The Top 10 essential horror movie soundtracks

(Image credit: Lauren Film/Getty Images)

Metal and horror go hand in hand – just ask Rob Zombie, Kirk Hammett or Corey Taylor. And the best horror movie soundtracks tend to twang the soul-strings of any metal fan, regardless of whether they feature actual electric guitars. Latin choirs, synths, creepy indie music – suddenly we love it all, where horror’s concerned. So here are ten of the finest horror scores available to inhumanity…

The Exorcist (1973)

New Age muso Mike Oldfield was the last man you’d expect to provide the soundtrack to the one of the scariest movies of all time. And yet part of his debut album Tubular Bells provided the sonic backdrop for the jaw-dropping tale of young Regan O’Neill being possessed by The One With Horns. Hence the immortal quote, “Your mother rings bells in Hell!” At least, we think that was the quote.

The Omen (1976)

If ever a soundtrack resembled the Devil’s own choir, it’s Jerry Goldsmith’s work on this film about the Antichrist’s rebirth. The main theme, Ave Satani, literally translates as Hail Satan, so you can’t get much more Satan-y than that. No wonder Mike Patton’s band Fantomas decided to cover it on their 2001 album The Director’s Cut.

Suspiria (1977)

Dario Argento’s wonderful witch movie benefited hugely from a soundtrack by Italian prog rockers Goblin. Band leader Claudio Simonetti and co combined whispering voices, a sinister tune and a throbbing bass synth to create a main theme that ensured the film was scarier than Alice Cooper, King Diamond and Ghost’s theatrical stage shows combined. Not difficult, obviously, but still.

Halloween (1978)

Director John Carpenter has always had a distinctive way of using synths, and he created his finest soundtrack theme for this slasher movie classic. Simple but distinctive, it perfectly evokes the sense of menace needed in a film about a deathless killer infiltrating suburban America. It’s likely that the intense style of Carpenter’s piano-bashing would also inspire a few metal riffs in the decades to come.

The Thing (1982)

Once again, John Carpenter equipped this amazing horror/SF mash-up with one of the most ominous soundtracks imaginable, co-written with western maestro Ennio Morricone. The sparse main theme is little more than a black heartbeat, surrounded by funereal swathes of synth, but it rendered this story of a shape-shifting alien aboard an Antarctic base all the more chilling.

Return Of The Living Dead (1985)

Besides being one of the few horror/comedy movie hybrids that really works, this Dan O’Bannon movie boasted one of cinema’s few punk soundtracks. The Damned, TSOL, The Cramps and Roky Erickson are among the spiky-haired luminaries lining up to celebrate brain-munching. Sadly, the wonderful main synth theme didn’t make it on the album.

Demons (1985)

All you need to know about the soundtrack of this great Italian horror movie is that it pairs Accept’s riotous Fast As A Shark with a scene in which our hero rides a motorbike around a cinema, decapitating various evil entities with a samurai sword. Further music comes from Motley Crue, Billy Idol and our old friend and Argento collaborator Claudio Simonetti.

Natural Born Killers (1994)

You could argue that Natural Born Killers isn’t a proper horror film, but there’s surely no arguing with the soundtrack album. Assembled by Nine Inch NailsTrent Reznor, it’s every bit as restless as Oliver Stone’s serial killer flick, featuring the eclectic likes of L7, Leonard Cohen, Lard and Patti Smith. Plus a good helping of NIN, of course.

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

This soundtrack album ingeniously wove itself into the seminal found footage classic’s meta narrative, being presented as a personal compilation tape assembled by Josh, one of the film’s characters. Luckily, Josh’s choices turned out to be creepy and eclectic, spawning an album on which Type O Negative and KMFDM rubbed shoulders with Laibach, Lydia Lunch and Bauhaus.

Deathgasm (2015)

This US indie splatter film is lots of fun, but to be honest we’re mainly including its soundtrack here because it’s notable for being TOTAL METAL. It’s literally as if someone set out to see how much iron girder riffage they could cram into one movie soundtrack, featuring the likes of Axeslasher, Skull Fist, Ihsahn and Emperor. Black metal on an OST? Hell yes!

Jason Arnopp
Freelance Writer

Jason Arnopp is a veteran metal scribbler, with a passion for thrash metal, horror movies, vinyl and VHS. He's also the author of scary novels like The Last Days Of Jack Sparks (2016) and Ghoster (2019). Runs two YouTube channels, including Possessed By Metal. Guess what that one's about, eh?