Psycho (1960) – Bernard Hermann
Few pieces of film music are so utterly attached to their source as this classic. That ree ree ree! of the knife stabbing is idiosyncratic and, together with masterful editing, helps the audience to fill in the blanks of what Hitchcock couldn’t show in the shower, resulting in an experience more traumatic than a thousand explicit Saw efforts.
The Exorcist (1973) – Mike Oldfield
Oldfield's tubular sound creates eerily satanic church bells, ringing as you're chased through the courtyard at midnight by something that never actually shows itself but will never stop stalking you – and so is all the more terrifying.
The Omen (1976) – Jerry Goldsmith
Less subtle than The Exorcist, but an equally unnerving religious-tinged bombast. The son of the Devil is here, and he’s not going to obediently go and sit on the naughty step.
Jaws (1975) – John Williams
No movie since Psycho has made people so afraid to be around water. Amongst the most recognisable themes of all time; hell, the opening two notes alone are iconic...
Halloween (1978) – John Carpenter
Escalating dread. That's the feeling you get watching John Carpenter’s master work, not least because of its peerless score. Carpenter’s music is often dismissed by purists as a catalogue of simplistic synthesizer-reliant relics; I have a place in my heart for all of them, but even the biggest music snob must bow down to the Halloween theme.
Alien (1979) – Jerry Goldsmith
Ridley Scott’s upcoming return to the Alien universe has been getting a lot of people very excited. If he can deliver an experience that matches one tenth of the crippling, isolated, no-one-will-ever-hear-your-screams-let-alone-care terror of Goldsmith’s score for the one that started it all, than Prometheus will have been worth the wait.
The Shining (1980) – Krzysztof Penderecki
This score hints at the isolated, maddening horror the Torrence family are letting themselves in for at the Overlook hotel, with undertones of the Native American burial ground that someone decided to build a hotel on. Not such a great investment when caretakers can’t stop hacking up their families.
The Thing (1982) – Ennio Morricone
The best John Carpenter score that he never wrote. The definition of minimalism, each du-dum throb mimics the audience’s heartbeat as they experience the unease of being in a hot terror sweat whilst trapped in a frozen, barren hell.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) – Charles Bernstein
Memorable, obliquely spine-tingling with a taunting undercurrent – this vastly underrated score is just like Freddy himself. One of the many mistakes the turgid remake got wrong was abandoning it.
The Fly (1986) –
Shore manages to capture the wonder of scientific discovery, the empowering catalyst of love, the doom of fucking with nature and the operatic tragedy that combining these elements propagates. Impressive stuff.