A woman runs through a forest and trips on a fallen branch. Cue ominous music. She attempts to get up, but her shoe is entangled in a tree limb. As she tries to rip off her shoe, the pounding sound of violins begins to get louder. She finally breaks loose, and a masked man with a butcher knife stands in front of her. The strings screech sharply as the knife plunges downward.
At this precise moment in most horror movies, my body reacts to the musical cue by placing not one but both hands on top of my face, what I call horror-movie reflexes. Since the dawn of masked serial killers who just can’t seem to die, horror movies have startled and alerted their audiences with subliminal musical messages that something bad is about to happen.
When eerie violin strings begins to play as a man walks alone in an empty parking lot, you know he’s screwed. Have you ever watched a horror movie on mute? Well, you would see scantily clad teenagers running at the same pace as my Nana. But, with the right music and visuals a horror movie can be down right bone-chilling.
Here is my essential horror movie music:
Poltergeist: “They’re Here”… Anytime a group of children sing in unison it’s horrifying, but the film gets a gold star for the use of the creepiest children’s choir.
Halloween: Three notes and a lit pumpkin single-handedly changed horror movies. Continues to be one of the most popular ringtones in the country – year-round.
Friday the 13th: This is why I never went to sleepaway camp. Ever since I saw this movie, a man breathing heavy on the phone has never sounded the same.
Jaws: Dah-dum, daaaah-dummmm…Without John Williams’s magnum opus, Jaws would only be a movie about three guys sitting on a boat for 45 minutes. No offense, Mr. Spielberg.
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Psycho: What could make a grown woman afraid to get in a pool, a shower or a car wash? The sound of screeching violins, violas and cellos.
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Nightmare on Elm Street:1, 2, Freddy is coming for you. 3, 4, better lock your door. 5, 6, grab your crucifix. I never realized the song went higher than 3, 4, but I love it when things rhyme.
Ghostbusters: Because “I ain’t ‘fraid of no ghost.”
The next time you walk by yourself at night down a deserted alley, imagine the Halloween theme replaced with the theme from Benny Hill. It might not save you from Michael Myers, but it will make you run faster. – Jennifer Perales