Halloween is near which means the scariest movies will be hitting the silver screens and the cable boxes. The scores that are written for this cinematic wonders of gore and horror are what really deliver the final blow of a good scare. Music is crucial is in creating an atmosphere that is based on tension and emotion. Video games ,in my experience, have been upping their standard for musicality, especially in horror. While unrelated to movies, if you are a gamer, I highly recommend anything from the Silent Hill series, the Resident Evil series, Bioshock, System Shock, and Metro 2033 for their movie level production of their music. Here are my personal favorite movies scores that scared the willies out of me more so than than the movies.
28 Days Later- This movie’s soundtrack is phenomenal and incorporates excellent bass and drums throughout the tracks. The guitar work is also notable. Its uses sounds for the score from genres such as industrial and even a bit of classical themes used sporadically to create an ambient atmosphere. “In the House, In a Heartbeat” is the most famous song from the soundtrack and can be heard almost everywhere. It’s a good song but is falling victim to being overplayed in online videos. For whatever reason, montages and home videos uploaded to the internet feature this song to be overly dramatic and after hearing it the 75th time, it loses its touch.
Insidious– This movie was fantastic and has one of the greatest orchestrated scores in my opinion. Its use of the strings section. Sudden shocks of fortissimo with hammering on piano strings, skin-crawling glissando, agonizing tremolos make this the creepiest soundtrack I’ve heard. The most familiar sound from this score is the sudden tremolo in the violin section in the song “The Insidious Plane.” The movie is also fantastic and well worth a watch, especially with friends who are jittery due to numerous jump scares.
American Horror Story- While not having a full original score, or really that much horror, I feel it should go onto the list for its interesting choice of Alternative, Indie, Blues, Jazz, Funk and just about everything else. The music choice is fantastic and its meaning is twisted into something slightly more sinister when given context via the acting in the show. American Horror Story falsely advertises on the horror aspect in the first season (in my opinion) but it picks up in creepiness the second. The upcoming season is centered on witches and used a great re-imagining of “House of the Rising Sun” as testament to its creativity with music.
Pyscho- Hitchcock horror is a cinematography marvel and it needs a score to match. This classic from 1960 delivers with a score that is memorable as well as haunting. The composer Bernard Herrmann uses the strings section heavily with ominous flowing sounds jumping to tension filled chords being bashed out in the next piece. It is the perfect balance of tension and relief, which allows a listener to be sucked in into a scare.