I love horror films and so many of them have classic, instantly recognizable themes. They also set the mood of the film and give the viewer the feeling of suspense and dread. Here are my favorites!
1) Halloween theme by John Carpenter
This theme is deceptively simple. It's essentially the same pattern repeated over and over, but the treble pattern with the slower bass line really creates an air of tension. Just hearing the theme gives me an ominous feeling in the pit of my stomach. The music is also what makes the film so effective. It isn't very gory and doesn't have a lot of jump scares, so it relies on suspense and the music is what creates a lot of that mood.
2) Ave Satani from the Omen by Jerry Goldsmith
The Ave Satani is one of the most creepy sounding pieces of music I've ever heard. It just makes my stomach drop with dread. Fun story: my sister requested I have this as her ringtone when she calls me and she called me when I was rehearsing with my flute trio. I was just going to keep going through the piece and wait to call her back, but the other girls were so freaked out they stopped and had to know where the music was coming from. This piece is amazing. The full orchestra with the choir work well together and sounds like a twisted, warped version of classical sacred music.
3) The Descent theme by David Julyan
The theme from The Descent isn't like the others in this list. It doesn't cause tension or dread. It's actually quite serene and relaxing to listen to. The mix of strings and horns is beautiful, but once the low brass comes in, there is a dark undercurrent that ruins the consonance of the instruments. It's a bit unsettling, but not overly so and lets you know that ending is not as much of a relief as it appears. The score for the whole film is ambient music at its best, but I could just listen to this track over and over again.
4) The Nightmare on Elm Street theme by Charles Bernstein
This theme is admittedly a bit dated, but the use of synthesizers in no way lessens the unsettling feeling. The beginning just builds tension with extended high pitches that go from consonant to dissonant and back until that creepy, mocking children's theme comes in. Then the theme comes in earnest with dashes of that mocking children's theme. I heard this theme in one of the scare zones at Knott's Halloween Haunt and I was immediately looking around for monsters and uneasy. It was odd to hear it there since there was no other Freddy related things during the event, but it was certainly effective in that scare zone.
5) Helen's theme from Candyman by Philip Glass
Philip Glass uses his classical style and his minimalist technique to provide the perfect ambience for the Candyman film. It has such an innocent but melancholy music box sound. It illustrates Helen and the Candyman's shared plight as tragic figures, one succeeding the other. This one is also not scary or tense, but it's memorable and focuses on the more subtle themes of the film, not painting the Candyman as a flat villain.
What are your favorite horror film themes?