The Music of Horror

April 20, 2011

Story may be the most important thing in entertainment, but how you present that story is indeed as important. When it comes to things like movies, television, even radio serials and anything else that isn’t a book or magazine… one of THE most important things is the music. Entire television series live or die by the music they use to tell their stories, and that’s what I want to concentrate on here [mostly].


As it should be well known by now, I’m a huge ‘Supernatural‘ fan. This show is a shining example of what entertaining horror is supposed to be. The story itself is excellent, so it’s got a great foundation there. But part of what makes the show so amazing is the musical presentation. If you are not familiar with the show then you won’t know that the roots of it are deeply seated in rock music from the past three or four decades. If you’re anything like me, this would pique your interest right away.

The history behind the music itself is one thing, the way the songs are used to punctuate situations in the story is masterful. If you don’t know, www.mrfrights.com has a music/media player on the site (it’s on the right side about half way down the pages and looks like an old school iPod). I’ve put a lot of the music used on the show in that play list. I also keep several songs from the first three seasons on my own iPod Shuffle so that I always carry the rock and the show with me.

You can also check out a list of the music and episodes the songs are in HERE.


One show would not make my point though, so I’d like to speak a bit about the music used in the BBC show ‘Being Human‘. I’m not a huge fan of Brittish television, but the past few years they’ve really amped up the way they do their story telling; specifically with shows like ‘Being Human’, ‘Dr. Who’, ‘Primeval’, and a few others. ‘Being Human’ stands apart from all the other shows though because it’s great horror and because again, the music.

I read a blog a year or so ago about the music from the show and how it is chosen by the creators of the series. They don’t focus on songs that are directly horror related, but songs that mention things going on in the story as the audience is seeing them. They also seem to use both popular mainstream bands/songs as well as what seems like independent stuff, but it’s all good stuff. But the whole idea that they put so much weight on the music alone, it’s like some kind of tactical battle planning that is perfectly crafted for the audience.

Indeed one of the things that bothers me most about the U.S. version of ‘Being Human’ is the lack of thought behind some of the musical presentation of the show. Instead of these excellently times songs that fit perfectly for the story and mood of the scenes, we have been given somewhat generic background musical arrangements.


Everyone knows the famous theme songs from movies like ‘Friday the 13th‘ and ‘Nightmare on Elm St.‘ and of course ‘Halloween‘ because of musical masters like Harry Manfredini and John Carpenter and so on. For my money though the most memorable music in any horror movie of the past decade or two is the music from ‘Scream’. I have to wonder if the people who chose Nick Cave’s ‘Red Right Hand’ knew how perfect that song would blend in and bolster the whole story. The movie’s very theme song just radiates the entire mood captured by the film and you can totally relive every scene just from those two pieces of music.

If there is any advice I can give to filmmakers, show creators, etc. new and old, it is to not neglect focusing as much attention on music as the rest of the story and presentation. Give it equal weight to everything else, treat it as a completely separate way to tell the same story and not just as something to go along with what people are seeing, just to offset some silence or give people a proper scare.

And if there is any advice I can give to people who would be audience… get yourself exposed to ‘Supernatural’, BBC’s ‘Being Human’, and ‘Scream’ if you haven’t already. Trust me, you could do a lot worse with your time. And remember, movies, shows, whatever… they are supposed to be an experience not just visual entertainment and it’s about the story and how it’s presented, it’s not about the actors or what you see coming or whatever you can pick apart. Give up the cynical critic in yourself and HAVE FUN. That’s it, just have fun and enjoy what you’re watching for what it is. You’ll be surprised at how your perspective changes on many things.


Just a couple of quick links for ya…

Here’s a playlist of some of the music from BBC’s “Being Human”

Music guide for each season of Supernatural

YouTube playlist of music from Supernatural seasons 1 – 5




– Mr. Frights




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