10 utterly chilling movie soundtracks on Spotify
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Give your Halloween party a jolt with these bloodcurdling film scores.
These days, movie soundtracks aren’t just something people listen to while munching through a tub of popcorn at their local multiplex. The preponderance of reissue labels like Waxwork and Death Waltz, dedicated to unearthing old scores and rendering them in beautifully designed vinyl editions, proves that soundtracks – and especially horror soundtracks – can be a gripping listening experience, even when divorced from their parent film.
Here are some of the creepiest film soundtracks available on Spotify.
1. Halloween (1980)
Composed by: John Carpenter
Soundtracks which nightmare? The one where you are pursued by an evil clown
John Carpenter is one of the undisputed kings of horror cinema, and his self-made synth scores are amongst the genre’s eeriest. Unbelievably, the theme to 1980 slasher flick Halloween was recorded in just an hour. More recently, Carpenter has been taking his movie scores on the road with a live band, while the Halloween theme itself was covered by Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.
2. Psycho (1960)
Composed by: Bernard Herrmann
Soundtracks which nightmare? The one where you go into the shower and don’t make it out alive
Russian-American composer Hermann’s score to Psycho is an edgy listen throughout. But it’s the screeching violins of The Murder – which soundtrack the scene in which Janet Leigh’s doomed secretary Marion meets a gory end in a bathroom – that really sears itself into your nightmares.
3. The Exorcist (1973)
Composed by: Mike Oldfield/The National Philharmonic Orchestra
Soundtracks which nightmare? The one where Satan himself voms up all over your bedsheets
Progressive rock introvert Mike Oldfield was just 19 years old when he self-recorded his debut album Tubular Bells at the Manor Studios in Oxfordshire. But it was the use of the first track’s haunting intro on the soundtrack to William Friedkin’s The Exorcist that seared the track into the annals of horror cinema and made Oldfield an unwilling star.
4. Cannibal Holocaust (1980)
Composed by: Riz Ortolani
Soundtracks which nightmare? The one where you’re chased by cannibals, obviously
Not for the faint-hearted, Italian director Ruggero Deodato’s 1980 film (which follows a documentary crew as they venture into the Amazon to film cannibal tribes – no prizes for guessing how that turns out) is a controversial milestone of the grindhouse genre. The soundtrack itself is a mini-masterpiece, mixing up grimy synth textures with sumptuous strings and some unlikely funk excursions.
5. Suspiria (1977)
Composed by: Goblin
Soundtracks which nightmare? The one with all the dead ballerinas
Director Dario Argento’s contributions to the Italian “Giallo” genre are pure eye candy, and Goblin’s score is equally sumptuous – a mix of eerie chamber-rock, Satanic chant and driving funk, foregrounding founder member Claudio Simonetti’s peerlessly eerie keyboards. Check also Thom Yorke's fine soundtrack to the 2018 remake.
6. Under The Skin
Composed by: Mica Levi
Soundtracks which nightmare? The one where you meet Scarlett Johansson, and you don’t even get her autograph
Mica Levi rose to fame as leader of wonky London pop outfit Micachu & The Shapes, but her score to Jonathan Glazer’s creepy, Glasgow-set thriller Under The Skin showed off her undeniable chops as a composer, drawing influence from giants of modern classical like Xenakis and John Cage. She gets sounds out of that viola that you’ll never believe.
7. Nightmare On Elm Street
Composed by: Charles Bernstein
Soundtracks which nightmare? The one where you actually get trapped inside your nightmare, along with a bloke with knives for fingers
Charles Bernstein’s unsettling drones and incie-wincy spider melodies formed the perfect soundtrack to the delightful story of Freddie Krueger, the dead child murderer with knives for fingers who creeps into your dreams. Last year Death Waltz released a massive eight-LP box set of Nightmare On Elm Street scores with brand new commissioned artwork.
8. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Composed by: Krzysztof Komeda
Soundtracks which nightmare? The one where your baby gets sold to the devil
Krzysztof Komeda was a young face on the Polish jazz scene when he was spotted by director Roman Polanski, who enlisted him to work on his 1962 film Knife In The Water. His score to Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby is effortlessly chilling, particularly the main theme with haunting, lullaby-like vocals by Mia Farrow. And the score is marred by tragedy; mere months after the film’s release, Komeda was fatally injured in a accident at a drinking party, when he fell from a rocky escarpment after being pushed by the writer Marek Hlask.
9. It Follows (2015)
Composed by: Disasterpeace
Soundtracks which nightmare? The one where you’re being followed… by something
David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows has been widely hailed as a modern horror masterpiece, and the score – by video game composer Rich ‘Disasterpeace’ Vreeland – neatly mimics the film’s blend of the contemporary and the classic. There are nods to Halloween and Psycho in these eerie, arpeggiated melodies and stabbing strings, but a crisp digital veneer keeps things feeling fresh and up-to-date.
Composed by: David Lynch/Alan Splet
Soundtracks which nightmare? The one where you and your partner raise a mutant baby
David Lynch’s first full-length feature, Eraserhead, was five years in the making, and a good year of this was spent on audio, Lynch working with sound designer Alan Splet on a score to fully articulate the film’s claustrophobic, surrealistic intensity. Dogs bark, pipes rumble, woozy Fats Waller organs drift through thick mist, and a lady in a radiator sings a beautiful torch song. 100% uncut Lynch.