Horror film score

A horror film score is music used and often specially written for films in the horror genre.


Beginning of the Sound EraEdit

While the breakthrough Universal horror films of 1931, Dracula and Frankenstein used little or no music apart from for title sequences, Franz Waxman's score for Bride of Frankenstein is often cited as one of the first modern film scores.

The late 1930s and 1940s saw unknown and often uncredited composers such as Hans J. Salter and Frank Skinner setting the tone for later horror music. Often the music was darkly and lushly romantic, but heavily influenced by impressionism, atonality and serialism. A chief example is The Wolf Man (1940), to which Salter and Skinner both contributed.

Hammer Horror (1950s-1970s)Edit

The British Hammer horrors of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s owed their musical feel to composer James Bernard, whose pacey, often frenetic, jarring scores to films such as Dracula (1958), The Plague of the Zombies (1966) and The Devil Rides Out (1968) are among his best-known. Bernard was fond of using the score to play along with the title of the film—his three-note signature for Dracula can be sung, and by prefiguring it with another four notes, Bernard could underscore the main title of Taste the Blood of Dracula.

In fact, Hammer employed a number of other composers, including Franz Reizenstein (The Mummy, 1959), Malcolm Williamson (The Brides of Dracula, 1960) and Tristram Cary (Quatermass and the Pit, 1967, and Blood from the Mummy's Tomb, 1971). Despite the obvious atonal influence on the earlier Universal film scores, Benjamin Frankel's 1960 score for The Curse of the Werewolf (1960) is believed by some to contain the first film theme to be based entirely on Arnold Schoenberg's Twelve-Tone scale.

1960s onwardsEdit

On the other side of the Atlantic, it was perhaps Bernard Herrmann's string score for Hitchcock's Psycho that changed the sound of horror music. The stabbing rhythms of the famous shower scene have been imitated many times since.

The 1970s saw a new wave of slasher films, which tended to have more contemporary-sounding scores, often using electronic instruments. Horror director John Carpenter was well known for scoring his own films, such as Halloween (1978). For The Exorcist, William Friedkin rejected a score by Lalo Schiffrin and used the temp track featuring assorted pieces of music including part of Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells.[1]