I wasn’t sure if I’d get to another one of these posts. I’ts been a long week and writing has taken a bit of a backseat to the insanity of the 9 to 5(or in my case 5:30 to 3, or 6:00 to 3.) But with Halloween coming this Sunday I wanted to post at least one more. Why? Because one post about my favorite horror film scores just isn’t enough.
House Of The Devil
Ti West’s House of the Devil was one of those anomalies when it came to the retro horror film category. West locked into a very specific genre of late 70s/early 80s horror film: Satanic Panic. If you grew up in the 80s you should be familiar with Satanic Panic. Devil worshippers were infiltrating our lives at every turn; be it through music, movies, children’s toys, cartoons, and in the case of House of the Devil an odd, older couple that wanted to hire a young college student to babysit their much older mother for the evening.
West made a film that if you didn’t know any better you’d think you were watching some lost cult horror flick from the early 80s had you come across it on late night TV. From the cinematography to the great cast(including an unknown Greta Gerwig, Tom Noonan, and the great Dee Wallace), and of course the amazing score by Jeff Grace.
Grace made a sorrowful, melancholy score that’s string and piano heavy. Instead of grabbing the Juno and DX-7 out of the closet, Grace gives us a classic piece of orchestration that feels timely and timeless. Touches of Bernard Herrmann and Philip Glass, with a bit of Howard Shore for good measure are present, but Grace gives the proceedings an intimate feel. It gives me chills whenever I listen to it.
We Are Still Here
Ted Geoghegan’s We Are Still Here was a mixture of the supernatural, haunted house film, occult, and most of all grief. Parents grieving for the loss of their son, only to move to a new home as an attempt to start over and come face to face with the scariest and most dangerous thing of all: self-serving humans.
I love this film; from the amazing actors to the quiet and restrained direction of Geoghegan to the tension and terror that lurked around every corner. Wojciech Golczewski’s score mirrored the mood of the film perfectly. Rural quiet combined with ancient terror and hidden intentions, Golczewski brought that in full force with a score that swoons and mourns right along with the characters. Along with Jeff Grace’s House of the Devil, Wojciech’s work here is one of my absolute favorite modern horror scores.
A Nightmare On Elm Street
Wes Craven’s A Nightmare On Elm Street is one of those movies that has stayed with me since I first saw it in the summer of 1985. Watching it one summer night I was transfixed with not only the everytown locale where it was shot(doesn’t every small town have an Elm Street?) and the pretty decent gore factor, but the story itself drew me in. I felt for these teens(or 20-somethings playing teens). And Freddy Krueger wasn’t dropping one-liners and sporting a schtick just yet. Here he was genuinely menacing and something to fear.
Of course Charles Bernstein’s score was a big piece of the puzzle that made the film what it was. He took a modern approach to create a classic film score. Using synths and heavy percussion to create a pulse-pounding and at times sorrowful sound world, Bernstein created one of the most memorable and endearing scores in horror film history.
Tonight She Comes
Okay, I’m going to be 100% honest here. I have not seen the indie horror film Tonight She Comes. I know, it’s terrible having a film on this list that I haven’t even seen. But listen, this is about horror scores and Wojciech Golczewski’s score to this indie horror in the woods flick is so goddamn amazing that whether the film is phenomenal, mediocre, or a dumpster fire is pointless. This soundtrack is out of sight. “She Comes” is one of the best horror themes I’ve ever heard. Dark, brooding, mysterious, and with just the right amount of cosmic dread thanks to Golczewski’s masterful synth work. His solo work like Reality Check, End of Transmission, and Monologs proves he can lock into the heavy synth world, and he takes that aesthetic and applies it to his film work as well. Wojciech Golczewski is one of the best working today, and Tonight She Comes is a shining example of that.
Ari Aster’s Hereditary was one of those cinematic surprises that I didn’t see coming. I knew it was going to be something interesting, but I wasn’t expecting such an accomplished, dark study on family trauma, grief, and mental illness all wrapped up into a Satan-worshipping occult nightmare.
Amazing performances from the whole cast, spot-on art direction, and amazing cinematography, and of course a next-level score from Colin Stetson. Stetson puts his skill to work beautifully here as he gives us a gorgeous, symphonic world to which we can get lost in. Reedy, drone-heavy, and with a finale like “Reborn” that feels as timeless as Debussy I can listen to this score and feel both a kind of quiet joy and brewing tension. As far as modern scores go, this is one of my absolute favorites.
Like every great horror film franchise, there will be a part III. Stay tuned.