With Halloween Coming, Some Scary Scores from Scary Movies

by Christopher Ehlers

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Thursday October 21, 2021

Janet Leigh in "Psycho"
Janet Leigh in "Psycho"  

It goes without saying that one of the best ways to get in the Halloween spirit is through music. No, we aren't talking about "The Monster Mash" or "Thriller," but rather some killer film scores that do the trick better than any kitschy song could.

For as long as horror movies have had sound, their scores have played an integral part in bewitching audiences, building suspense, and — of course — giving us the creeps for years to come. While it's true that you wouldn't exactly populate your Halloween party playlist with these tracks, you'll find they do a hell of a job of getting you in the mood for some good frights.

Here are 10 of the creepiest horror movie soundtracks to get you in the mood.

"Rosemary's Baby"


Music by Krzysztof Komeda

The lullaby alone — featuring Mia Farrow's actual voice — instantly creates an air of paranoia and claustrophobic terror that Roman Polanski so brilliantly conceived of in "Rosemary's Baby," one of the most legitimately disturbing films we've ever seen. The score holds up too, and is flat-out eerie whether you've seen the film or not.

"The Exorcist"


Music by Jack Nitzsche

While "Tubular Bells" is the track that gets all the attention, the entire soundtrack is actually a flawless exercise in film score composition. Conducted by Leonard Slatkin and featuring The National Philharmonic Orchestra, "The Exorcist" score is proof that less is sometimes more when it comes to scaring our pants off with music.

"The Omen"


Music by Jerry Goldsmith

Does it get any better than Jerry Goldsmith? A legend in film music, Goldsmith won an Oscar for his majestic score for "The Omen," a rarity for a score from a horror film. This score covers a lot of ground and includes an awful lot of frantic choir music that can occasionally make it a chore to listen to. But if being weirded out is your goal, "The Omen" does the trick in ways different from nearly every other score on this list.

"Candyman"


Music by Philip Glass and Robert Aiki Aubry Lowe

For 1995's "Candyman," Philip Glass composed a score that was at turns aggressive and terrifying and then flawlessly gorgeous, switching between the two in unexpected ways that — depending on the volume you're listening — could give you quite a fright on their own. Robert Aiki Aubry Lowe adapted Glass' score anew for the 2021 remake, and the results are similarly surprising, nodding to Glass in all the right spots while forging his own experimental path in others.

"The Witch"


Music by Mark Korven

"The Witch" was a breath of fresh air as far as horror films went, and Mark Korven's totally creepy, totally original score served it well. Slightly more esoteric than the other scores on this list, this one is undoubtedly more horrifying if you've seen the film, though it stands on its own as an indispensable entry into the horror movie music canon.

"The Amityville Horror"


Music by by Lalo Schifrin

Interestingly enough, Schifrin's score for "The Amityville Horror" is the only other score on this list to have garnered an Academy Award nomination, and it's not hard to see why. Otherworldly, incessantly creepy, and downright beautiful, it's a solid entry in horror film music that never seems to get as much attention as the others. But give it a listen — you'll find that it hits the spot in ways that make its Oscar nomination seem less surprising.

"Friday the 13th"


Music by Harry Manfredini

Is Harry Manfredini's score the most memorable or beautiful on this list? Not even close. But still, it was a vital part of the "Friday the 13th" franchise and it's hard to imagine Camp Crystal Lake without it. Jason may not have gotten his own theme the way that Michael Meyers did, but hell, he got his own soundscape.

"Psycho"


Music by Bernard Herrmann

Even if you haven't seen "Psycho," you know that music, the shrill, stabbing strings to accompany the famous shower murder. But Herrmann's score is so much more than that: it's a romantic, lush, classic Hollywood score with just the right amount of suspense. They don't make 'em like this anymore.

"Scream" and "Scream 2"


Music by by Marco Beltrami

Both scores are on the same soundtrack, which is why they're being included as one entry here. "Scream" revitalized the horror movie trend in the '90s, and Beltrami crafted a wholly original soundscape to mark the occasion. Combining gentle piano and electronic music with intense music usually heard in action movies, Beltrami's score is both eerie in all the right ways while being intensely listenable.

"Halloween"


Music by John Carpenter

With apologies to Bernard Herrmann and "Psycho," John Carpenter's instantly recognizable, instantly terrifying theme for "Halloween" is probably the most effective use of music in all of scary cinema (No, we aren't considering "Jaws" a horror movie). Not bad for a low budget, experimental film that struggled to get funding. Four decades later, the "Halloween" franchise is still one of the most popular and successful in any genre.