Vintage Scares #17: Scariest Horror Movie Soundtracks

Let me say this right off the bat, this is not a list of the best horror movie soundtracks.... that honor would go to the funky beats of Phantasm, Deep Red and Vampyros Lesbos.  We're talkin' scares here

10. Psycho
The chilling, screeching repetition fit perfectly with Hitchcock's classic; however, like the Jaws theme, it's been so overused that it's lost a lot of its original impact.  Intrinsically, it should be ranked nearer the top of his list, but, in reality, it's lost a lot of its punch over the years as a by-product of its greatness.

9. A Nightmare on Elm Street
Synthesizers don't usually creep me out (unless its John Tesh); however, this one managed to deliver the goods.

8. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
This one is almost too sparse and minimalist to qualify; however, the haunting twangs turns my stomach into knots.

7. Cannibal Holocaust
You'll notice I didn't include any Goblin or other Italian scores on this list.  IMHO they're just a little too jazzy, funky, and often cheesy.  That being said, ths similarly cheesy sdtrk manages to press a button in my psyche that sends chills up and down my spine.  This sample is from the opening theme... things take a dark turn from there.

6. The Exorcist
Sets a chilling mood, to be sure.  However, "Tubular Bells" may be just a little too prog to top the list.

5. The Fog
Everyone always points to Carpenter's Halloween score as one of the greatest. While this may be true, his other works often get overlooked.  The Fog soundtrack is effing brilliant and deserves similar respect.

4. The Wicker Man
Ancient, pagan, haunting.... would've even made the Nicholas Cage remake scary.

3. Friday the 13th
I'm a sucker for eerie whispers.  Whenever I'm in the woods and it's dark, I can't help but think of this score.

2. Halloween
Carpenter tapped into our primal fears with this one; it's like he made contact with our primitive brain, and ancient terrors came alive once more. 

1. The Omen
Dear God, this soundtrack scares the living shit out of me.  Maybe it's a predictable choice, but nothing tops it in my book.


  1. Good call on The Omen soundtrack. It reminds me of a Carmina Burana/Dies Irae mix. I've only seen bits and pieces of the Omen, but that music conjures up some scary images.
    PS-Loved the Tesh comment.

  2. Good choices. Creeped myself out the other day, walking my dogs in the woods, when Carpenter's Halloween came on my iPod. Zoinks!

  3. Great choices, especially Cannibal Holocaust. I know just what you mean, there's something about that kind of music matched to such a dark film that can really give you the creeps. Similar jarring, chilling juxtapositions can be found in Craven's The Last House on the Left (sountracked by David Hess no less).

  4. Soundtrack by David Hess? Egad, that was one disturbed fellow - it seems like everything he did back than has traumatized me. His House by the Park (or Cemetary?) character disturbed me to death.

  5. And, yeah, the Shining sdtrk is incredible, but it doesn't scare the crap out of me like the other ten on this list. Judging on quality alone, this list would look a whole lot different.

  6. These are great choices; glad you went with Ortolani's Cannibal Holocaust than the usual Goblins. I also dig Michael Kamen's score for The Dead Zone--wintry and lonely, like the film itself--and Howard Shore's work for Cronenberg's other films, although I suppose those aren't quite retro. Yet.

  7. Steven CentersFebruary 23, 2011

    DePalma's Sisters soundtrack always creeped me out.