Guest Post: The 20 Best Horror Soundtracks On Vinyl

Photo by James Debono
Celebrating Halloween is pretty much a year-round event here at JCR, but today's post is an extra special treat. This guest post comes from my dear friend Joe Davis, fellow vinyl enthusiast, and horror soundtrack lover. Many a conversation has been had about the merits of many a horror film, and their respective musical counterpoints.
Today, Joe brings us 20 of the Best Horror Soundtracks on Vinyl only. Incidentally, I tried to post pictures of each album, but had a knock-down, drag-out fight with the formatting, and I lost. But do read on...


Stepping outside of my house these days is a pleasurable experience. I'm immediately hit with a brisk chill in the air. I can see the beautiful colors of the leaves and feel them crunch under my feet as I walk around outside. I get the occasional whiff of apples or pumpkin if I'm lucky. I also see a lot of scary things right now...

Ghosts, witches, and smiling ghouls stare at me from behind curtains or out of bordering hedges. I might even see a skeleton or two sitting on a porch. In one instance, I even saw the Devil himself hanging from an oak tree. Autumn is in full-swing here in the Midwest and that also means that my favorite holiday is only a few short weeks away. I'm of course talking about HALLOWEEN.

Yes, the temperature is dropping and everyone is getting into the spirit of the season. One thing I enjoy is putting on some eerie music this time of year and there isn't a better format for that than VINYL. I have an extensive collection of horror soundtracks and I'm now going to share what I feel are the 20 best horror film soundtracks on vinyl. This is best music to get you in the right mood for the month of October. I hope that you enjoy it!

20. The Serpent and the Rainbow (1987)
Here is a moody Horror opus from Wes Craven; late 80's Craven to be exact, and his track record during this time is a little spotty. This is probably his best film in-between the first Elm Street and Scream. The story features Bill Pullman as an anthropologist that stumbles on Voodoo and an evil dictator while doing research in Haiti. It's really creepy stuff and the score is very sober and eerie. Composer Brad Fiedel cranks out a very subtle but memorable sound that enhances the mood of the film. This soundtrack is one of the very RAREST. It goes for big bucks on any format. If you can find it, it is well worth the dough.

19. Re-Animator (1985)
H.P. Lovecraft! Every horror fan knows who this is. This film adaptation is probably the most successful of the countless others inspired by his work. It's a gory and hilarious splatter flick all the way. Jeffrey Combs stars as Herbert West, a half-crazy, half-brilliant med student that creates a formula for bringing the dead back to life. Unfortunately for West, they aren't happy when they wake up. The film's score from composer Richard Band is great. The main theme is a loving homage to Psycho, while the rest of the tracks are a blend of quirky and off-beat electronic music. A great listen all the way through.

18. Silver Bullet (1985)
This is an underrated Stephen King werewolf flick. Hey, it's got Corey Haim and Gary Busey! It's also suspenseful and features a nice amount of warmth too. You actually care about the characters. It may not have the best effects ever (the werewolf itself is kinda cheesy), but the film more than makes up for that with good character development and a solid story. The music by Jay Chattaway is both eerie and sweet, yet it also features a little bit of 80's cheese too. The track "Joy Ride" is a gem. What else could you ask for?

17. The Evil Dead (1983)
Here it is folks, the original low-budget splatter flick that spawned a legion of fanatical followers. It also launched the careers of Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell. The premise is simple; five twentysomethings go to a cabin in the woods and bad stuff goes down. Sound familiar? That's because it's been imitated a million times since. This was a landmark horror film in a lot of ways. It wasn't the first of its kind, but it remains the template for everything that followed. The music is fairly simple but effective. It's a mix of electronic sounds and spooky effects. It WILL creep you out. The soundtrack on vinyl is incredibly RARE. It fetches a pretty penny if you can find it.

16. Children of the Corn (1984)
More Stephen King! This is a fairly low-key 80's effort, but the score is very effective. Also, it has a pre-Terminator Linda Hamilton! You can't go wrong with creepy music accompanied by a children's choir. Brrrrrrrr. Plus, this film spawned 8 sequels and a remake (!). Who would have thought, huh? The vinyl is rare, but a good find if you can locate one.

15. Prince of Darkness (1987)
This is one of John Carpenter's lesser known films, but it's a great little creepfest nonetheless. Donald Pleasance leads a group of people into an old church to examine a strange canister. He believes that the glowing green liquid inside is in fact Satan himself. Alice Cooper has a sweet cameo as a murderous street bum! Good stuff. The score is very dark and brooding. Carpenter's patented synth score is especially foreboding here. Also, this is another expensive and rare soundtrack on vinyl. Most of Carpenter's stuff is actually.

14. Trick or Treat (1986)
Rock and Roll never dies! It just comes back from the grave and tries to electrocute you. This is a great metal album from an under-appreciated horror film. All the songs are performed by the hair metal band Fast Way. If you dig 80's cheese and glam metal this is the soundtrack for you!

13. The Burning (1982)
This is one of the best slasher films of the 1980's. It features a great villain (Cropsey RULES!) and awesome gore from Tom Savini. It also has a fairly recognizable cast of future stars (Jason Alexander, Holly Hunter, Fisher Stevens, etc.). The film score by Rick Wakeman is a mix of traditional piano and synth. It has a very early 80's sound, but that isn't a bad thing. Worth checking out. This soundtrack was released twice in vinyl and both versions are rare.

12. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Oh, here we go. An iconic and mega-creepy score. The first Nightmare film from director Wes Craven is a watershed horror film in every way. It introduced us to Freddy Kruger (played by genre legend Robert Englund), the dream-dwelling bogey man that has gone on be a huge pop culture phenomenon. In the first film he was down right SCARY and this score is a classic. It features a lot of pulsing electronic beats and eerie effects. The theme alone will haunt you. Classic stuff!

11. Friday the 13th (1980-82)
Here's another slasher film that spawned a villain worthy of pop icon status. Everybody knows who hockey masked killer Jason Vorhees is! The first film (that actually featured his mother as the killer) went on to spawn 9 sequels, a TV show, a cross over film, and a remake. People just can't seem to get enough of Jason! This vinyl soundtrack features music, composed by Harry Manfredini, from the first three films. The first couple of Fridays had a very string-heavy score and the tracks here are loaded with screeching sound. Plus, it has the groovy disco theme from part 3. Cheese-tastic! The vinyl is a rare one indeed and has a 3-D cover to boot! It usually fetches a pretty penny.

10. Carrie (1976)
The first Stephen King book was adapted by Brian DePalma in 1976 as a very well-done horror drama. The title character (played by Sissy Spacek) drenched in blood is an image that has stayed with audiences ever since its release. The story concerns a teen girl who is constantly tormented by her classmates and abused by her "religious nut-job" mother. Little do they know that she is developing powerful psychic powers and the tides are about to turn. The score by Pino Donnagio is a real winner. The theme song is both sweet and haunting. The whole album has a 70's flavor to it, but remains one of the best horror scores ever written. This one is also fairly reasonable in the price department when it pops up. Worth getting!

09. Return of the Living Dead (1985)
Do you wanna PARTY?! Hell yes! One of the best zombie films ever made. This film is one of the rare examples of comedy and horror mixing together perfectly. What happens when a toxic gas escapes from an old medical supply warehouse? It re-animates dead tissue and eventually soaks into the ground of a nearby cemetery. The corpses come to life and they are hungry...FOR BRAINS! This album is all punk rock tunes from the mid-80's. It features songs from groups like The Cramps and The Damned. It's amazing how well these tracks fit the tone of the film. The vinyl album is one of the most pricey ones on this list, but the CD can be obtained for very little. Highly recommended!

08. Halloween III (1982) 
This is a very under-appreciated movie. It has nothing to do with the other films in the series (no Michael Myers), but remains very effective regardless. The score from John Carpenter is one of his best. His usual synthesizer is the name of the game here, but it gets under your skin. Plus, it has that instantly catchy Silver Shamrock jingle. Try to get that one out of your head. This one is definitely worth a listen.

07. Fright Night (1985)
"You're so cool Brewster!" One of the best vampire films ever. Period. Another great mix of comedy and horror. The soundtrack is all made up of pop/rock songs from the 80's. Cheesy? Yes it is (remember the scene where he seduces her in the disco?), but it fits the mood of the film. This soundtrack was not available on CD for a long time, but you can find it now and it has tracks from the score by Brad Fiedel too. The vinyl is pretty pricey though. Also, great cover art!

06. Phantasm (1979)
There isn't a score that more enhances the atmosphere of a film than this one does. Don Coscarelli's horror/sci-fi opus is practically drenched in strange atmosphere. The film plays out like a nightmare. The haunting piano and synth score is a creepy one indeed. The main theme is also a classic. This one will cost you a fortune on any format. The vinyl in particular is an expensive beast. This soundtrack also features one of the best covers ever. They just don't make them like this anymore.

05. The Wicker Man (1973)
A classic British horror film from the early 70's. Christopher Lee heads a great cast who get involved with paganism and murder on a secluded Scottish island. One of the all-time great twist endings! The 2010 release of the soundtrack features all of the music and songs from the film. It has a very folksy feel to it overall. The music is incredibly well done, though. Fans of the film won't want to miss this version as it's on colored vinyl and has liner notes too. The price varies depending on where you look, but it was a limited release so eventually it will be very hard to find.

04. The Amityville Horror (1979)
Here's a spooky one from the 1970's. Again, with the children's choir, it just creeps me out. This one ALSO features a groovy disco theme. I will also note that this film is a good contender with Children of the Corn for most unnecessary sequels. This first one is worth a listen though.

03. The Fog (1980)
Here we go. John Carpenter's epic ghost story is amazing all the way! The score is probably his best. A very moody, piano-heavy score with his usual synth underlying the themes. The atmosphere here is simply awesome. This is another soundtrack that is expensive on any format. The CD is long out of print, and the vinyl will cost you a lot too. It's well worth it though!

02. Creepshow (1982)
One of the great anthology horror films. This film, from Stephen King and George Romero, is a spooktacular good time in the tradition of the old E.C. Comics of the 1950's. The music by John Harrison is haunting. Especially the main theme. There's a lot of piano and some creepy children's choir added for good measure. The soundtrack also changes depending on what segment of the film it is underscoring. So it can vary from creepy to humorous. A well-rounded listen all the way. Ah, the vinyl. Have you noticed a trend yet? Yes, this one is expensive and rare. If you can find it, snag it. Amazing cover art too!

01. Halloween (1978)
Do I even need to talk about this one? One of the best horror films ever made. It defines the word ICONIC. The score is one the best ever composed. This will always be the best choice for a cold autumn day. The CD can be picked up for practically nothing, but the record is rare and more on the pricey side. You can never go wrong with this one!

Honorable Mention: Transylvania 6-5000 (1985)
Here is a little known gem from the mid-80's. It's a horror/comedy that features an all-star cast, but tanked at the box office and has since fell into obscurity. The movie centers around two reporters ( Jeff Goldblum and Ed Begley, Jr. ) who travel to Transylvania to investigate a sighting of the 'Frankenstein monster". Wacky hijinks ensue. Personally, I love this movie. It consistently cracks me up. The cast also includes Geena Davis, Michael Richards, Carol Cane, and Jeffrey Jones. The music for the movie is made up of score segments and some songs too. It's cheesy like the film but a good time regardless. Recommended for 1980's nostalgia freaks!

Joe Davis is a master thespian, director, playwright and all around super nice guy. You can friend him on Facebook

1 comment:

  1. Number 11 looks live cover of one of the Quiet Riot allbums (don't remember the title)