6 Iconic Horror Movies that used Vintage Synths for the Soundtracks

Post date:

To many people, synthesizers are anonymous with the science fiction genre, such as Blade Runner and more recently, Ex Machina. However, the out-of-this-world sounds that synths are capable of producing has also featured prominently in some classic horror movies. In many cases the synth sounds used in these movies are so effective that you can still feel the fear and tension even with your eyes closed. One of the earliest directors to embrace synthesizers for his soundtracks was John Carpenter, a choice that made some of his classic horror films like The Thing and Halloween even more memorable. For synth fans who are not afraid of things that go bump in the night, here are X horror films you’ll enjoy hearing as much as watching.

Halloween (1978)

John Carpenter not only has a knack for directing, but was also a pioneer in the use of synths for soundtracks. While he initially did this in order to save money, it is hard to argue with the results. One of his most well known horror movie soundtracks is the original Halloween. To compose the theme music, Carpenter made use of a Moog III modular System. According to an interview with Carpenter, it consisted of four sequencers, two keyboards, five boxes of modules and a Ribbon Controller. Although his recollection is fuzzy, he may also have made use of a Minimoog that was in the room. The result is certainly one of the most memorable and recognizable themes in horror movies.

Phantasm (1979)

Phantasm may not have been a big hit when it was first released, but over the years it has slowly turned into a cult classic. Featuring a supernatural undertaker and his zombie minions, the original movie was quickly followed by a slew of sequels. The two composers who worked on the soundtrack, Fred Myrow and Malcom Seagrave, made use of a number of instruments, including a Minimoog as well as an ARP Odyssey. This resulted in a very eerie soundtrack as well as a rather melodic theme song.

The Boogeyman (1980)

While The Boogyeman, which was released in 1980, shared a lot of similarities with other horror titles like Halloween, it quickly garnered a cult following of its own. It was considered gruesome enough to land on the UK’s DPP list, but this didn’t prevent it from receiving two sequels. The task of creating a soundtrack to match the onscreen horror fell to Tim Krog and his team. He opted for a surprisingly minimalist score, but made good of use various analog synthesizers to keep it interesting. Synth fans listening to the soundtrack will recognize some classic instruments, such as the Oberheim 8-voice, Prophet 5 and Crumar multiman-S string-synth.

Videodrome (1983)

Videodrome is a horror film with strong science fiction elements, so it is no surprise that its use of synthesizers for the soundtrack is so fitting. The score was composed by Howard Shore, who has already worked on previous films from David Cronenberg, the director. Although Shore composed the score for an orchestra, he then proceeded to program it into a digital synthesizer, the Synclavier II. The result was then re-recorded as it was being played along with a string section. By blending real instruments with artificial sounds, Shore managed to mirror the themes used in the movie and deliver a soundtrack that is very ominous.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

nightmare on elm street

Charles Bernstein is no stranger to composing soundtracks for horror movies, but his score for A Nightmare On Elm Street remains one of his most memorable. This slasher film, which was written and directed by horror meister Wes Craven, introduced the iconic dream killer, Freddy Krueger. Bernstein came up with a lot of unique ideas for the score, such as processing his own voice through Boss guitar pedals to create some eerie effects. While he mentions in interviews that he doesn’t quite remember what instruments all made it into the score, the list includes a Yamaha DX-7, Oberheim OB-SX, Roland Juno-106 along with a Roland drum machine and small Casio keyboard.

Day of The Dead (1985)

Day of the Dead is another iconic horror movie that failed at the box-office, but soared in popularity when it was released on home media. The man behind the soundtrack for the film is John Harrison, who went for a much more melodic approach than what one would expect from a zombie fright fest. This was also in contrast to the previous two movies in the series, which used either library music or loud rock tracks. In an interview, Harrison revealed that he used a Prophet 5 extensively for the score along with a Kurzweill for the piano and string treatments. He also made use of a Lynn drum machine and the final product was a horror movie soundtrack that wasn’t afraid to break away from what was expected not only from the genre, but also synthesizer music in general.