Monday, July 4, 2011

Top 13: Most Recognizable Modern Horror Film Themes (So Far...)

list compiled by Nickolas Cook

Welcome to another Top 13 list, here, at The Black Glove Magazine, your one-stop shop for all things great in horror.

This month I decided to do something a little different for our Top 13 list. See, usually we pick movies that we all want to remind our fellow Horrorhead friends, and the new breed of horror fan, about, films that fit into some sort of category of horror, and its many sub-genres (and sometimes, even its sub-sub genres...Yikes!). But this time around I got to thinking about what I wrote about in last month's editorial (June 2011, e-issue #24) about going to the drive-in every weekend with my family...

Well, okay, so I've actually written about that a lot in these past couple of years But the point is, I got to thinking about some of the memorable themes from the movies which left such a mark on me back then, and even some of the music that I remember so vividly from those days so long ago (and for those songs, stop by HERE and check out this month's Horror Playlist, created by this editor-in-chief), and I thought: Perfect!

So this month, we present what we feel are the Top 13 Most Recognizable Modern Horror Film Themes (So Far...).

Now, before we present the list, I want to explain that I added two caveats:

First the limitation "Modern", meaning I left out some of the older films I might have gone with, like some of the 30s, 40s, and 50s Universal stuff, a number of picks from Hammer Studios' 50s and 60s output, and quite a few of the films from American International Pictures' 60s titles. That's mainly because, unfortunately, too many of those soundtracks were stolen...erm...borrowed from other films, and in some cases, were even pieced together, bit by bit, from several movies from across decades. A good expample of that would in Universal's THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954), in which the discerning ear can catch pieces 'borrowed' by the producers from at least six different films in the Universal film vaults to make a pastiche of memorable, but not original, music for one of their greatest ever horror outings.

My second caveat was "So Far...", because I'd like to think we haven't yet reached a time when the music created specifically for a great horror film doesn't leave its mark, as well, on the fan. There was a time when the music was so much a part of the film, ergo, it provided much of the mood and atmosphere of the movie, that almost every horror film's theme music was memorable. See the list below for the best examples of that, and I'm sure you'll also see a trend in those which I picked. Try to guess which ones have been honored with Oscar (and other industry awards) statues and nominations, or which ones have been re-recorded by adoring musician fans for the last few decades, and which ones have been sampled into modern electronica and hip-hop music by producers/engineers/musicians.

Let's just say ALL of them.

Try saying that about the theme music from something like PUPPETMASTER (1989), or GHOST IN THE MACHINE (1993), just two completely random films with completely forgettable musical soundtracks, from the two decades which were, to me, the most guilty of such musical crimes against the Horrorhead ear.

Music is supposed to help heighten the moviewatching experience. See John Carpenter's remake of THE THING (1982), and its accompanying Ennio Morricone electronica/keyboard and orchestral soundtrack work for the perfect example of what I mean. Without not only Morricone's spoton copycat of Carpenter's minimalistic musical stylings, but his soundscape work, which adds the prefect creepy element to the sense of paranoia and claustrophobia that Carpenter creates on the screen, the movie would not have been half as effective. Any fan of the movie will tell you that's a fact.

Sadly, that was one of the last, great, examples of what I mean by heightening the experience. By the mid-80s, horror had left the drive-ins and theaters behind for the quick sure cash of a video release, and horror producers got really cheap and started looking for ways to cut costs. Of course, the soundtrack was one of the first elements to get dumped on, almost immediately. There are very few, what I would call, memorable soundtracks from that era of horror film. There's unfortunately plenty of memorable for BAD reasons, soundtracks that were nothing more than someone's neighbor banging away on a cheapass Casio keyboard, with a 4-track recorder, in a hotel room somewhere.

It's good to see...excuse me...hear that things might be getting back on...erm...track with horror movie soundtracks. Some of recent examples which stood out for me were the soundtack and/or soundscape work for such films as SESSION 9 (2001), THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999), 28 DAYS LATER (2002), THE DEVIL'S REJECTS (2005), and THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL (2009), just to name a few. And although they might not have made this particular list, only because they were up against such classic heavy hitters, they were all standouts for me for good reasons.

But it is unfortunate that, as you peruse the below list, you'll see quite a number of the classic films on it have been remade in recent years.

You will not remember the soundtracks for those unfortunate remakes.

Not in the least.

I can gaurantee it.

So maybe I shouldn't discount Hollywood's ability to drag the genre down into the mire just yet.

Real quick note, here, before we get into the list: I'm sure it will come as no surprise to those of you who know your horror film history that one of the most prolific of the 70s composers for (now classic) horror movies appears on our list several times. Betcha' can already guess who I'm referring to, right? If you can't, shame on you. Looks like you might need to bone up on your classics.

The list is in alphabetical order only, not in any order of importance...that's just way too subjective when you're talking about this calibre of musical genuis.

So sit back, hit PLAY, and enjoy some great music from some of the greatest horror films of modern times.

13. Zombie (aka internationally as Zombie 2)(1979)
Music composed by Fabio Frizzi

12. Suspiria (1977)
Music composed by Goblin and Dario Argento

11. The Shining (1980)
Music composed by Wendy Carlos

10. Psycho (1960)
Music composed by Bernard Herrmann

9. Phantasm (1979)
Music composed by Fred Myrow and Malcolm Seagrave

8. The Omen (1976)
Music composed by Jerry Goldsmith

7. Jaws (1975)
Music composed by John Williams

6. Halloween (1978)
Music composed by John Carpenter

5. Friday the 13th (1980)
Music composed by Harry Manfredini

4. The Exorcist (1973)
Music composed by Jack Nitzsche (OST) and Mike Oldfield (Tubular Bells Theme Song)

3. Deep Red (aka internationally as Profondo Rosso) (1975)
Music composed by Goblin

2. Dawn of the Dead (aka internationally as Zombi)(1978)
Music composed by Goblin and Dario Argento

1. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Music composed by Charles Bernstein

--Nickolas Cook