Hasitha Fernando on the best modern horror film scores of the past two decades…
Halloween is nearly upon us and what better time than the eve of All Hallows Eve to sit back and listen to some great horror-tinged music. With that in mind here are 8 Modern Horror Film scores from the last two decades, that is sure to make your hair stand on end.
1. Drag Me to Hell (Christopher Young)
Christopher Young made his mark fairly early on in the career, for the awe-inspiring gothic masterpiece he crafted for Clive Barker’s cult-classic Hellraiser in 1987. Sticking with the genre the talented composer churned out a number of memorable scores over the years with the likes of Species, Urban Legend, The Grudge and Sinister. But it’s with Sam Raimi’s triumphant return to the director’s indie-horror roots, with 2009’s Drag Me to Hell, that saw Young return with a beyond-God-like vengeance. Replete with baroque choral sections and thunderous orchestral mayhem, the score is a thrilling throwback to good old-fashioned thematic orchestral writing, and that in itself is enough reason to rejoice.
2. Darkness Falls (Brian Tyler)
Speaking of another example for a stellar ‘traditional sounding’ horror score, Brian Tyler’s tremendous work on Darkness Falls, comes to mind. The gifted composer, now one of Hollywood’s most in-demand artists, was still an up-and-coming talent back in 2003 when he wrote the supernatural horror film’s music. But the orchestral complexity and the instrumental ferocity at display here will fool you into thinking that a veteran musician along the lines of Elliot Goldenthal or Christopher Young was at the helm, it’s that good. Orchestral horror music enthusiasts will certainly fall in love with this one, for Darkness Falls will deliver an auditory pummeling the likes of which they haven’t experienced, in a long time.
3. Maniac (ROB)
To say that French film score composer Robin Coudert a.k.a ROB created the quintessential love letter to John Carpenter, for the 2012 psychological slasher film Maniac, is something of an understatement. Because it’s just that, and then some. Taking cues from the moody, atmospheric electronica scores of Halloween and Assault on Precinct 13, Maniac’s music functions as the perfect tribute to the 80s synthwave soundscape pioneered by Carpenter whilst working unusually well in the context of the movie. So, if you are a passionate fan of the wizened horror auteur, look no further than this underrated gem of an album, to get your fix.
4. It Follows (Disasterpeace)
David Robert Mitchell’s supernatural psychological horror film It Follows, which traumatized theatregoers in 2014, featured an exquisitely crafted score by Disasterpeace (also known as electronic wunderkind Rich Vreeland). The soundtrack is a strangely chimeric beast, coming off like the weird oddball cousin to Robin Coudert’s Maniac. But one thing is certain, the music augments the nightmarish madness unfolding onscreen and ratchets it up to eleven. If bizarrely discordant, synth driven affairs are your cuppa tea, then this one is right up your alley.
5. Insidious (Joseph Bishara)
James Wan’s Insidious, released over a decade prior, delivered terrific nightmare fuel whilst sticking to a tame PG-13 rating. Complimenting Wan’s terrifying effort was the uber-talented composer, Joseph Bishara. Known for his avant-garde style and distinct approach Bishara has proven to be a master of horror movie sound, conjuring up disturbingly imaginative ways to mesmerize and terrify audiences, and none sums up his impressive repertoire better than Insidious. It is an unnerving work of art, worth looking up this Halloween.
6. Color Out of Space (Colin Stetson)
H.P Lovecraft’s books, which mostly dabbled in narratives based on cosmic-horror, have often been described as literary works which are ‘unfilmable’. However, it can be argued that cult-director Richard Stanley has accomplished the impossible with his adaptation of Lovecraft’s short story Color Out of Space. The film is chock full of hallucinatory visuals, B-movie schlock and an unhinged Nicolas Cage, which makes for one helluva ride. Complimenting the aforementioned, is the otherworldly soundtrack produced by multi-instrumentalist Colin Stetson. There’s no way else to describe this uniquely deranged output than to say that it’s ‘the musical embodiment of Lovecraftian cosmic-horror’.
7. The Witch (Mark Korven)
Robert Eggers’ The Witch is easily one of the greatest modern-day horror films. The twisted, critically lauded period piece, instantly cemented Eggers as one of our generation’s promising talents and put Anya Taylor-Joy on every casting director’s wish-list. But the film’s perpetual sense of dread would’ve been nigh impossible to achieve in the absence of musician Mark Korven’s contribution. Korven is no stranger to horror, having made his big-break with 1997’s Cube, but his work here is truly something special. Haunting, dissonant and sepulchral, this one will certainly get under your skin.
8. The Neon Demon (Cliff Martinez)
This Nicolas Winding Refn fever dream certainly stirred up its fair share of controversy when it made its debut back in 2016. Phantasmagoric visuals, excessive violence and an equally macabre tale, round up the movie in a nutshell. But it’d be a crime to not mention the jaw-droppingly beautiful aural masterpiece that Cliff Martinez turned out as a companion piece for this demented fantasy. Martinez has formed an inextricable relationship with Refn, and the duo’s past collaborations have indeed borne some strange musical fruit of unconventional appeal, but The Neon Demon is undoubtedly the composer’s pièce de résistance. Hearing is believing.
Hasitha Fernando is a part-time medical practitioner and full-time cinephile. Follow him on Twitter via @DoctorCinephile for regular updates on the world of entertainment.