To me, a good soundtrack is 50 percent of a film’s success. In horror films, music is especially important to help invoke a sense of dread, fear, and anticipation. Recently, filmmakers have found that going retro seems to make the mood the most creepy. Part of it is that electronic music has a more otherwordly sound; plus it’s an homage to the horror films of the eighties.
Here are my five modern horror films with the best retro soundtracks:
Beyond the Black Rainbow (2010)
This rarely seen film has its flaws, but the ambition on display is astounding. The plot is loosely based around a young girl trying to escape the facilities of the Aboria Institute, where she is subjected to tests and torture by an evil doctor. The plot runs second to the look and feel of the film, which is mostly in shades of red and blue, and is a direct homage to eighties sci-fi movies. The soundtrack by Jeremy Schmidt adds to the doom and danger of the place, and is very effective at making you feel like you’re in a nightmare.
House of the Devil (2009)
House of the Devil is purposely set in the eighties. If the clothes and the hairstyles don’t tell you so, the soundtrack, an homage the music of John Carpenter films, will. In a film that relies on one character mostly alone in an empty home, the music is essential in building the suspense.
It Follows (2014)
It Follows has been called the scariest film in years—not because of what you see, but because of what you are waiting to see. There’s a sense of inescapable panic throughout the film, and the soundtrack, composed by Disasterpiece, certainly creates the tension. Even though it’s been out for quite some time, I still don’t want to say anything about this movie, as anyone watching it should experience it knowing as little as possible. The soundtrack will certainly make you feel like you are in a nightmare you can’t wake up from.
You’re Next (2011)
This is the first of two films on this list by talented horror director Adam Wingard, whose films so far have understood how a situation that may seem ordinary can be terrifying with the right electronic music. The film depicts a family gathering in a remote house and being terrorized by masked killers, so the limited and claustrophobic location can only do so much. That’s where a cleverly composed soundtrack comes in. In addition to the score, there’s the clever contrast against the featured, upbeat 1977 song “Looking for the Magic” by Dwight Twilley Band, which recently had a resurgence thanks to this film.
The Guest (2014)
The Guest is Adam Wingard follow-up to You’re Next. To me, it is one of the scariest, most stylish, and underrated films of the last decade. A family grieving over their son who died in military service gets a surprise visit from a man (a wonderfully creepy Dan Stevens) who claims to be their son’s friend. The friend wreaks havoc on the small New Mexico town, all set to wonderfully retro electronic music. The soundtrack includes Clan of Xymox, Love and Rockets, and the obscure eighties German band DAF. The deliberate use of this music makes you feel like you are in a goth club in 1984, while adding an element of style that makes the main villain even more threatening.