Poltergeist (1982) – Jerry Goldsmith
Another horror masterpiece from a composer who specialised in them, Poltergeist sees Goldsmith’s thematic and emotional complexity step up a gear. Anchored by the instantly recognisable, sweet-natured children’s lullaby ‘Carol Anne’s Theme’ it’s a score that finds its centre in the besieged Freeling family, rather than the spooks themselves. However it’s the score’s emotional core that makes the frightening moments all the more palpable when they arrive, burbling brass and disturbing percussive effectives (including a Brazilian drum giving a swallowing effect) landing Goldsmith another Oscar nomination.
The Thing (1982) – Ennio Morricone
Famously Morricone and director John Carpenter didn’t have the best working relationship on this classic creature feature. It seems Morricone’s experimental string and organ arrangements weren’t quite what Carpenter had in mind, the filmmaker ditching most of the score material while instead favouring the pulsating electronic tones that most closely mirrored his own style. Regardless Morricone’s chilly, icy strings and synths are an excellent match for the movie’s frigid landscapes and more than raise the hairs on the back of the neck.
Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988) – Christopher Young
The first Hellraiser score put Christopher Young on the map, the composer replacing industrial band Coil for Clive Barker’s interdimensional tale of pain and pleasure. It was a wise decision, Young’s surging and elegant melodies giving the movie a classy veneer. However the composer took it to the next level with his gargantuan choral waltz for director Tony Randall’s sequel, a magnificent celebration of all things evil and twisted. And the creativity doesn’t stop there: there’s even a musical replication of ‘God’ in Morse Code – now that’s creepy.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) – Wojciech Kilar
Cinema’s most famous vampire has been treated to many sublime scores over the years, and late Polish composer Kilar’s sumptuous Gothic treat is one of the best. Clearly feeding off the visual and romantic opulence of Francis Ford Coppola’s vision Kilar’s brooding strings, tortured horror and piercingly terrifying moments of atonal choral terror nail the contradictions of author Bram Stoker’s source material. Truly this is a score where beauty and pure evil exist on a knife’s edge, with the listener never knowing when the rug is going to be pulled.
Interview with the Vampire (1994) – Elliot Goldenthal
Talking of vampire scores, here’s a career-defining work from Goldenthal who replace regular Neil Jordan collaborator George Fenton. The composer was required to pull together his score in three weeks, the end result a typically challenging blend of atonal brass, period instrumentation including the viola da gamba and lushly haunting themes that celebrate author Anne Rice’s bloodsuckers in all their glory. The impressive end result netted Goldenthal an Oscar nomination.
Scream (1996) – Marco Beltrami
Many horror scores throughout the eighties and early nineties were defined by electronic experimentation (the aforementioned Hellraiser duo being a notable and impressive exception). So when Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson turned the slasher movie inside out with this seminal meta- horror-comedy they demanded a score that would also change the rules. Then fledgling composer Beltrami responded with a ferociously aggressive and operatic onslaught of powerfully orchestral chase sequences and surprisingly haunting melancholy for tormented central character Sidney (Neve Campbell).
Click below to continue on to the third page…