We all love a bit of Monster Mash, Ghostbusters and Time Warp at Halloween. Who doesn’t want to get funky with Frankenstein once a year? But, let’s be honest, we also all love a fright from time to time. There are some chilling scores and soundtracks out there that immediately make your hairs stand on end, and some are so eerie that they’ve become more famous than the movies and TV shows they were written for.
No doubt you’ll know this already, but with your Nuraphone on, you’ll experience the full discomfort of every dissonant note in the best possible way. Don’t worry – we’re not trying to keep you up all night on 31 October, but if you want to bring a spookier element to your Halloween party for a few minutes, these will do just the trick.
Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein’s Stranger Things soundtrack is a masterpiece. It’s capable of conjuring up feelings from nostalgia and hope to tension and fear. The Upside Down inspires all of those elements, with a rich synthesizer pad intro that is as 80s as it gets, making you feel calm and inquisitive. Then, one minute in, the bright pad evaporates, and a low, sombre pad takes its place with alarming notes. And, out of nowhere, about halfway through, a detuned synth pluck intrudes into the piece and instantly has you feeling cold and tense.
This was perfect for the scene it was created for, in which the Stranger Things kids enter the unknown to face the Demogorgon.
Hildur Guðnadóttir’s soundtrack for Joker won her an Oscar, a Grammy, a BAFTA, and plenty more. It’s hardly a surprise. The iconic stand-out track from the soundtrack is surely Call Me Joker, which sits at 6.9million views on YouTube at the time of writing. It arrives at arguably the most pivotal scene in the movie, when protagonist Arthur fully embraces his new persona. The creepy yet sinister slow dance that Joker performs as the deep drums and tormenting strings intensify keeps your eyes and ears locked in as you anticipate an anarchic eruption at any moment. This score will keep you on edge throughout the full five minutes.
You’ve heard this one before. Or, at least, you’ve heard the piercing, dissonant violin string section that has become almost a meme. It’s employed in countless TV shows, films, and online videos for its blatant connotations to horror. That isolated section might even be humorous to you now. Listen to the entire score, though, and you’ll have a hard time cracking a smile. Composed almost entirely of strings, the disturbing track traverses an array of moods, even sounding serene at parts before erratically descending into madness again.
It’s perhaps at its scariest with Nura headphones on as you follow each pluck and bow of the string ensemble – hauntingly hypnotising.
Opera can be a spellbinding genre to delve into. It can also be intensely terrifying. A perfect example is in the final scene of Salomé,
SAW – Hello Zepp | Charlie Clouser
Charlie Clouser brings his industrial roots from Nine Inch Nails into his menacing theme song for SAW. Impacting drums, unsettling strings and bizarre sound effects blend and form the perfect track to accompany the deadly Jigsaw. The unique and gripping theme appears throughout the gory SAW anthology, proving its effectiveness in imbuing fear into the audience. Play this at your Halloween party and ask, “do you want to play a game?” to bring an ominous atmosphere into the room.
Radiohead’s Thom Yorke has a penchant for creating emotional, mysterious music, and his ghostly vocal timbre always complements it. His work on 2018’s Suprisia excels at making you feel uncomfortable during the gory horror. The title song was nominated for a Grammy in 2020, no doubt thanks to the dramatic and unnerving piano part that’s recorded so beautifully that you can hear all of the instrument’s idiosyncrasies.
It’s not often that a piece of music can be described as both beautiful and terrifying, but Yorke’s theme is deserving of such a description.
What would Halloween be without Halloween? John Carpenter’s piano-led score for the 1978 film is as tense as it gets, with a dark synth line that follows the piano, stressing out the listener immediately. The genius of this track goes deeper than just the instrumentation, though. Carpenter wrote the theme in 5/4 timing that is often associated with suspense and horror, thanks to its rhythmic nature. The theme was later sampled by Dr Dre, J Dilla and Notorious B.I.G, who all perfectly translated the frightful theme into hip-hop. Check out both John Carpenter’s chilling original and Dr Dre’s calamitous Murder Ink rendition below.
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