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Horror Film Music Composers

Early Horror Films


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Director John Carpenter during the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City (April 26, 2007)

Amy Sussman/Getty Images
I'm one of those people who gets spooked easily but for some reason still insist on watching horror and suspense films. We may not be aware of it but the success of a horror film doesn't solely rely on the plot or the actors; it also depends on the film score. Composers for horror films may often be unrecognized; you may not know their names but chances are you've been spooked by their music. Here are several composers who created music for horror and suspense films.

  • Franz Waxman (1906 - 1967) - Born in Konigshutte, Upper Silesia, Germany, Waxman started playing the piano at age 7. He worked as a bank teller before he became a composer and conductor. Some of the horror films he scored are "The Bride of Frankenstein" (1935) and "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." Aside from creating film scores, Waxman founded the Los Angeles International Music Festival. Waxman was very much in demand; he worked with major studios, received awards including Academy Awards for Best Score in the movies "Sunset Boulevard" (1950) and "A Place in the Sun" (1951). Listen to a sample music from the movie The Bride Of Frankenstein.

  • Frank Skinner (1897-1968) - He started off as an arranger for dance bands. Then in 1935 his big break came when he was hired by MGM; he would eventually move on to Universal Studios. Skinner scored more than 200 films, notable of which are those he created for horror films. Among the horror films he scored are "Step Down to Terror" (1958), "Nightmare" (1942) and "The Wolf Man" (1941). Listen to music samples from the movie "Son of Frankenstein", "The Invisible Man Returns" and "The Wolf Man".

  • Hans J. Salter (1896 - 1994) - He was born in Vienna, Austria but moved to the United States after Hitler ascended to power. Salter worked mainly under Universal and sometimes collaborated with fellow composer Frank Skinner. He created the scores for such films as "The Ghost of Frankenstein," "The House of Frankenstein," "The Wolf Man" and "Creature from the Black Lagoon." Listen to music samples from the movie "The Ghost Of Frankenstein"

Know of other composers who should be included on this list? Email it to musiced@aboutguide.com

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