Merrill’s Musical Musings : Ro’s Recs – September

Horror Soundtracks

Greetings HorrorAddicts! I recently finished watching the phenomenal documentary In Search of Darkness. This trip through 70s and 80s Horror canon was full of great memories for me. I remember walking down the street to the video store every day during the summer of 1984 I believe? We had finally gotten a VCR (the kind with a wired remote that allowed you to pause and record only) but alas, we didn’t get cable for many years after that. I’d spend hours watching the greats such as Ghoulies, Gremlins, The Pit, The Nightmare on Elm Street, and so many more with my stepdad, and then I’d go back the next day for fresh, er, blood. These movies and all of the great flicks from that decade had great soundtracks that added so much to the experience. Here are a few of the classics the documentary discussed, not in any particular order:

  • Harry Manfredini and his discofied Friday the 13th Part III 
  • John Carpenter’s Halloween 
  • Ennio Morricone’s score for The Thing
  • John Williams’ Jaws
  • The Shining from Bela Bartok
  • Charles Bernstein’s The Nightmare on Elm Street 
  • Ralph Jones’s Slumber Party Massacre score (which was composed on a Casio!)
  • Day of the Dead by John Harrison 
  • Hellraiser by Christopher Young 

The scores listed above all utilized either an orchestral style or an electronic score. But some movies went for a hard rock sound that mirrored the popular music of the time period. “Rock and Horror live so closely together,” says Slipknot’s Corey Taylor in the documentary.  He names Trick or Treat as a great soundtrack and says, “I will fight anybody who says differently.” The Lost Boys and The Nightmare on Elm Street III Dream Warriors were two examples of movies that had big-name bands on their soundtracks in INXS and Dokken. 

Soundtracks make the film a more visceral experience and give fans a piece of the movie to relive over and over, letting them feel that high. Actor Nick Castle says, “The score becomes the life of the movie,” and Michale Gingold states the Halloween soundtrack “creeped me out before the movie began.” They set the tone and enhance the experience. Horror movies marry music and story to create suspenseful setups with a spectacular payout. All the jump scares and the slow, tear-soaked walks down darkened hallways, the intense use of strings and synthesizers to amp up the effects of the film…all of that adds to our thrills and chills. 

The documentary points out the effectiveness of synthesizer-based soundtracks as well as orchestral scores. I’m certainly a fan of music in all of its guises, but I would love to hear from you. I’ve created this google form and would love for you to chime in on this discussion. Those who fill out the form can also receive a super cool horror postcard from me. Yes! Actual mail from our beloved post office! I’ll share the results from the poll in a future Ro’s Recs. I highly recommend In Search of Darkness, which you can watch on Shudder. Until then, Stay Tuned for more Merrill’s Musical Musings and Ro’s Recs… 

R.L. Merrill writes inclusive romance with quirky, relatable characters full of love, hope, and rock ‘n’ roll. You can find her at and on the socials as @rlmerrillauthor. 

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