980s. While evoking the schlocky pastiche of horror B-movies, Mandy is a very skillfully directed homage to the genre in all the best ways. One of the standout aspects of the film is the score which coupled with the very stylized visual look of the film creates an even more surreal and atmospheric experience. Tracks like “Mandy Love Theme” or “Children of the New Dawn” provide very serene and Vangelis-esque synth passages while other tracks like “Black Skulls” or “Forging the Beast” provide frightening rhythmic beats over progressive futuristic-sounding tones. With very cosmic sounding synths and ominous hums, the music is an intoxicating dive into this otherworldly zone.
Recommended Tracks: Mandy Love Theme, Children of the New Dawn
The Lure (2017) - Various Artists
Agnieszka Smoczyńska’s 2017 Polish horror musical The Lure is a wildly inventive film about two mermaids who become performers at a nightclub in the 1980s. It is an absurd premise, but the film has an off-the-wall playfulness in both its filmmaking and the music throughout the film. Featuring vocal performances by the actors in the film, the musical is dance-pop and disco-infused with catchy electronic beats and danceable grooves. With an expansive soundtrack that features new covers of preexisting songs like Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” and original songs that progress the narrative of the film like “Take Me in Your Care”, The Lure establishes itself as one of the most fun horror musicals since The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Recommended Tracks: You Were the Beat of My Heart, Take Me in Your Care, Abracadabra
...E Tu Vivrai Nel Terrore! L'aldilà (1981) - Fabio Frizzi
Italian cult film director Lucio Fulci’s 1981 effort in surreal, stylistic horror has retained its cult status today in large favor to its excellent score by Fabio Frizzi. The soundtrack has a very full and lively sound with orchestral passages and hypnotic choirs that match the film’s frantic and over the top visuals. The music only progresses as later tracks reincorporate earlier songs by adding new elements and passages. Shifting between symphonic prog to slower, moodier piano compositions, listening to the soundtrack is a lot like a carnival ride: the work is overwhelming, frantic, very campy, and a lot of fun.
Recommended Tracks: Voci Dal Nulla, Sequenza Coro e Orchestra
The Neon Demon (2016) - Cliff Martinez
Synth heavy soundtracks have long been a staple for the genre with “horror synths” being a term used to identify this sound heard throughout the years. While many synth-centric horror soundtracks of today are inspired and influenced by soundtracks of the past, The Neon Demon is an interesting, very modern take on the “horror synth” sound. Cliff Martinez composes the soundtrack, yet it also features original songs for the film by Sia, Sweet Tempest, and Julian Winding. One of the highlights of the soundtrack, “The Demon Dance”, gives way to an infectious house beat that feels straight off one of the runways from the film. With a story that makes horror out of the superficial temptations of a dark, seedy Los Angeles, the accompanying soundtrack is one that revels in very pristine and modern production to create an uneasy collection of synthpop and moody arrangements that feel reflective of the film’s glamorous yet hollow city.
Recommended Tracks: Neon Demon, Mine, The Demon Dance
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992) - Angelo Badalamenti
This next entry is my personal favorite soundtrack for the month of October. While Fire Walk With Me is the sequel film to 1990-1991’s Twin Peaks series, you don’t have to be a Twin Peaks devotee to enjoy this very jazzy and moody soundtrack. Expanding upon the very dreamlike and serene music from the series, Badalamenti created a work that is only more moody and nightmarish to better capture the dark tones of Twin Peaks for this feature-length adaptation. There are dark jazz suites, atmospheric dream-pop, nightmarish nightclub rockers, and haunting vocal performances from Julee Cruise and Jimmy Scott. A very unique set of music for a very unique series that creates an atmosphere that feels both lost in time yet timeless.
Recommended Tracks: Questions in a World of Blue, The Pink Room, The Voice of Love
Suspiria (1977) - Goblin
Suspiria (2018) - Thom Yorke
Suspiria was bound to be here at some point. Both versions of Suspiria, the 1977 original and the 2018 remake, are films that are synonymous with their music and both soundtracks are worth a listen. Goblin has created numerous horror soundtracks from Profondo Rosso to Zombi and the band’s 1977 effort on Suspiria is among their best work. The opening track, “Suspiria”, sets the tone for the album with whimsical chimes that feel straight out of a fairytale but are then met with the low hums of a scratchy demonic like voice. The soundtrack is one that holds whimsy and terror close to one another, creating passages that are wholly unique and equally chilling. Between progressive rock to striking string arrangements, Suspiria is impressionable in its brief runtime. Jump ahead to 2018, when Luca Guadagnino ventured to remake the classic horror film, he knew he would need an artist who was capable of not just meeting the expectations but subverting the expected material in a fresh way to match his new vision. Enter Thom Yorke, the renowned singer/multi-instrumentalist behind Radiohead took on the project and created a soundtrack that evokes the spirit of the 1977 original while being a work of its own. Both in Radiohead and his solo work, Yorke has a history of icy electronics and haunting compositions but had never before ventured into film composition. The result is a soundtrack that is filled with ominous, sputtering electronics and gentle piano balladry that matches the film’s tone and setting while still feeling like a Thom Yorke project. On “Volk”, Yorke evokes the chilling, foreboding sound of the Goblin original through repetitive piano and shrieking violins while elsewhere on tracks like “Suspirium” and “Unmade” he lends his voice to give a tender falsetto and lightness to the chills found throughout.
Recommended Tracks (1977): Suspiria, Witch, Black Forest
Recommended Tracks (2018): Suspirium, Belongings Thrown in a River, Unmade, Volk
Editor: Tony Ninov
Graphics: Luisa Koitzsch