The Synth of Fear: Horror Films with Synthesizer Scores – article

Keith Emerson's sound-man gets to grips with the Moog

Keith Emerson’s sound-man at work…

Electronically produced sound has been available to adventurous film composers since the silent era. Among the earliest electronic instruments were the Ondes-Martenot (invented in 1928), which produced a characteristic quivering sound by varying the frequency of oscillation in an array of vacuum tubes, and the trautonium (1930), a monophonic synthesizer-like instrument in which sound generation was based on neon tubes and modulated by the action of fingers on a metal resistor wire.

Later, the clavioline (1947) was the first electronic keyboard instrument to reach a mass market, boasting a five octave range derived from a single tone generator; its rich buzzy timbre can be heard on Joe Meek’s classic single “Telstar” (1962) and the work of jazz maverick Sun Ra. Among the more obscure instruments, the ANS synthesizer (1937) was perhaps the most unusual: created by Russian engineer Evgeny Murzin, it modified sine waves photo-electronically by means of five glass discs, through which light shines as the player scratches patterns on an outer surface coated with non-drying black mastic. It can be heard on Edward Artemiev’s score for Andrei Tarkovsky’s sublime Solaris (1972) and the Coil album “ANS” (2004).

thereminpic

The Theremin

The earliest and best known of these pioneering instruments is the theremin (developed in 1920), which produces a distinctively eerie tone shifting up and down in pitch according to the position of the operator’s hands in relation to a pair of magnetised antennae. It made its soundtrack debut in a 1931 Soviet film called Odna (“Alone”), for a sequence in which a women gets lost in a furious snowstorm.

Miklós Rózsa was the first film composer to use the theremin in the West, in the otherwise orchestral scores for Alfred Hitchcock’s psychological thriller Spellbound (1945) and Billy Wilder’s drama about alcoholism Lost Weekend (1945).

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The theremin also turned up in Robert Siodmak’s The Spiral Staircase (1946) and was incorporated by composer Ferde Grofé into Kurt Neumann’s Rocketship X-M (1950), after which it became strongly associated with science fiction, thanks to Bernard Herrmann’s influential score for Robert Wise’s classic The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951). The same year, Dimitri Tiomkin added theremin to his score for Howard Hawks’ The Thing from Another World (1951), which could be said to mark the first use of electronic sound in a horror movie.

The first film to boast a completely electronic score was Forbidden Planet (1956), featuring sounds created by husband and wife team Louis and Bebe Barron, the latter a student of American avant-garde composer Henry Cowell. During 1952-53 the Barrons worked with John Cage as engineers on his first tape work “Williams Mix”, a four and a half minute piece which took over a year to complete.

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In 1956, having realised the limited commercial potential of avant-garde composition, they put feelers out to Hollywood and were commissioned to produce twenty minutes of sound effects for Forbidden Planet. When the producers heard the astonishing results they signed the couple up for the whole score. Using a variety of home-built electronic circuits, principally a ‘ring modulator’, the Barrons further manipulated the results by adding reverberation, delay and tape effects. Such was the sheer novelty of their work that, at an early preview of the movie, the audience applauded the sound of the spaceship landing on Altair IV.

Forbidden Planet – spaceship landing:

Alfred Hitchcock turned to electronic sound again in 1963, for his innovative horror film The Birds. This time he decided to dispense with an orchestral score altogether and opted for Oskar Sala’s ‘Mixtur-Trautonium’ to create synthetic birdcalls, along with an abstract electronic soundtrack by Sala and Remi Gassmann.

Oskar_Sala_Alfred_Hitchcock_Mixturtrautonium_The_Birds_1962_Mars_Film

Alfred Hitchcock with Oskar Sala at the Trautonium

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Sala also provided an extraordinary trautonium score to Harald Reinl’s 1963 West-German horror-thriller Der Würger von Schloß Blackmoor aka The Strangler of Blackmoor Castle.

Distinguished by complex harmonic arrangements of pure electronic sound, and some striking approximations of brass and woodwind, Sala’s music for this better-than-average ‘krimi’ deserves more attention – a twelve minute suite from the film can be found on the Oskar Sala compilation CD “Subharmonische Mixturen”.

Strangler of Blackmoor - poster

As a side note it’s worth mentioning the controversial, some would say misunderstood, film Anders als du und ich (1957) by Veit Harlan, a German director accused of working for the Nazi propaganda machine during the Second World War. Harlan denied this, claiming that his work had been tampered with by another director at Goebbels’ orders. If true, Harlan was an unlucky man: after WW2 he tried to relaunch his career with Anders als du und ich, which began life as Das dritte Geschlecht (“The 3rd Sex”), a film about the repression of homosexuals. Apparently this too was tampered with, at the instruction of the post-War German censors, to create a diametrically opposite story about the danger of homosexual influences on young men. The reason I mention this? One of the tell-tale signs of homosexuality in the film is an interest in electronic avant-garde music, as represented by none other than Oskar Sala’s Trautonium!

gay trautonium

A young man is ‘turned on’ to electronic music in “Anders als du und ich” (1957).

Bob_Moog_Minimoog_Modular_Synthesizer_70s

Robert Moog at the controls

In the mid-1960s, American physics graduate and electrical engineer Dr. Robert Moog unveiled an invention that was to revolutionise the field. The first commercially available ‘synthesizer’ as the term is understood today, the ‘Moog’ was smaller, cheaper and far more reliable than previous examples. Before this the only synthesizers in existence were enormous, unwieldy, custom-built machines like the RCA Mark II Sound Synthesizer, installed at Columbia University in 1957. Robert Moog, with the assistance of New York recording engineer Wendy (at the time ‘Walter’) Carlos, launched his first production model – the 900 series – in 1967, with a free demonstration record composed, recorded and produced by Carlos herself. (She created an even greater sensation in 1968 with “Switched on Bach”, an album of synthesized Johann Sebastian Bach pieces, and went on to record music for Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange and The Shining).

Walter-Wendy-Carlos-Moog-Synthesizer-Late-60s

Wendy Carlos with Moog 900 circa late 1960s.

1968 was the year in which George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead was unleashed upon unsuspecting audiences. And at the heart of this seminal modern horror film, electronic sound is deployed to suggest unutterable horror: when would-be heroic young couple Tom and Judy are killed, and zombies grab handfuls of their entrails in graphic detail, a deep, distorted oscillator drenched in white noise and reverb underlines the severity of the scene and amplifies the taboo-busting power. The rest of the score consists of library orchestral tracks, sometimes slathered in echo to add a hallucinatory edge; only this one key scene utilizes pure electronics. It’s an artistic decision that would reverberate through the genre for years to come, setting the seal on the synthesizer as the instrument of choice for representing abject physical horror.

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night of the living dead - munchers

Tom and Judy devoured, in Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Meanwhile, synthesizers were rapidly finding a place in rock music. San-Francisco based musicians Paul Beaver and Bernie Krause set up a booth at the Monterey Pop Festival in June 1967 to demonstrate the Moog, and soon found themselves in demand for studio session work, leading to a recording contract with Warner Brothers and a commission to provide electronic music for Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg’s psychedelic masterpiece Performance (1970). During production of Performance Mick Jagger recorded a Moog score for Kenneth Anger’s 11-minute short Invocation of my Demon Brother (1969); the giant Moog synthesizer seen in the Roeg/Cammell film is the one he used.

Mick Jagger (and Moog) in this rare promo film for Performance: 

Keith Emerson of prog-rockers Emerson, Lake and Palmer was another early customer; his personal feedback and consultation helped Roberg Moog to refine the instrument and probably paved the way for the Minimoog, a monophonic three-oscillator keyboard synthesizer launched in 1970. Portable and relatively affordable, it was popular with touring rock bands and soon found its way into recording studios used by film composers, thus becoming one of the first synths to feature on low budget movie scores.

A synth highlight from Keith Emerson’s score for Dario Argento’s Inferno (1980):

Prominent among the ‘early adopters’ to make a mark on the genre in the 1970s was Phillan Bishop, whose bleep-and-bloop approach lent avant-garde menace to Thomas Alderman’s The Severed Arm, Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz’s Messiah of Evil and Chris Munger’s Kiss of the Tarantula.

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The Severed Arm, featuring music by Phillan Bishop:

deathdream_poster_01 Carl Zittrer also deserves a mention; he went free-form crazy on Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things and then cohered a little for the superior Deathdream, both for director Bob Clark.

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By now a pattern was beginning to emerge; synthesizers signified madness, extreme situations, encroaching terror, and the chilly derangement of the psychopath. All of these elements come together in the score to The Last House on the Left, an assortment of country bluegrass tunes augmented by crude but effective electronics (from a Moog and an ARP 2600), played by Steve Chapin and the film’s lead psycho, musician-turned-actor David Hess.

In 1973, Robert Moog associate David Borden was commissioned to record the soundtrack to William Friedkin’s soon-to-be smash The Exorcist. As it turned out, only a minute of his work was used, with Friedkin instead making the inspired if seemingly unlikely choice of Mike Oldfield’s progressive rock epic “Tubular Bells”.

The enormous success of The Exorcist, and the impact of “Tubular Bells”, echoed through the film scores of the 1970s, and with synthesizers now part of the furniture in many a recording studio and film post-production suite, an explosion of electronic sound pulsated through the horror genre.

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In fact, not only Mike Oldfield but progressive rock as a whole was a driving force in pushing synthesizers to the forefront of 1970s film composition; bands like Yes, Genesis, Van Der Graaf Generator, King Crimson and Emerson, Lake and Palmer deployed electric organs, Minimoogs and towering stacks of ARP and Buchla technology, and this would inspire an Italian band who were to become one of the foremost exponents of electronics in film scoring: Goblin.

Goblin lent innovative jazz-rock stylings to Dario Argento’s brutal, beautiful Deep Red (Profondo rosso, 1975), but really hit the musical motherlode on their second Argento collaboration, Suspiria (1977), a tumultuous score built around a circling melody that drags “Tubular Bells” into a cackling synthesized whirlwind.

Their exciting, arpeggiator-driven scores for Luigi Cozzi’s grisly but loveable alien invasion flick Contamination and Joe D’Amato’s sleazy gross-out Beyond the Darkness considerably enhance the films, while the influence of disco (more on that later) supercharges their contribution to Argento’s masterpiece Tenebrae (only three members of Goblin play on this recording, hence the film’s ‘bit-of-a-mouthful’ credit to “Simonetti-Morante-Pignatelli”).

Contamination LP

buio-omega LP

Tenebrae LP

The advent of ever more affordable synthesizers locked step with the rise of the slasher movie, and the two proved a match made in low-budget heaven. In 1978, John Carpenter was putting the finishing touches to his third feature, Halloween.

Assault on Precinct 13 soundtrack

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There was no way he could afford an orchestral score, but he was a dab hand with a synth – as his previous film Assault on Precinct 13 had shown – so he elected to write and perform the music himself.

The result helped a simple slasher film to become one of the biggest independent hits of the 1970s. For the main theme, Carpenter employed an insistent metronomic pulse, but with a twist; the piano taps out five beats to the bar (shades of prog rock again). Meanwhile, the synthesizer provides a rapid ‘ticker-ticker-ticker-ticker’ in the background, creating a jittery sense of things moving at the periphery of your attention, perfectly in keeping with Carpenter’s menacing widescreen framing.

halloween LP

The template set by Halloween would sustain many of Carpenter’s future films, The Fog being an especially wonderful example:

It would inspire a new generation of soundtrack composers; in particular, Fred Myrow and Malcolm Seagrave, whose breathtakingly inventive score for Phantasm (1978) drew on avant-garde electronics, progressive rock, Carpenter-style repetition, and even disco (an influential musical form when it comes to movie soundtracks, and one whose leading lights embraced the synthesizer wholeheartedly).

Tim Krog’s score for another surprise low-budget horror hit, Ulli Lommel’s The Boogey Man (1980), also deserves mention for its lush melancholic synth arrangements.

phantasmLP

Videodrome (1983) saw Canadian director David Cronenberg’s resident composer, Howard Shore, using a new computer instrument called the Synclavier to blur the line between synthetic orchestrations and a real string section. The resulting ambiguity mirrored the film’s unsettling philosophical core: were the characters having real experiences or hallucinations; were the instruments real, or artificial?

Videodrome_Soundtrack_Cover

As the 1980s got under way, the sampler emerged as the big new concept in musical composition, and the post-modern fallout of sampling has persisted ever since. One could argue that synthesizers were historicised by the advent of sampling, and it’s difficult now to escape a sense of nostalgia or deliberate quotation of the past when using the classic Moogs or ARPs on record.

However, as recent films like Under the Skin (2014) have shown, electronic sound synthesis, whether based in sampling and software manipulation or ‘traditional’ synthesizer programming, continues to offer creative support to the extreme visions of horror and fantasy filmmakers.

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Filmography:

The following is a selected list of significant horror film soundtracks featuring synthesizers either exclusively or prominently. The relevant composer is noted alongside. Clearly, there are many, many more low budget productions that utilise a synth score. If you feel a particular soundtrack has merit, email us, or add a comment below.

1967:

The Sorcerers (UK) – Paul Ferris

1969:

Troika – David Johnson, Fredrick Hobbs

1970:

I Drink Your Blood – Clay Pitts

Mark of the Witch – Whitey Thomas

1971:

Endless Night – Bernard Herrmann

Let’s Scare Jessica to Death – Orville Stoeber

1972:

Blood Orgy of the She-Devils – Carl Zittrer

Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things – Carl Zittrer

Deathdream aka Dead of Night – Carl Zittrer

Endless Night – Bernard Herrmann

The Last House on the Left – Steve Chapin & David Hess

Season of the Witch – Steve Gorn

The Severed Arm – Phillan Bishop

1973:

Messiah of Evil – Phillan Bishop

1974:

Beyond the Door – Franco Micalizzi (opening scene)

Black Christmas – Carl Zittrer

Corpse Eaters – uncredited

Deranged – Carl Zittrer

The Devil’s Possessed – Carlos Viziello

Killdozer – Gil Melle

Nude for Satan – Alberto Baldan Bembo

The Reincarnation of Peter Proud – Jerry Goldsmith

Satan’s Children – Ray Fletcher

1975:

Alucarda aka Sisters of Satan – Anthony Guefen

Deep Red – Goblin

Demon Witch Child – Victor y Diego

The Keeper – Eric Hoyt

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Kiss of the Tarantula – Phillan Bishop

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Shining Sex – Daniel White

Swingers Massacre aka Inside Amy – Jack Preisner

1976:

The Alien Factor  Kenneth Walker

The Astral Factor (part-synth) – Richard Hieronymous

The Child – Michael Quatro

The Demon Lover – Don Gutz, Jerry Skolasinski

Death Trap aka Eaten Alive – Wayne Bell, Tobe Hooper

Drive In Massacre – uncredited

The Redeemer – Philip Gallo, Clem Vicari

Savage Weekend – Dov Seltzer

SS Experiment Camp – Alberto Baldan Bembo

1977:

The Beast in Heat – Alberto Baldan Bembo

Cathy’s Curse – Didier Vasseur

Full Circle (partly synth score) – Colin Towns

Haunts – Pino Donaggio

Prey – Ivor Slaney

7 Notes in Black aka The Psychic – Bixio, Frizzi, Tempera

Shock Waves – Richard Einhorn

shock-waves-soundtrack-score-richard-einhorn-front

Suspiria – Goblin

Shock – I Libra

1978:

Barracuda – Klaus Schulze

Blue Sunshine – Charles Gross

Halloween – John Carpenter

Phantasm – Fred Myrow and Malcolm Seagrave

Dawn of the Dead – Goblin

Jennifer – Porter Jordan

Terror – Ivor Slaney

1979:

Beyond the Darkness aka Blue Holocaust – Goblin

The Driller Killer – Joe Delia

Don’t Go in the House – Richard Einhorn

Forest of Fear aka Bloodeaters – Ted Shapiro

Satanwar – William Kueker

Zombie Flesh Eaters – Fabio Frizzi

Terror Express! – Marcello Giombini

1980:

Anthropophagus – Marcello Giombini

The Beast in Space – Marcello Giombini

The Being – Don Preston

Blood Beach – Gil Melle (part-synth)

The Boogey Man – Tim Krog

Burial Ground aka Nights of Terror – Berto Pisano

Cannibal Holocaust – Riz Ortolani

City of the Living Dead – Fabio Frizzi

Contamination – Goblin

Death Ship – Ivor Slaney

Don’t Go in the Woods – H. Kingsley Thurber

Erotic Nights of the Living Dead – Marcello Giombini

Fiend – Paul Woznicki

The Fog – John Carpenter

Maniac – Jay Chattaway

Mother’s Day – Phil Gallo & Clem Vicari Jr

The Shining – Wendy Carlos

To All a Goodnight – Richard Tufo

Zombie Holocaust – Nico Fidenco [Doctor Butcher M.D. version – Walter Sear]

Zombie Lake – Daniel White

1981:

Absurd – Carlo Mario Cordio

The Beyond – Fabio Frizzi

Bloody Moon – Gerhard Heinz

The Burning – Rick Wakeman

Cannibal Ferox – Robarto Donati

Dark Night of the Scarecrow – Glenn Paxton

Final Exam – Gary Scott

The Forest (part-synth) – Richard Hieronymus

Galaxy of Terror – Barry Schrader

The House by the Cemetery – Walter Rizzati

Humongous – John Mills-Cockell

Inseminoid – John Scott

Just Before Dawn – Brad Fiedel

Lady, Stay Dead – Bob Young

Macumba Sexual – Jess Franco [as ‘Pablo Villa’]

The Nesting – Jack Malken, George Kim Scholes

Night School – Brad Fiedel

Possession – Andrzej Korzynski

Scanners – Howard Shore

Strange Behavior aka Dead Kids – Tangerine Dream

1982:

Android – Don Preston

Blood Song – Rob Walsh

The Deadly Spawn – Paul Cornell, Michael Perilstein, Kenneth Walker

BoardingHouse – ‘Teeth’

Cat People – Giorgio Moroder

Creepshow – John Harrison

The Entity – Charles Bernstein

Evilspeak – Roger Kellaway

Forbidden World – Susan Justin

Honeymoon Horror – Ron Di Iulio

Manhattan Baby – Fabio Frizzi

Mongrel – Ed Guinn

Next of Kin – Klaus Schulze

Nightbeast – Rob Walsh, Jeffrey Abrams

Slumber Party Massacre – Ralph Jones

Tenebrae – Simonetti-Morante-Pignatelli

The Thing – Ennio Morricone, John Carpenter, Alan Howarth

The Sinister Dr. Orloff – Jess Franco [as ‘Pablo Villa’]

Turkey Shoot – Brian May

Unhinged – Jonathan Newton

1983

Angst aka Schizophenia – Klaus Schulze

Attack of the Beast Creatures aka Hell Island – John P. Moxey

The Devonsville Terror – Ray Colcord

Eyes of Fire – Brad Fiedel

Friday the 13th Part III – Harry Manfredini and Michael Zager

Halloween III: Season of the Witch – John Carpenter

The Keep – Tangerine Dream

Mountaintop Motel Massacre – Ron Di Iulio

Sledgehammer – Ted Prior, Marc Adams, Philip G. Slate

Spasms – Tangerine Dream

Videodrome – Howard Shore

Xtro – Harry Bromley Davenport

1984:

Children of the Corn – Jonathan Elias

The Dark Side of Midnight aka The Creeper – Doug Holroyd

Don’t Open Till Christmas – Des Dolan

Monster Shark – Fabio Frizzi

Murder-rock: Dancing Death – Keith Emerson

A Nightmare on Elm Street – Charles Bernstein

Rats: Nights of Terror – Luigi Caccarelli

Razorback – Iva Davies

Runaway – Jerry Goldsmith

The Terminator – Brad Fiedel

1985:

Blood Cult – Rod Slane

Cut & Run – Claudio Simonetti

Day of the Dead – John Harrison

Deadly Intruder – John McCauley

Fright Night – Brad Fiedel

Future-Kill – Robert Renfrow

The Galaxy Invader – Norman Noplock

Ghoulies – Richard Band

Massacre in Dinosaur Valley – Claudio Simonetti

Nail Gun Massacre – Whitey Thomas

Nightmare Weekend – Martin Kershaw

Phenomena – Goblin

The Strangeness – David Michael Hillman, Chris Huntley

1986:

The Abomination – Kim Davis, Richard Davis and John Hudek

April Fool’s Day – Charles Bernstein

Blood Hook – Thomas A. Naunas

Body Count – Claudio Simonetti

Breeders – Don Great, Tom Milano

Chopping Mall – Chuck Cirino

Class of Nuke ‘Em High – Ethan Hurt

Combat Shock – Buddy Giovanazzo

Deadly Friend – Charles Bernstein

Evil in the Woods – Burt and Joe Wolff

“Geek”! aka Backwoods – Skeet Bushor

Goremet: Zombie Chef from Hell – Steve Cunningham, Dan Smith, Don Swan

Gore_met__Zombie_4fc468ba484cd

Gothic – Thomas Dolby

The Hitcher – Mark Isham

Night of the Creeps – Barry DeVorzon

Revenge – Rod Slane

Revenge of the Living Dead Girls – Christopher Reid

The Ripper – Rod Slane

Spookies – Kenneth Higgins, James Calabrese

Tahkhana – Ajit Singh

TerrorVision – Richard Band

The Wind aka The Edge of Terror – Hans Zimmer, Stanley Myers

the-wind-el-viento-1986-nico-mastorakis

The Wraith – Michael Hoenig, J. Peter Robinson

1987:

Beaks: The Movie – Stelvio Cipriani

Evil-Birds-Beaks-1987-VHS

Blood Diner – Don Preston

Brain Damage – Clutch Reiser and Gus Russo

Creepshow 2 – Les Reed, Rick Wakeman

Demonwarp – Dan Slider

Killing Birds – Carlo Maria Cordio

Open House – Jim Studer

Psychos in Love – Carmine Capobianco


The Shaman
– Richard Yakub

The Serpent and the Rainbow – Brad Fiedel

Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama aka The Imp – Guy Moon

Street Trash – Rick Ulfik

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Surf Nazi Must Die – John McCallum

1988:

The Blob – Michael Hoenig

Fatal Pulse – Martin Mayo

Fright Night Part 2 – Brad Fiedel

The Hackers – David Christopher, Milly Duncan

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers – Alan Howarth

Headhunter – Julian Laxton

Iced – Dan Milner

Killer Klowns from Outer Space – John Massari

The Last Slumber Party – John Brennan, Danilo Bridgens

Night of the Demons – Dennis Michael Tenney

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4 – Craig Safan, John Easdale

Not of This Earth – Chuck Cirino

Offerings – Russell D. Allen

The Urge to Kill aka Attack of the Killer Computer – uncredited

1989:

Beasties aka Bionaut – Darrell Devaurs

Dark Heritage – uncredited

Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers – Alan Howarth

The House of Usher  – Gary Chang, George S. Clinton

MoonStalker – Douglas Pipes

Nightmare Beach – Claudio Simonetti

Skinned Alive – J.R. Bookwalter

1990:

Demon Wind – Bruce Wallenstein

Demon_wind_cover

Nightmare Concert (A Cat in the Brain) – Fabio Frizzi

Metamorphosis: The Alien Factor – John Gray

1991:

Intensive Care – Paul Natte

1992:

The Washing Machine – Claudio Simonetti

1995:

Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers – Alan Howarth

1996:

The Dentist – Alan Howarth

1998:

The Dentist 2 – Alan Howarth

2004: 

Saw – Charlie Clouser

2008:

Psycho Sleepover

2010:

Resident Evil: Afterlife – Tomandandy

2011:

Zombie Ass: Toilet of the Dead

2012:

Beyond the Black Rainbow – Norm Li

Room 237 – Jonathan Snipes

2013:

LFO – Antonio Tublén

2014:

Let Us Prey – Steve Lynch

Starry Eyes – Jonathan Snipes

Excess Flesh – Jonathan Snipes

It Follows – Disasterpiece

Late Phases – Wojciech Golczewski

2015:

Bastard – Kyle Hnedak

Live-Evil – Shawn Lee

Sinister 2 – tomandandy

We Are Still Here – Wojciech Golczewski

2016:

Beyond the Gates – Wojciech Golczewski

Fender Bender – Nightrunner

Let’s Be Evil – Julian Scherle

Shadows of the Dead – Wojciech Golczewski

She Wolf Rising – Tom Burns

Tonight She Comes – Wojciech Golczewski

2017:

Game of Death – Julien Mineau

Stephen Thrower, Horrorpedia

Steve is the author of Beyond Terror: The Films of Lucio Fulci; Nightmare USA and Murderous Passions: The Delirious Cinema of Jesus Franco and one half of Cyclobe.

Additions to filmography by Daz Lawrence and Adrian J Smith

Related: Theremin

Murderous Passions The Delirious Cinema of Jesus Franco Stephen Thrower

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Categories: 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, article

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30 replies

  1. This year we’ve had a great score by EMA for #Horror (whether or not you like the film), and a groovy one for SICARO from Johnan Johannson (not horror but plenty spooky soundtrack which casts an ominous pall), and ones for an Anthology Horror from the US, SOUTHBOUND by The Gifted; ones for GREEN ROOM and NEON DEMON and of course the Netflix anthology STRANGER THINGS

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  2. What a fantastic article. So comprehensive. I knew a fair few of these as a carpenter and argento fan but there’s so much more here for me to check out, i’ll be watching and listening for weeks… thankyou for sharing the knowledge.

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  3. Don’t forget that amazing ambient score to The Hitcher (1986)!

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  4. Street trash

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  5. Full circle aka the haunting of julia belongs on this list

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  6. You might like this soundtrack to an unmade 80’s italian slasher film:

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  7. You might like this soundtrack to an unmade 80’s italian slasher film:

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  8. I really dig this list & have watched some of these films due to it. “It Follows” would make a great addition to it. As a fan of these type of scores, it’s really cool to have them all in one place. Thanks for it! Great job!

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  9. TRON (1982)??? A movie about computers, and not mentioned?

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  10. I can’t believe they omitted ANGST (1983) it has a synthesizer soundtrack by KLAUS SCHULZE.

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  11. I would have given this article 5 stars, but you left out probably one of the most prominent and iconic horror synth sound tracks of all time…

    John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982)
    Ennio Morricone

    IMO the intro synth bass line and haunting strings that slowly fade are till this day one of the most unsettling and disturbing sound tracks of all time, and its pure synth glory.

    Otherwise…great article!

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  12. Creepshow!!!

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  13. Beyond the Black Rainbow!

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  14. Good article. Blue Sunshine (1977) also springs to mind…

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  15. Hey Adrian, thanks so much for your very comprehensive and well annotated round up, much appreciated :~)
    I was very interested to learn of Veit Harlan’s Anders als du und ich/ Das dritte Geschlecht.
    If any readers locate a download/torrent of this please post a link here.
    Cheerio, John

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  16. Mike Oldfield’s original “Tubular Bells” does not feature any synthesizer, although a number of covers have:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tubular_Bells#Cover_versions

    A good example of a recent horror movie making use of synths for its soundtrack is “Beyond the Black Rainbow”. If you check out the trailer on youtube, you’ll hear what I consider to be the best track from it.

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  17. I would definitely add Rick Wakeman’s Burning soundtrack to this list.

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  18. just remembered one more not on the list: Halloween III, even though Carpenter didn’t make the film he did compose a brand new score just for it.

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  19. Extremely comprehensive list! Hat’s off to you for putting this together. I tried to think of any you omitted from the list and the only ones that comes to mind are

    – Galaxy of Terror, I think it was a very early 80s Roger Corman Alien knock-off that was entirely composed on a Buchla http://www.matrixsynth.com/2010/07/galaxy-of-terror-1981-barry-schrader.html
    – Any of Brad Fiedel’s horror soundtracks especially Terminator but also Fright Night or Serpent and the Rainbow
    – I suppose Logan’s Run doesn’t classify as ‘horror’ but what about the cheesy arachnid robot cop movie Runaway from 1984 with an entirely electronic soundtrack by Jerry Goldsmith?
    – Andromeda Strain by Gil Melle, also maybe more scifi than horror? I’m also forgetting the names of a few other mostly electronic/synthesizer scores he did

    on a side note any idea where one could find the soundtracks (without dialog) from Eaten Alive, Texas Chainsaw or Shockwaves?

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    • Frustratingly, TCM is a minefield rights-wise, partially due to some of the featured bands being untraceable. Shockwaves is still slated for a release at some point, as is Tim Krog’s Amazing score to The Boogey Man. I think we’ll have to add Eaten Alive to the wishlist!
      Daz

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  20. Not to mention the Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), partly composed by Tobe Hooper.

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    • Stephen Thrower says:

      As far as I understand it, Tobe Hooper and Wayne Bell didn’t use synthesizer on TCM, it’s all done by tape manipulation and filtering of acoustic sounds; lots of it is percussion, some stuff was done by using a violin bow on the edge of a cymbal, which creates weird sustained high-pitched grating sounds, and Wayne told me they also did lots of atrocious things to an upright double bass and then treated those sounds by playing them backwards, slowing down, speeding up, etc. Wayne also said that they first got their hands on a synthesizer on the sessions for Death Trap/Eaten Alive, so I would classify TCM as electro-acoustic or acousmatic music (in the style of Bernard Parmegiani or Tod Dockstader) rather than electronic music per se.

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