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The Daily Need

Ten deliciously horrific soundtracks

Boris Karloff as Frankenstein's monster in 1931.

When I was about 8, I became obsessed with a book at the Leon County Public Library called something like “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Scary Movies but Were Too Afraid to Ask.” Mainly, it focused on horror greats of the past like Lon Chaney, Bela Lugosi, Val Lewton, James Whale and my personal favorite, Boris Karloff. I checked it out over and over again, mooning over Boris (laugh if you will, haters — he was my first movie-star crush) and memorizing arcane trivia about the Universal and RKO horror productions of the ’20s through the ’50s: Lon Chaney Jr.’s own German shepherd appears in “The Wolf Man”! Each of the Frankenstein monster’s shoes weighed 13 pounds! I’m sure my mother was simply fascinated by all the riveting facts I had to impart.

Beyond the inherent absurdity of my 8-year-old fixation, my fondness for the subject of monster movies was made all the more ridiculous by the fact that I’d never seen any of them. Not a single one. And didn’t until years later.

Now, as an avowed horror-movie fanatic I realize that in addition to missing the incredible visuals, acting performances and sheer chair-gripping terror, I was also losing out on the soundtracks. From psychedelic folk to synth-heavy grooves to lush orchestral scores, for my money horror films have some of the best music out there. For your listening pleasure, I’ve selected 10 favorites. And before you start quibbling with my choices: Yes, I have an admitted bias toward Italian composers and, yes, I’ve generally left off greats like Bernard Hermann’s “Psycho” score in favor of tracks that I think are worth listening to without celluloid accompaniment.

Be sure to check out our interview with Rob Millis and Jeffery Taylor of Climax Golden Twins, the band behind my #5 pick below.

1. “The Wicker Man” – Paul Giovanni & Magnet


2. “Deep Red” - Goblin


3. TIE

“Cannibal Holocaust” – Riz Ortolani

“Zombi Holocaust” - Nico Fidenc

4. “Nosferatu” – Popol Vuh

5. “Session 9″ – Climax Golden Twins

6. “The Shining” – Wendy Carlos, Al Bowlly, various composers

7. “Don’t Look Now” - Pino Donaggio

8. “Bees Saal Baad”Lakshmikant Shantaram Kudalkar and Pyarelal Ramprasad Sharma

9. “Zombi 2″ - Fabio Frizzi

10. “Halloween III” – John Carpenter and Alan Howarth

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  • ron

    You forgot Phantasm – The scariest soundtrack ever.

  • Anonymous

    Phantasm is a great one. BOYYYYY!

  • Anonymous

    This was awesome, thanks! Separate from Halloween, if you want a wonderfully evocative soundtrack that will bring you right back to the movie, get the soundtrack to “To Kill A Mockingbird.”

  • Wrenja

    oh man, why did you have to mention cannibal holocaust. I’m still traumatized by that movie.

  • David Keith Webb

    The sound track to Forbidden Planet. Very other worldly. I love it.

  • Michael

    I would absolutely add Krzysztof Komeda’s masterful score to Rosemary’s Baby to the list; quite surprised it doesn’t appear here.

  • Shane

    Hello? The orginal 1978 ‘Halloween’ film soundtrack is brilliant.

  • Elizabeth Reams

    Um – Jerry Goldsmith’s “THE OMEN” Suite? Got an academy award for BEST SOUNDTRACK? It’s the best soundtrack ever made and out of all of these ones, the only one that got an AWARD????????????

  • Rebecca

    great list, argento’s susperia would have made mine

  • Indianamichael

    How on earth did the Title Track from “Dexter” on Showtime not get an honorable mention?

  • Nanzanita

    I’d put David Bowie’s soundtrack to “Cat People” at the top of my list!

  • Anonymous

    Childhood memory: 78 recording (presumably purchased by my father) of the theme from “The Thing” (complete with theremin), that my brother and I played over and over — especially at Halloween!

  • Jeremy Meyers

    Also missing Coil’s unreleased soundtrack to Hellraiser.

  • Mailroshan

    You got the wrong Bees Saal Baad my friend. The one you listed is pot-boiler. I think you had this 1962 “Bees Saal Baad” movie in mind and this is the song: Kahin Deep Jale composed by Hemanth Kumar;

  • Erin C.

    Mailroshan- while indeed I meant to select the “pot-boiler” that’s the 1988 Bees Saal Baad, you correctly pointed out that I got the music credit wrong. We’ve fixed it – thank you! The song you linked to is great. I’ll have to add it to next year’s list.

    Great suggestions from everyone else, as well! Michael, Rebecca and lecole54, you should know that Rosemary’s Baby, Suspiria and The Thing were all on my short list, too.

    At my house, we actually put speakers out on our front porch last night and played most of these songs (including some of your suggestions) for the trick or treaters.

  • Jadbeavis

    The same thing happened to me when I was about 12 at the school library when I found a big book with great photos encompassing most hollywood horror movies up until the 1980s. I kept coming back to the library just to read some more and look at those amazing photos, although up until the age of 12 I had not seen any of the movies mentioned, well except for maybe one or two.

  • Chillhouse

    no “tubular bells” from The Exorcist? scariest theme ever!! aaagghhhh!!