Badass Digest describes The Ten Scariest Film Scores Ever Composed. I can't say I've ever really considered this topic but the article has put some serious thought into it.
"Composing a scary score can sometimes be erroneously perceived as being ‘easy’ because all you need to do to elicit a response is weave ear-piercing bangs, crashes and screeches into a cacophonous mess. The skill in composing a well-crafted horror score of this nature is to impart an impression of cacophony, when in actuality, these textures are sculpted with an artistic precision that maximizes the fullest potential of fear from the narrative. It’s a delicate balance between what is visually and narratively frightening, and its aural counterparts.
Much like a good comedy, timing is everything. The setup is just as important as the payoff and every single second before or after is crucially important. Minute changes in timing have a vast effect on the overall success of the score. Anybody can create a loud bang after a prolonged period of soundlessness and elicit a jump or even a scream, but will that psychologically expose the audience enough to allow the terror to manifest itself within our own imagination? If music is not triggering our imagination, it’s not living up to its fullest potential."
Here's their list:
- The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)
- The Changeling (1980)
- The Omen (1976)
- Psycho (1960)
- Altered States (1980)
- Alien (1979)
- Friday the 13th (1980)
- Poltergiest (1982)
- Evil Dead (2013)
- Rosemary's Baby (1968)
1980 was a good year to be scared.