Eerie Listening: 31 Great Euro Horror Scores, Part II / by Charlie Brigden

By Nuts4R2 Read the first instalment

21. Låt Den Rätte Komma In aka Let The Right One In (2008) by Johan Soderqvist You really need the volume up to catch the subtlety of the horror movie vibe in this one but it’s all there in the way the composer uses shifting textures and very short cells pitched against the occasional rhythm and followed up by some sweeping patches of swirling, orchestral melody. I once said, and I still believe it so I’ll say it again, that this original adaptation of the novel feels like what Krzysztof Kieslowski would have done if he’d accepted a commission to make a movie about vampires. Now this is nowhere near the style of Kieslowski’s regular collaborator Zbigniew Preisner but Soderqvist’s score certainly matches the subtlety’s of the director and cinematographer’s artistry in the creation of this amazing film. The composer admitted that this is a score which allowed him to explore a range of tone from darkness to light and that sums it up very well, I think. Bit’s of this score are going to unsettle people who are not used to this kind of “compositional caress of death” midst the melodies.

20. Caltiki - Il mostro Immortale aka Caltiki - The Immortal Monster (1959) by Roberto Nicolosi This is a 1959 italian horror film (partially directed, uncredited, by Mario Bava) and the music is certainly tinged with the 1950 Hollywood sci-fi/horror b-movie style of that era. However, it's also a bit of a throwback to 1940s Universal horror scoring in some ways, all mixed together in the make up of this score. So it’s very much got a Frank Skinner meets Hans Salter kind of vibe going through certain passages. Despite the Mickey Mousing which seems to occur in certain sections, however, there are also some more subtle things happening in places. For me this is one of the more accessible scores from that particular point in Italian horror scoring history and I guess it would be true to say that this movie is very much the Italian Godzilla?

19. La Maschera Del Demonio aka Black Sunday (1960) by Robert Nicolosi In a similar vein to the last entry, Black Sunday is a movie from the year after, and marks Bava’s first official, solo directing credit... but the music still feels like it was scored for a 1940s film. Of course, anybody who’s seen this fine slice of gothic horror knows that it’s still an effective and even an appropriate accompaniment to the on screen shenanigans. That being said, there’s a bit more percussion and spooky organ than I would expect from a movie shot 20 years before this and it’s definitely not a soundtrack you can mistake for anything other than something which is going to give a devilishly uneasy atmosphere to your Halloween household. This is the original Robert Nicolosi score to the movie and not the later Les Baxter rescore job used on the original American release prints.

18. I Tre Volti Della Paura aka Black sabbath (1963) by Roberto Nicolosi You can hear the, quite overt, menace of the score as early as the blatantly "this is meant to scare you" first track on digitmovies excellent CD edition. We go into some jazzy, bass orientated swing before developing into a kind of “casual dread horror” feel for the first of the stories showcased in this collection of horror tales. Very entertaining.

At times the scoring for the first segment almost sounds like someone has brought Nelson Riddle over from the set of the Adam West Batman movie to do a little moonlighting. At other times, as we roll into the music for the other segments, the score gets almost subtle in places, before the histrionic strings remind us how we got there.

All in all though, it's a score bathed in classic "monster stingers" and with something dreadful knocking on the door just waiting to be let in. Plus some genuine suspenseful, heart beat drum builds and some really way out, elongated stingers on here. There's also some monstrously scary organ effects being employed in one episode that will do "things" to your ears if you have this thing up too loud.

The composer is having some serious fun on this one, methinks. Definitely an album worth exploring and not something your Halloween guests are going to assume is for anything else other than diabolical horror.

17. Non Si Deve Profanare Il Sonno Dei Morti aka Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue aka Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (1974). by Giuliano This one opens with the track John Dalton Street and continues with a propulsive, rythmic score which pauses for some solo percussive inserts before picking the rhythm back up. For a far more eerie listening experience, tracks like Surreal and Trance mix up the almost animalistic cries of wordless human vocals, sometimes throwing in some piercing, hysterical laughter... presumably to represent the Living Dead of its title... before going back into pseudo-Goblin mode and alternating between drum n’ beat and some less tonally coherent pieces. It’s something of a two trick pony but, compared to some contemporary scores, that’s two more tricks than some composers can offer.

16. Vampyres (1974) by James Kenelm Clarke The funky opening theme to this lesbian vampire classic could be considered a close cousin to the scoring on The Satanic Rites Of Dracula. The keyboard and guitar work are what I think of the most when I think of the early 1970s British gothic sound. The occasional organ wash brought in to create a blinding haze of paranoia does the trick too. Bits of the score sound a bit loose or random in that kind of "I'm about to discover something" exploratory tone while lots of see sawing notes in the later parts of the score are used to denote disorientation... which is a good state of mind to get your visiting trick or treaters in, to be sure.

15. Dellamorte Dellamore aka Cemetery Man (1994) by Manuel De Sica and Riccardo Biseo De Sica and Biseo’s score for what was, effectively, the first movie to be based on a Dylan Dog story. This is one of the scores on here that I would say really conjures up the “playfulness” of the way in which most people celebrate, or at least pay tribute to, Halloween these days (asides from the ones who dance about naked and practice blood sacrifice, of course). It’s a synthesiser score but miles away from some of the classic synthesiser horror scores you might think of. My one bugbear on this is track 4 of the Digitmovies edition, called “The First She”. I don’t know if this is a case of temp-trackitus but it sounds almost like it’s been ripped from the opening title music of Philip Glass’ opening for Paul Schrader’s Mishima. Even so, a good listen which has a definite “celebrate horror” vibe to it.

14. Un’Ombra Nell’Ombra aka Ring Of Darkness (1979) by Stelvio Cipriani Really neat and playful little horror score which starts off in full-on Cipriani mode... you wouldn't mistake it for anybody else... which then heads into the kind of building, rythmic, heart beat structures most usually associated with Goblin or Fabio Frizzi. There's a surprising amount of cohesion between various tracks on this score which I don't usually hear in a lot of Italian horror scoring, so that’s a big plus which makes it all the more maddening that it's a film I still haven't managed to track down to watch yet. Cool score though.

13. La Terza Madre aka The Third Mother aka Mother Of Tears (2007) by Claudio Simonetti One of three mothers in this list, Simonetti’s score for the third part of Dario Argento’s trilogy is a much overlooked and under-appreciated gem. It’s got some great stuff going for it, which you wouldn’t necessarily associate with this composer at first, and it’s full of texture, Omen-like chanting, frenzied and distressing rhythms and a whole host of well used horror tricks used to evoke the proper reaction of unease in the audience. I think it’s probably been unnecessarily compared to the, frankly iconic, music of the first two films in this series, one of which was co-composed by Simonetti as a member of the original Goblin, for Suspiria. Not many scores are going to come off that great in comparison to what is arguably one of Argento’s key works but, then again, the tone of the third movie is, itself, quite different from both Suspiria and Inferno. If you passed over this one you should really go back and check it out again because it’s got some great stuff happening with it... not the least of which is a cohesive melody line.

12. ... E Tu Vivrai Nel Terrore! L'aldilà aka The Beyond (1981) By Fabbio Frizzi The first track of the recent reissue of this score is astonishing in that it brings you straight into the melody line with no preamble or intro. It’s like you just shut your eyes and you already feel you’ve been immersed in it for a while. It’s one of Frizzi’s strongest soundtracks (and movie collaborations, for that matter) with at least three ostinatos which will stick in your mind... one of which is for high pitched voices and another of which is a slow, hinting piano ostinato. Best reserved if your guesting trick or treaters are getting rowdy and you want to open up the gates of Hell in your kitchen area.

11. Dracula 3D (2012) by Claudio Simonetti Guilty pleasure my obsidian toenailed foot! I’m not ashamed to admit I love Dario Argento’s take on Bram Stoker’s classic creation... both the score and the film. Yes, even when Dracula decides it prudent to shift his shape and change into... a giant, f***king bright green cricket thing... as a means of disguising himself. I love it. Hilarious.

Simonetti’s score is fantastically rich in texture and absolutely not what I was expecting to hear from him (hey, I even loved The Card Player). Spooky strings, panic percussion, whispering voices and treacherous theremin are the order of the day in a score which I’ve had playing on the iPod many more times than I ever thought I would care to admit. This one doesn’t take long to grow on you. The original digipack edition with the 3D wiggle-woggle cover insert also contains a bonus DVD with a music video to accompany Simonetti’s catchy Kiss Me Dracula song.

Come back tomorrow for the final confron.. part