Mood music for Halloween

Halloween is a great time for me to bring out a genre that is somewhat well represented in my collection: horror film scores! I love to blast that out while kids are trick or treating. It sets the perfect mood. Here are some of my favourites.

1- Psycho – The Murder by Bernard Herrmann

A classic piece that has been maybe over exposed and used for comic effect a little too much, but it remains one of the most effective pieces of musical score ever written. Unfortunately, the original recording is unavailable (at least legitimately), and a lot of the re-recordings do not manage to replicate the terrifying sound of those sharp string stabs.


2- Halloween – Main Title by John Carpenter

One of my all time favourite move themes, all genre considered. The 5/4 meter creates a disorienting effect because we’re so used to music in 4/4. It is simplistic in its arrangement, but so effective. Carpenter first showed his movie to a Fox executive who wasn’t scared by it and passed on it. Dejected at having created a horror film that didn’t scare people, he gave himself the mandate to “save it with the music”, writing the score in 48 hours. I think he succeeded.


3- The Exorcist by Mike Oldfield

The piece of music that is usually considered the theme from The Exorcist is actually an excerpt from Mike Oldfield popular experimental rock piece Tubular Bells. (it remains fascinating that an experiemntal instrumental record could go on to sell close to 4 million copies!) The link with the movie helped its popularity tremendously, and I assume led to a lot of disappointment when people realized it’s such a tiny part of the 50 minute piece!

4- Profondo Rosso by Goblin

More prog rock being used to score horror movies! Goblin was director Dario Argento’s de facto choice to score most of his movies, and their sound is a huge part of Argento’s style. You can detect in that one some similarities to the Exorcist piece.

5- A Nightmare on Elm Street by Charles Bernstein

Charles Bernstein’s career has never really been very visible, mostly because he’s been confined to third grade horror films, or 70’s B-grade thriller, but everything I’ve ever heard from him was top notch. The score to Nightmare on Elm Street is no exception.

6- The Walking Dead – Theme by Bear McCreary

McCreary is probably my favourite up and coming composer. His TV work on Walking Dead, Battlestar Galactica, Human Target, DaVinci’s Demons and others has been stellar. While not strictly horror, this piece will set the mood nicely for Halloween.


7- Sleepy Hollow – Main Title by Danny Elfman

Elfman and gothic go hand in hand, so it’s no surprise that he’s produced many worthwhile themes for Halloween. His music always has a little tongue-in-cheek aspect that makes it more upbeat than many of the examples on this list though. Not be missed also: his brilliant Wojciech Kilar inspired score to The Wolfman.


8- Bram Stoker’s Dracula – Ring of Fire by Wojciech Kilar

Speaking of Kilar, his score to Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula is brilliant.


9- The Omen –  Ave Satana by Jerry Goldsmith

Not my favourite, but it’s so creepy! Blasting this out may ruin your relationship with your neighbors.

10- The Devil’s Rejects by Tyler Bates

The modern trend in horror scoring is to be more sound design than music, and this score exemplifies that style very well. It’s not a very pleasant experience by itself, but it’ll set the mood nicely to welcome trick or treaters!




Jean-Frederic Vachon
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