Monday, October 10, 2011
HORROR SOUNDTRACK APPRECIATION
I love horror movie scores. I listen to them when I’m in rush hour traffic. I listen to them while I’m at my day job. You’ve probably seen me write about quite a few full soundtracks and we even did a Giallo specific retrospective on the finer points of that sub-genre. I think it’s time we explored a few films that have little if any connection. Consider this HORROR MOVIE SCORE APPRECIATION.
Enjoy some cover art while I get my friggin' head set on (and throughout the rest of the blog):
This is not going to be a rehash of Halloween sound effect loop CD’s. We can safely assume that all of us have listened to the theme music from Silence of the Lambs or Friday the 13th. If you don’t know the theme music from A Nightmare on Elm Street, Freddy’s probably fucking coming for you right now. Whatever you do don’t… We’re going to the next level. I don’t think we need to go to the B side of any Italian possession flick’s limited release soundtrack from 1971. I think we can stick with some movies you can find, titles you just might know and most of all some pretty fuckin’ good music.
We’ll do one movie per decade starting in the 1920’s. Now I full realize that our selection was a silent picture, but the music that has been set to accompany it in at least the release I will post is well worth your time and definitely evil. I still remember watching it in film class then borrowing the VHS from the teacher and watching over and over finally recording the score onto an audio cassette. Feel free to post your favorite scores in the comment section below and maybe share a link of where to find them. Obvious and non-obvious are welcome all I would ask is that you be thoughtful about your posts. Tell us why the score/soundtrack sticks with you. First you’ll have the score that truly captures the decade from which is comes and is a good for a great scare then we’ll follow it up with two other, runner up selections (maybe more).
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
Robert Weine gives us a dark version of the German psychological thriller with a whole lotta Expressionism to boot. Now it’s not fully a horror picture or at least that’s what the critics might argue. They love to hate horror. They fear us. We like it that way. With so many releases of this film it’s difficult to find the one that captures best what Weine intended. Well, I didn’t know the man, but I know that I almost refuse to watch this picture without this particular version of the score intact.
The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
Since everyone has officially seen Black Swan let’s go back to our horror roots and find out where a more traditional horror picture used this classical piece that turns nightmare at the drop of a dime. Seems like a pretty obvious choice doesn’t it, but I assure you that it isn’t. Most will recognize Frankenstein’s theme music (which is actually an original composition by Bernhard Kaun). I don’t want you to think that I consider this film to be any bit outside of the main stream, however when you examine it from the perspective of its music, I refuse to let it play second fiddle to Aronofsky’s “horror” film.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931)
We won’t typically do full write ups on the runners up, but this one has some meat to it. Traditional haunted house fodder in Bach’s Tocatta and Fugue in D Minor. It would be used endlessly in the genre. It broods. This version reminds me of the Haunted Castle that burned to the ground at Wildwood, NJ. A shame to be sure.
Dead of Night (1945)
Portmanteau horror astounds me. Short stories wrapped into one keen package and served up mysterious. Why mysterious? Because you never know what your truly going to get. Sure in this day in age we can Google the world, but if you let yourself, an anthology of horror can surprise and wow you. Trailers are on about two minutes long… maybe they’ll actually leave something out. Now to the music to your creepy little ears. It almost has a Thing from Another World quality to it. The durge complimented by a quick silence and then falling strings. It’s a treacherous piece.
The Wolfman (1941)
House of Dracula (1945)
While not the theme from the movie this transition from Moonlight Senade to the music of hypnotism is chock full of pure, unbridled dissonance.
The Thing from Another World (1951)
Before I get into this score let me just say that I tried to share with you a version of the score with the proper RKO intro. That to me is the way to listen to this credit sequence. Maybe you remember the movie Halloween. Tommy Lee Wallace wants to watch his monster movies and what comes on the boob tube? The Thing from Another World. For me those horns absolutely pounding through through each orchestra hit, that’s scary. The entire opening sequence is magic, but would have been nothing without this creep-tastic song. Is it Sci-Fi? Is it horror? It was important enough to John Carpenter to remake it… an amazing remake as you all know. A close runner up for the 1950’s spot is Curse of Frankenstein. I’m a huge fan of Hammer horror and that soundtrack blows me every loving mind.
Curse of Frankenstein (1957)
Watch The Curse Of Frankenstein in Horror | View More Free Videos Online at Veoh.com
The Blob (1958)
Devil Rides Out (1968)
There’s a reason that Mike Patton and the crew of Fantomas put this on their Director’s Cut album. It’s a bloody good horror score and an absolutely creepy film. It’s big. Real big. There are plenty of good soundtracks of this era. Hell, Night of the Living Dead was the first one to come to mind followed by the score for Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors. The dynamics of this song, the gradual stepward motion toward the crescendo is suspenseful and riveting.
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors (1965)
The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)
From the Clockwork Wizards to Phibes ‘s spot on organ playing (pretty good for a dead guy) the use of music in this film absolutely set the tone. Half classic horror organ the rest, spooky jazz played by machines. Throw in a bit of French horn or trumpet winding around long drawn out notes and you have the sexy of Vulnavia, the Silent Predator of Anton Phibes and the killer beyond the mask.
Last House on the Left (1972)
Phantom of Paradise (1974)
Look out for one of the masks from Halloween III. Spot it yet? Good.
Summer Camp Nightmare (1987)
There are probably at least 100 pieces better than any song in Summer Camp Nightmare. Why did I put it here? Because it’s perfect 80’s horror cheese. Down South by “The Girls In the Prom Dresses”. It also contains one song and one song only of note, “Beef Bologna” as performed by Runk the Punk and originally sung by FEAR. Enjoy campers.
Elvira Mistress of the Dark (1988)
Army of Darkness (1992)
With elements of many horror films score before it most notably Cape Fear and also taking a bit from Holst’s Mars I can safely say that this is a creep, medieval triumphant track. Listen to this before you ask your boss for a raise. If you get it, Groovie. If you don’t, call him a deadite.
Tales from the Darkside the Movie (1990)
Unfortunately I can’t find the opening on the internet… ANYWHERE! Please enjoy the equally wonderfully creepy TV show opening. Not late at night. Not in the house alone. Creeeeepy.
Leatherface; The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3 (1990)
And finally we come to what I would like to call… TODAY. These are the soundtracks trailblazing the horror of tomorrow. I want to spend a bit more time here. It’s nearly impossible to even begin to judge them all because horror music composition has really started to move in new directions. I suppose you can say that each generation has it’s common themes. Early works rely on classical pieces or minor key plays on big Hollywood scores. As the 50’s took over a sense of almost triumphant patriotism seemed to pump the Hollywood machine for answers to the red scare. The 60’s emerged with strange and unusual diversity. Reliance on sound to play an actor and an abundance of cheap organ scores. By the 70’s everything was moody. Dark. Brooding. Orchestral. The 80’s went hard rock, heavy metal and synth. It seems to be the only decade where the music mirrored perfectly what was going on in popular music. I blame MTV and I’m ok with that. The 90’s was a burden. It was a reliance on rock music that didn’t have the 80’s spirit but we hadn’t discovered how to put a descent death metal riff in a horror film. Let’s expand on the NOW. We’ll give you a “first choice” and then we’ll batter and bruise it with all subsequent selections.
28 Days Later (2007)
Slow build into very heavy rock pulsing drums and in the movie itself a suspensefully slow durge that juxtaposed the incredibly fast Rage zombies. It’s heartfelt. It’s simple, but it’s the anti-triumphant. You can fight zombies but disease… that should be in test tubes. I suppose that’s why I Am Legend ends up being so powerful.
RUNNERS UP (and there are more than 2 because I just couldn’t stop posting them).
By the end of this one you’ll pretty much telling someone to pull the cockring off because your going to friggin’ die of blood to the Johnson. Too graphic. So is saw ya fuck doodle. (Please laugh at that or turn on old Tammy Faye Baker clips)
Let the Right one In (2008)
Heartbreaking. The story of young love and ultimately conveying just what it feels like to be the outsider. Picked on. Despised. Treated like an animal… wait… wrong outcast. The music is almost romantic. It briefly reaches for a very lofty, almost happy place and then winds itself up around melancholy again. If this had been released in the 1990’s grunge rock might not have existed.
Final Destination (2000)
Hasn’t this franchised sort of…evolved. With the common thread of death as the antagonist running through all the films and the general plot remaining unchanged at least the kill by numbers approach is working. Yes, the first 3D was a 3Don’t, but part five saved the series. The music will haunt you, and it isn’t form first note that it will do so. Just wait a second and get yourself good and scared.
The Mist (2007)
FYI… I get teary eyed just hearing The Mist soundtrack.
A Serbian Film (2010)
You may never want to watch the movie again, but the music is probably the modern day evolution of 70’s porn music. It’s not funky. It’s just got a pulse that says, “If I don’t screw like this I’m going to cum in less than a minute”.
House of the Devil (2009)
It’s like an 80’s throwback that Lucio Fulci used in a movie once after he got out of his Delorean. I can’t express enough praise for this film but most importantly the title sequence. If you’re not dancin’… then you’re dead.
You know I’m a filthy whore for both segments of Grindhouse. No doubt it would show up. The opening sequence of Planet Terror makes me feel just as dirty as the stripper pole Cherry Darling dances upon. May I say also, candidly, that there are few times in my life where I have wanted to have been a stripper pole, but this is a time that would be one even if Cherry Cry Cries instead of Go Go’s. Just another way in which the Doom Generation changed my life. Now onto Death Proof. Jack Neitzche makes you want to race every day during your morning commute. This soundtrack has been responsible for several close calls on speeding tickets. Now if I could just get a White Challenger at least I would earn those tickets. Ship’s Mast anyone?
Last but not least:
House of 1000 Corpses ( 2003)
If I have my druthers you’ll be hearing this as my opening podcast song someday. If I learn how not to be radio shy. Rob Zombie started with music and he’s damn good at it. This only make sense. The subtle homage to Halloween doesn’t hurt (or at least that’s how I’ll interpret it). Good samples.
I don't pretend that these examples are entirely indicative of the age in which they were released. Some go above the call of duty where others are simply fun to listen to. I can tell you truthfully that I had some great debate about listing Summer Camp Nightmare among these greats. Make sure to check that full clip out and let me know if you think its 80's enough. There's probably a few big names missing even in the B list movies. Some of these are probably more A list. Hey, it's all in good fun. Enjoy making your Halloween compilation.
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From the bowels and brains of American International to the rib cage and eye sockets of Amicus, Doc Terror will write your eyes shut from the prehistory to the post apocalypse of horror.Doc Terror is a contributor to The Liberal Dead and The Dead Air Podcast.