Five Amazing Horror Movie Soundtracks That Aren’t The Music From John Carpenter’s Halloween

Published on October 31st, 2013 in: Horror, Listicles, Movies, Music, Soundtracks and Scores, Top Five Lists |

By Jeffery X Martin


If Halloween has a theme song, it’s probably the familiar interval-switching chromatic scale from the seminal 1978 horror film, Halloween. Even people who haven’t seen the movie recognize that music as soon as they hear it. It ushers in autumn and signals the beginning of Trick-or-Treatery. But the Halloween soundtrack isn’t the only one you can use for your holiday mood setting. Give these other soundtracks a listen! They’ll either warm your cockles or raise your hackles.

The Fog (composed by John Carpenter)

Carpenter’s spooky follow-up to Halloween has only in recent times garnered the respect it deserves. The Fog was seen as a bit of a letdown when it was first released. Now, through the patina of time, The Fog is generally viewed as one of the finest ghost stories of the last 30 years. The music Carpenter composed for The Fog is sparse and airy. In places, it seems long and drawn-out. Be patient. The terror is in the empty spaces, the places your mind wants to fill. It’s a subdued atmosphere for the most part but, like the film itself, it sinks into your bones, leaving nothing but a chill.

Phantasm (composed by Fred Myrow and Malcolm Seagrave)

Don Coscarelli’s 1979 movie, Phantasm, is a psychotic break with reality. It runs on a nightmare engine, embracing the logic of dreams and making the viewer uneasy even during the most outlandish of situations. The soundtrack has a tinny music-box quality, nightmarish in its own right, which winds its way into the listener’s head like a corkscrew. Imagine your grandmother freaking out on some belladonna and attacking an old Baldwin organ, the kind with the late ’70s drum machine built into it, while trying to sing a lullaby. There you go.

Non ho sonno (composed by Goblin)

We can all agree that the output from Dario Argento’s early career is superior to his latter-day work, but a movie that gets unfairly overlooked from his later work is Non ho sonno (English title: Sleepless). Max von Sydow plays a retired detective whose most famous case, the Dwarf Murders, comes back to life when another killer begins murdering people in a similar fashion. Argento finally got back together with the band Goblin, who had scored some of his most popular films. There’s a sweet drive to this soundtrack, some of the heaviest stuff Goblin ever produced. This is aural stalking.

John Carpenter’s “The Thing” (composed by Ennio Morricone)

One of the few movies Carpenter directed that he did not also score, but who can possibly bitch about a soundtrack from Italian composer Ennio Morricone? He’s done everything from westerns to romances. He also has the capacity for creating really catchy melodies and themes that stick in your head long after the movie is over. That’s not the case with The Thing‘s minimalist score, one that seems barely noticeable in the context of the film. Repeated viewings make you realize that score is the heartbeat of the movie. Listening to the score apart from the film is an exercise in fear endurance. With track titles like “Despair” and “Desolation,” this is assuredly not music to plan a toddler’s birthday party by.

The Wicker Man (1973) (composed by Paul Giovanni)

Maybe you need a sing-a-long. Maybe you want to celebrate Samhain the old fashioned way: with songs about reincarnation and outdoor buggery. Boy, have I got a soundtrack for you! The songs from The Wicker Man are folksy to a fault; they make Mumford & Sons sound like Megadeth. They’re catchy as all get out, though, and the underlying Pagan themes may be enough to freak out those with other convictions. “Maypole” and “Corn Rigs” are festively creepy, while “Willow’s Song” is as plaintive and gorgeous a booty call as you’ll ever hear. It’s hard to listen to “Willow’s Song” without thinking of Britt Eklund’s body double’s butt. I’m good with that.

Honorable Mention: Halloween III—Season of the Witch (composed by John Carpenter & Alan Howarth)
If there’s a runner-up for Halloween Anthem, it’s the Silver Shamrock jingle (“Three more days till Halloween . . . “) from Halloween III. As absolutely insidious as that piece of music is, the rest of the soundtrack is a pure synthgasm. Listen to the song “Chariots of Pumpkins,” for a taste of this score, which was years ahead of its time. You can hear echoes of it in present day EDM and in practically every piece of synthesizer-pop that came after it. Makes me wish I owned a keytar.

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