Horror movies can be tantalizing, fun and downright terrifying. From the imagery that we see with our eyes and even the musical score to tie it all together, horror movies rightfully have their place in cinematic history. Whether the movie has epic villains, bloody kills and buckets of blood that fill the screen or moments that we’ll never forget for the rest of our lives, the horror genre keeps audiences coming back for more. Aside from all the killing and nastiness on display with this genre, there is one thing that everyone remembers about them- their musical theme. For this list, we’ll be looking at the top five horror movies whose musical theme is iconic, scary and haunts us every time we hear it. So, turn up your speakers, dim the lights and get ready to never forget these musical tunes that fill us with fear.
Charlie Clouser’s signature theme presents a movie about a game that no one would ever want to play willingly. The soundtrack itself is dark, creepy and mysterious but the most memorable track is “Hello Zepp” which served as the dramatic tone at the end of the film. It would be later used in every subsequent sequel and span the entire Saw franchise. Once you’ve heard it, you’ll never forget it. Numerous mixes have been made of the original track to accompany the sequels but it almost always plays right as the film ends, exposing the truth and revealing the characters fate. The Jigsaw Killer may be dead but this theme will ensure that the game will live on in infamy.
William Friedkin’s horror masterpiece is often considered, “One of the Scariest Movies of all Time” and rightfully so is the memorable theme that utilized a piano-based melody to make it such a haunting piece of music. The history behind the film’s theme is a troubling one. Originally, composer Lalo Schifrin wrote a six-minute score which Friedkin rejected. Numerous other musical pieces from Anton Webern and Jack Nitzsche were used in the film. Even so, what is considered the true theme is borrowed from a British progressive rock musician named Mike Oldfield. It comes from his debut album named Tubular Bells (released in 1973) which the opening music was used in The Exorcist. While Mike Oldfield wasn’t impressed with his music being associated with a film such as The Exorcist, it nevertheless is a soundtrack that most horror fans are familiar with. Apart from anything else, there is no horror film quite as iconic as The Exorcist.
Legendary film composer John Williams won an Academy Award for this musical theme that made Jaws the film that terrifies everyone from going into the water. The theme itself is quite simple, mainly two notes that represent the shark in the movie. The notes themselves are played via alternating patterns of just two notes. According to the production notes of the movie, Williams played the famous two notes on a piano for Spielberg to which the director laughed about it. One thing is for sure, without the musical theme of Jaws, it would not have had the impact that it did for film history. Everyone knows this theme, and we all love to hum it whenever we are near the beach.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Quite possibly one of the best horror films ever made, Tobe Hooper’s classic film is much more than your typical slasher film. Featuring a terrifying villain, a grand sense of depravity and horror combined with a signature soundtrack from Tobe Hooper and Wayne Bell gives this movie one hell of a reputation. While the sequels, remakes and reboots have never fared when compared to the 1974 original, one thing that has always remained is the haunting theme that draws inspiration from camera flashes, chainsaw sounds and slamming doors as well as other hidden themes that make this film even more horrifying than ever thought of. When we hear this theme, it shakes us to our very core. Leatherface will always keep us awake at night and weary of hitchhikers alone on the country road.
What movie comes to mind when you think of scary movie themes? Yes, John Carpenter’s Halloween. A simple theme played on piano drew inspiration from Suspiria and The Exorcist. Even if the movie itself is simple enough, much like Jaws, the musical theme is what makes Michael Myers one of the most iconic slashers in the horror genre. Without the iconic theme, Halloween may have just been forgotten like many others slashers that were released during the ‘70s and 80s. Whether we hear the theme when watching the movies, or have it as our ringtone when the Halloween holiday nears close, this is the one musical theme that everyone knows and loves. Whether you enjoy seeing Michael Myers or not, whenever we hear this theme, we know what time of year it is.
What are your favorite musical themes from horror movies? What musical pieces keep you awake at night?