The Most Recognizable Horror Tunes Movies

jaws

Jaws

1975 / Drama, Adventure, Thriller

The leader of the rating was the soundtrack from the movie “Jaws”. A simple score was recognized by the majority of respondents – 59%. The two-note part, coined by film music genius John Williams, creates the right sense of tension. The main notes played by the tuba sound low and menacing, gradually adding to them the piano and cello, which slowly pick up pace as the shark on the screen approaches its prey. John Williams has described his music as “…grinding you like a shark. Instinctively, ruthlessly, irresistibly.” For this simple, but strong soundtrack in terms of the degree of impact on the listener, the composer was awarded the Oscar, BAFTA, Golden Globe and Grammy awards.

Halloween

1978 / Thriller, Horror / USA

The second most recognizable was the melody from the movie “Halloween”, the author of which was the director John Carpenter himself. The story of how the king of horrors overnight (in the literal sense of the word) became a composer has already acquired legends, where it is difficult to distinguish truth from fiction, but the main facts in it remain unchanged. When Carpenter showed the original version of “Halloween” to a young audience, the focus group said that the film came out more funny than scary, and then the director vowed to “save it with music.” The main theme, consisting of several notes and intensifying each time Michael Myers approached, was born by Carpenter in an hour, and the entire soundtrack was recorded in three days. This melody has become one of the most famous in the world of cinema, and in a survey by the NST film channel, 31% of respondents remembered it. 

A few years ago, in an interview with The Rolling Stone magazine, John Carpenter admitted that he had “minimal musical ability”, but this was enough for composing Horror Music. Of the Halloween music, he said: “Think of the theme from the movie Jaws. It’s just two notes. But they are holding tight.” To a minimal set of notes, Carpenter added sounds that he called “cattle drive” – shrill strikes on the keyboard that make the audience jump. Starting with Halloween, Carpenter has gone on to write music for each of his films, eventually ending up in his discography of 35. The latest installments in the franchise (2019 and 2021) also use the tune.

Psycho

1960 / Thriller, Horror, Mystery / USA

When John Carpenter talked about his idols, he mentioned the music from the films “Jaws” and “Psycho” – it is no coincidence that all three soundtracks were at the top of the NST rating (in other sources, the music from these films also ranks at the top). Screeching strings in the scene of the murder of Janet Leigh were familiar to 28% of respondents. It is known that Hitchcock originally wanted the soundtrack to the film to be based on jazz, but the composer did not like this idea. That is why all the music for the film is performed on stringed instruments. The director planned for the murder to take place in silence so that only the sounds of blows, water and the screams of Janet Leigh were heard, but Herrmann decided otherwise: he added violent string clicks that correspond to the blows on the screen, which makes this moment even more realistic. 

After the voice acting, Hitchcock doubled the composer’s fee, and after the release of the film, he admitted that music played a role in the success of the film by 30%. Herrmann has composed soundtracks for many cult films, including Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane, J. Lee Thompson’s Cape Fear, Hitchcock’s The Birds and Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, but it is his work in Psycho that is called the main masterpiece of the composer, who influenced the entire musical part of the film industry as a whole.

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