Hello my troublesome troops, Jake Cordiner back again on this crazy train of horror fuelled journalism! In celebration of Thom Yorke’s (from the Radiohead’s dont’cha know) recently released soundtrack from the Suspiria remake, I thought I’d just have a wee chat about some of my favourite horror film soundtracks over the years. That cool with you? Well, I flipping hope so because YOU CAN’T STOP ME, DAD. I’ll make a dainty wee playlist for you lovely lot of my favourite tracks from the soundtracks I discuss, and maybe some extra ones! Let’s get going.
First off, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Goblin’s utterly masterful soundtrack from the original Suspiria. Goblin are renowned for their soundtrack work, scoring such classics as Zombi, Contamination and… Patrick? What the fuck kind of title for a film is Patrick? I digress, those other soundtracks are exquisite pieces of synth-driven prog, but the Suspiria soundtrack is where the Italian weirdos shine. It covers such a wide range of soundscapes and genres: there’s a bit of jazz thrown in, some industrial rock, a wee hint of post-rock and some driving prog as well. Its scatterbrained nature lines up perfectly with the original Suspiria’s unashamed obtuseness. It’s really, very, very good.
During the 70s, 80s, and 90s, I don’t think John Carpenter slept. His directorial work is almost untouchable (that almost being Ghosts of Mars (which is still a good bit of fun)). But when he wasn’t in the director’s chair, shouting at presumably Kurt Russell, he was in the studio, maaaaaan. Rocking out and crafting some of the best soundtrack work ever. Seriously, some of this stuff is insane, from the utterly iconic main theme from Halloween to the rockier material found in the Escape From New York and Escape From L.A scores, the man couldn’t be stopped.
However, my personal favourite work of his, both cinematically and musically, is In The Mouth of Madness. This wee slice of Lovecraft inspired gold is hideously underappreciated, and so is the soundtrack. The main theme, in particular, is an absolute banger, mixing the creeping synth work that Carpenter had made his signature style with some badass guitar from DAVE DAVIES FROM THE KINKS! How and why that came about I’ll never know, the solos on the song couldn’t be further from how the Kinks sounded in their day, but I do not care. It’s cool as fuck and deserves to be heard.
Disasterpiece (better known as Richard Vreeland) is really cool. He’s scored some of the indie gaming scene’s biggest darlings, from Fez to Hyperlight Drifter to Cannon Brawl. But nothing he’s done has come even close to his work on the It Follows soundtrack. I’m quite sure everyone reading knows what It Follows is, but for the uninitiated, this 2015 horror is one of my modern pillars of the genre, alongside Hereditary, The VVitch, and The Babadook. It is about an STI that causes scary people who can’t be stopped to follow you. It’s magnificent, and so is the soundtrack.
Vreeland uses distortion, reverb and, perhaps most effectively, silence throughout the soundtrack and manages to add to the films lingering sense of dread and despair tenfold. Its a rare case of a film soundtrack being literally integral to the film, without Disasterpiece’s work on It Follows I’m not sure the film would be nearly as effective in its quest to scare. Get on it immediately.
Under the Skin is tremendously fucked up. Based on Michael Faber’s 2000 book of the same name, Jonathan Glazer’s Glasgow based horror follows an alien (played brilliantly by Scarlett Johansson) going around Glasgow and harvesting men. That’s all you need to know. The soundtrack fits the films perpetually dark and dreary vibe impeccably. Scored by Mica Levi, the music smashes together a contemporary orchestral foundation with layers upon layers of distortion, haunting reverb and a deliberate opaqueness that showers everything else. In essence, a vast majority of the soundtrack makes the listener feel like they’re being sucked into an endlessly black void. It’s genuinely uncomfortable at points, but so is Glazer’s film. A perfect marriage, submerged in black.
Lastly, I’m going to touch on Sinoia Cave’s soundtrack for Panos Cosmatos’ abstract masterpiece Beyond the Black Rainbow. To attempt to describe this film would do it a great disservice, but basically, a girl is off her tits and is trying to get out of a Bad Building. That’s the gist of it. The soundtrack was composed by Jeremy Schmidt of Canadian rockers Black Mountain, who claimed his main influences were the creeping horror of soundtracks like Halloween, The Shining and, hold on, Risky Business?! Leave my favourite wee Scientologist out of it you fiend!
Regardless, this soundtrack can only be described as epic. A sprawling and oftentimes jarring synth driven journey that complements Cosmatos’s vision effortlessly. I stand firmly in the camp that the soundtracks near 20-minute odyssey “1966 – Let The New Age of Enlightenment Begin” is in the upper echelon of music for any genre of film, fuck just horror. It is that good and weird and creepy and off-kilter.
So, those are just a handful of my favourite pieces of horror soundtrack work to date. I’ll embed the wee Spotify playlist at the bottom with some more lovely pieces of sound to creep you the shitting fuck out. Tune in next time where I transcribe a decidedly one-sided interview I had with famed murderer Michael Myers! Ok bye, love you!