Spooky Tunes

Playlist: Freaky Film Music

by Florian Boberski (25.10.2021)
Translated by Edd Lee (24.10.2022)

Now the horror really begins. Atonality, dissonance, specifically developed, weird instruments, rhythmic unrest, menacingly deep tones or bone-chilling high notes - there are no limits to the imagination of film composers to make us uncomfortable, to accentuate terrible images or to forebode disaster.

We begin with one of the most famous scenes in film history. With Bernard Herrmann's shrieking violins in Psycho, which gruesomly underscore the murder scene in the shower, Hitchcock and Herrmann opened a new chapter in film music. Herrmann shows that these instruments, so often associated with beautiful, lovely sounds, can also represent the absolute opposite. It is almost inconceivable that Hitchcock originally wanted to show the scene completely without music, and had to be persuaded by Herrmann to allow this groundbreaking sound to accompany the scene, which ultimately led to their greatest triumph.

Now that the blood from the shower has trickled its way to the sea, it's only a matter of time before it attracts a great white shark. John Williams' theme for Jaws is also considered a milestone in film music and was rewarded with an Oscar. Six double basses, eight cellos, four trombones, a piano and a tuba were employed to musically capture the great white shark swimming menacingly directly towards us in straight, hammering quavers with no break and no escape....

„Ave Satani“ or “Hail, Satan” – is the main theme of the 1976 film The Omen. The music is by Jerry Goldsmith and impressively, and terrifyingly combines feelings of menace and fear with sacred choral music.

You already know the next motif from the Scary Classic Playlist. Stanley Kubrick's 1980 horror film The Shining uses the “Dies Irae” over and over again. Staying true to his unique, inimitable style, he complements the soundtrack with themes from many other classical works.

Another prominent composer heard in the horror cinemas who cannot be missed from such a playlist: Krzysztof Penderecki! The works of the post-serial Polish composer, who died just two years ago, are often used in horror films. His hair-raising work Polymorphia was used in both The Exorcist and The Shining.

Ein anderer Pole hingegen schrieb die Musik zu Bram Stokers Dracula: Wojciech Kilar, who composes so vividly that when you listen to it, you can almost imagine Count Dracula rising from his grave at midnight.

And then a menacing, aggressively rhythmic whispering choir, interrupted by a high soaring female voice, until all elements unite to a dramatic climax. Kilar Chapeau!

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After that shock, it's time for some romantic freaky film music. Danny Elfman's music for Tim Burton's Corpse Bride gives us an almost pleasant chill. That's how the delicately strung singer's heart, just like that of the author, prefers it.

Of course, we mustn’t forget the world of musicals, especially if these musicals made their way onto the big screen, and if the “Dies Irae” motif is featured! Both The Phantom of the Opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Sweeney Todd by Stephen Sondheim used this infamous motif, and are spooky smash hits.

Before we come to the end of this playlist, let’s listen to Lontano by György Ligeti, whose works have been used many times in film music scores, like here in Shutter Island: a powerful arc of suspense that extends over nine minutes.

In keeping with the age of zombie films and Corona, we have „Tokyo“ by Tomandandy from the film Resident Evil: Afterlife. It's best to see the scene for yourself! A single infected person in a crowd eventually pounces on the next victim, the start of a terrifying pandemic, framed with spine-chilling music.

Last but not least, a trip into the cosmos of TV series. There is a massive range of great themes, from American Horror Story to Hannibal to The Walking Dead. We finally went with the friendly serial killer next door: The “Blood Theme” by Daniel Licht from Dexter. By the way, the series was continued last year after a long break!

More Spooky Tunes

Playlist: Scary Classical

Playlist: Terrifying Pop & Rock

Spooky Tunes – Three Eerie Musical Journeys

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