The Legendary Wes Craven

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Featured Scary Movies and Series

Wes Craven has been praised as one of the most imaginative and exciting horror creators in cinema. His legendary Nightmare on Elm Street series which birthed the insidious dream-weaving villain Freddy Krueger, and the hyper-self-aware Scream series which spawned the knife-wielding Ghostface killer, are just two of the many properties Craven has used to scare audiences the world over. Everyone who owns a television can probably tell you at least what these two aforementioned mass-murderers look like, but did you know prolific terror maestro Wes Craven actually started his film career in pornography? Or that Elm Street was actually based on the deathly nightmares of Cambodian refugees who had witnessed the American bombing of Cambodia?

Here we take a look at some of the most influential, and also the more obscure of Wes Craven’s directorial works, in order to pay tribute to and properly learn about a man who caused more sleepless nights than European Techno.

Last House On The Left (1972)


Craven clearly wanted to shock the world from the get-go. His first horror outing centred around two girls looking for drugs after attending a concert in the city. They run into a gang of escaped convicts who kidnap them for a night of rape, torture and their eventual muder. When the convicts later hide out at the home of one of the murdered girls, her parents soon work out what happened and plot their revenge. Last House managed to land itself on the Video Nasties list and was actually refused a certificate for cinema release by the British Board of Film Censors for its depictions of horiffic sadism and sexual violence.

The script, written by Craven in 1971, was originally intended to be a hardcore pornographic feature before filming began, whereupon it was decided that a much softer approach would be taken. One can only imagine what the original idea had in store for viewers. The story is inspired by Ingmar Bergman’s Swedish film The Virgin Spring (1960), which in turn is based on a Swedish ballad, Töres döttrar i Wänge. Who would’ve thought such classic and artistic inspiration could have gone into what is now an infamous rape/revenge horror?


The Hills Have Eyes (1977)


This is one of the rare occasions in horror where I actually prefer a remake to the original. Perhaps it has something to do with the similarities of Craven’s Hills with Tobe Hooper’s classic (and far more expertly crafted) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), or perhaps I simply didn’t feel that the gut-wrenching implications of some scenes could be fully realised with this particular cast of actors. That being said, this is still a fairly competent and satisfyingly violent film based on the legend of Sawney Bean, a scottish clan leader said to have lived in a sea cave and cannibalized over a thousand people in the 16th Century. Craven’s depiction features the Carter family on their way to Los Angeles who crash their camper in an area of the Nevada desert inhabited by murderous cannibals. When they start to die off the family must fight back against the savages, which they do in quite spectacular fashion. Craven’s vision was raw and unflinching with this piece, even if some of it did need to be trimmed due to an X-rating. While it doesn’t jump out as a masterpiece in the genre, it would be a crime to write it off as just another cheap shock-horror.


The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)

The Serpent and the Rainbow Movie Poster
The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)


Bill Pullman is excellent in this mystifying mashup of Live and Let Die (1973) and In The Mouth of Madness (1944). Anthropologist Dennis (Bill Pullman) heads to Haiti, in a time of severe social and political unrest, to study an alleged voodoo drug that has been bringing the dead back to life. With the help of a witch doctor (Brent Jennings) and a fellow researcher (Cathy Tyson) Dennis must dodge Haitian authorities and solve the deadly mystery before it consumes him completely. With some genuinely unsettling imagery, fantastically engaging performances from its lead cast and implications around life, death and madness that have the potential to chill viewers to the core, The Serpent and The Rainbow proves itself to this day one of the more original and enthralling of Craven’s back-catalogue.


The People Under the Stairs (1991)


I’ll start by saying that I had no idea what to expect from this film. Having borrowed the dvd from a friend and basing my expectations on its goofy cover art, I was expecting something akin to other campy 70s and 80s horrors like Fright Night (1985) or perhaps even Beetlejuice (1988). After multiple viewings I now class this as one of Craven’s darkest films, straight-up shocking in many places while crawling under your skin in others. Craven was adamant to portray a respectful account of class warfare and personal struggles in poverty-stricken ghettos, and has expressed in other films such as Scream 2 his views on the need for “black representation” in horror, so what better villain than a couple of rich, incestuous white landlords? The violent psychopathy displayed when things start to kick off is unrivalled, with much of the terror being derived not from monsters or ghosts, but the potential of pure evil from humans. With a stellar performance from Brandon Adams as ‘Fool’ and Everett McGill and Wendy Robie as the nameless, psychotic Landlord and Lady, this is close to the top of a list of personal favourites, not just of Craven’s work but of horror in general, and should not be missed.


Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994)


Everyone is familiar with the Nightmare on Elm Street legacy, from the original breakout hit all the way to Freddy vs Jason, but I’d rather talk about what I consider the most interesting and underrated in the series. Now I’ll admit that when I first watched New Nightmare I was far too young to really be able to appreciate horror, never mind understanding any of the meta-layers underlying this gory flick. It still managed to shock me, and stick in my mind to this day, and it was one of my later revisits that helped me realise just what Craven was going for. Heather Langenkamp plays herself, years after the shooting of the original Nightmare films, when visions of Freddy begin to plague her in real life. This was definitely the beginning of Craven’s more self-aware phase which led onto the Scream series, and his playfulness in flirting with the fourth-wall more than pays off in breathing new life into Freddy as a villain, and the Nightmare series in general. I won’t give away too much, as there are several payoffs in Craven’s 1994 rethink that scream for multiple viewings.


Scream (1996)


Scream is such a fun ride. Somehow Craven managed to craft a film that is blatantly self-aware yet balanced enough so that the self-referential comedy doesn’t once get in the way of bloody scares. It is witty and clever in similar ways to New Nightmare but a lot more playful and sometimes goofy in execution. Some references and nods to horror tropes and even Craven’s earlier pictures are terrifically on the nose, and more than welcome in that, though repeated viewings are warranted with plenty of subtleties to find. Matthew Lillard is brilliant as Stu Macher, wacky and on the border of being a complete clown while somehow retaining an imposing and intimidating air through his sheer size and intensity. Scream gleefully and violently subverts expectations set by genre greats, while paying homage to all that inspired it, and somehow having a better ending to many of the films it parodies.


Scream 2 (1997)


Somehow this one passed me by until very recently, though I’m almost ashamed to admit it now. Scream 2 is one of the better horror sequels out there, majorly due to its self awareness (as if it only exists as a punchline to scream’s continuous mention of a sequel) though also due in part to Craven’s consistency in style and substance. I found myself overjoyed when characters from the first began popping up and reuniting, and enjoying the introduction of new characters that, like the film itself, feel more an extension of Scream rather than a tacked-on rethink. Featuring possibly a better ending than even its predecessor did, all while retaining the meta-layers in almost every scene that made the first great.

Full Filmography

1972The Last House on the LeftHallmark Releasing / American International Pictures
1977The Hills Have EyesVanguard
1981Deadly BlessingUnited Artists
1982Swamp ThingEmbassy Pictures
1984A Nightmare on Elm StreetNew Line Cinema
1985The Hills Have Eyes Part IICastle Hill Productions
1986Deadly FriendWarner Bros.
1988The Serpent and the RainbowUniversal Pictures
1989Shocker
1991The People Under the Stairs
1994Wes Craven’s New NightmareNew Line Cinema
1995Vampire in BrooklynParamount Pictures
1996ScreamDimension Films
1997Scream 2
1999Music of the HeartMiramax
2000Scream 3Dimension Films
2005CursedMiramax
2005Red Eye
2010My Soul to TakeUniversal Pictures
2011Scream 4Dimension Films
from wikipedia.com

The History of Halloween

Categories
Featured Horror Mystery and Lore Lifestyle

September is coming to a close and the heat, brief as it was, is beginning to wane. For some this is a dark time, one foretelling many months of bitter cold, long stretches of darkness and bouts of seasonal affective disorder. Though for others an excitement builds through these darkening months that leads to the spookiest and one of the most beloved traditions in recent history; Halloween. Explore the history of Halloween from ancient Celtic traditions to trick or treating today in the U.S.

History of Halloween Celtic Roots

For many Americans, Halloween will feel as culturally homely as eagles and apple pies, although, (hold awed gasps) the tradition didn’t actually start stateside. The origins of this delectably macabre holiday date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts, who occupied the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France over 2,000 years ago, celebrated their new year on November 1.

The date was considered the end of the autumn period and symbolizes the emergence of winter, when herds were returned from pasture and land tenures renewed. Legend told that during the Samhain festival, the souls of the departed would once more return to their homes and those who had died since the last festival would have their souls pass over to the afterlife. Bonfires were lit atop hills to ward off evil spirits, and to give the folk a place to relight their hearth fires over winter. They would wear animal heads and skin masks to the ceremonies to avoid being recognized by those spirits, while sacrificing animals to appease the gods. It was believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between our world and that of the dead became thin, allowing them to communicate with spirits. On the night of October 31 they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth.

According to historical records,the Celts believed that the spiritual communication on Samhain enhanced the premonitory powers of the Celtic druids, allowing them to predict the future in a far more accurate way. 

Bats and Halloween

Bats Flying by a full moon on Halloween

The widespread modern association of bats with Halloween actually has its historical origins too. The Samhain bonfires lit by the Celtic Druids attracted swarms of bugs from the surrounding wilderness which, in turn, drew flocks of bats to enjoy a rather fruitful supper. In later years, various folklore emerged citing bats as harbingers of death or doom. In Nova Scotian mythology, a bat settling in your home foretells that a man in your family will die. If it flaps around the place trying to escape, a woman in the family will pass on instead.

History of Halloween Roman Influence

According to other records, some Halloween traditions are actually rooted in ancient Roman history. By 43 A.D. The Romans had conquered and occupied most of the Celtic’s territory, bringing with them festivals such as Feralia, which took place in October and also commemorated the passing over of the dead to the afterlife. Another holiday, Pomona, was held in honour of the Roman Goddess of fruit and trees, which developed to this day as the reason why we bob for apples on Halloween.

A few Centuries later saw the further development of the festivals that would eventually become Halloween, as several Christian figures attempted to replace the pagan traditions with ones closer to God. By 1000 A.D., All Souls’ Day was announced on November 2 as a time for the living to pray for the souls of the dead. All Saints’ Day, or All Hallows, honored the saints on November 1. That made October 31 All Hallows Eve, which later became Halloween.

Halloween in The United Kingdom

Of course, old habits die hard, and people in England and Ireland mostly continued on as they had done, using the time of year to focus their attention on the wandering dead. They set out gifts of food to feed the peckish spirits, and as time went on and the tradition continued, folk would dress in creepy masks in exchange for treats themselves. The practice was called “mumming,” and was the beginning of a tradition we now know as trick-or-treating.

Trick or Treating in America

Scary Halloween Mask

In America, the southern colonies were the first to adopt the original festivities resembling Halloween, these early renditions of the festivals being called “play parties”. Towns would gather to celebrate the harvest, swap ghost stories and read each other’s fortunes, with far more events and activities being added over the years.

By the 1950s Trick-or-treating had exploded in popularity around the US, and Halloween had become a true national event. Today the holiday is celebrated by over 179 million Americans who spend around $9.1 billion on it per year, according to the National Retail Federation. 

Halloween obviously remains a popular holiday in America and the UK today, but it actually almost didn’t make it across the Atlantic in the first place. Puritans shunned the tradition, disapproving of its Pagan roots, though once Scottish and Irish immigrants began to arrive in America in greater numbers, Halloween made its way back into the zeitgeist. The very first American colonial Halloween celebrations featured large public parties to commemorate the upcoming harvest, tell ghost stories, sing, and dance.

https://www.history.com/topics/halloween/history-of-halloween

https://www.countryliving.com/entertaining/a40250/heres-why-we-really-celebrate-halloween/

https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/holidays/halloween-ideas/g4607/history-of-halloween/

https://www.businessinsider.com/history-of-halloween-2017-10?r=US&IR=T

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Halloween

https://www.historic-uk.com/CultureUK/Halloween/

https://www.worldhistory.org/article/1456/history-of-halloween/

The Phantom Hitchhiker of Black Horse Lake

Categories
Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore

Vanishing hitchhikers are one of the most widespread and commonly reported urban legends in the US, a phenomenon which gained notoriety as the title-story in Jan Brunvand’s The Vanishing Hitchhiker: American Urban Legends and their Meanings (1981). Puzzle Box Horror’s Scariest Urban Legends series continue with The Phantom Hitchhiker of Black Horse Lake.

The Vanishing Hitchhiker Legends

There are two primary manifestations of the vanishing hitchhiker legend, the first being particularly famous around Britain and the US. So it goes; Someone is driving home at night when they spot a young girl hitching from the roadside. She sits in the back and, at some point in the journey, mysteriously disappears. Having been given her address, the driver goes there anyway, where he learns that the girl died in a car crash years before. In some renditions of the story the driver then visits the graveyard where she is buried, only to find a jacket hung over her gravestone. In the story’s other depiction, one rarely heard around the UK, the hitchhiker is a male, supernatural being. He tells of some great misfortune or disaster that will befall the earth before disappearing into the night. So the legend says, all of the entity’s predictions come true, leading drivers to believe they witnessed an angel or even Jesus Christ himself.

Hitchhiking at its core is inherently scary for both parties involved; both hitchhiker and driver are at equal risk during the age-old favour and neither usually knows quite who they’re sitting next to, at least at first. This fear has been milked throughout the ages in horror cinema and literature, most notably in the Rutger Hauer road-horror classic, The Hitcher (1986).

Black Horse Lake

Map view of Black Horse Lake

Great Falls in Cascade County, a county named for the falls on the Missouri River, is the third-largest city in Montana. Just outside Great Falls sits the seasonal Black Horse Lake, which only sees water during the spring and early summer. If you’re driving down a stretch of road adjacent to the lake, just off highway 87, toward Fort Benton, you might be unlucky enough to encounter a very different kind of phantom hitchhiker.

Phantom Hitchhiker of Black Horse Lake

Reports tell of a tall Native American man with long black hair, inconspicuously hitching a ride. Some claim to spot him in bib overalls, others say he dons a denim jacket and jeans. However, when drivers get close enough to the figure he suddenly appears in front of the car, rolling onto the windscreen with a deathly thud. Many people react in the obvious manner, screeching to a halt and getting out to check the poor fellow is okay. Of course, in true spectral fashion, the man is nowhere to be seen, and the car is always without a scratch. This is both a positive and a negative, as though no physical damage has been dealt, the driver must now continue their lives with no proof to themselves or others that they really witnessed what they think they did. With no proof, the whole ordeal can easily be passed off as a trick of the overactive imagination, though this particular phenomenon has occurred so frequently and with such similarity that it has cemented itself in the annals of international urban legends forever.

Many believe that this is the ghost of a transient Native American who’s nomadic lifestyle was violently interrupted one night by a passing car that struck him. Many renditions of the tale say that the man is forced to relive his last brutal moments on earth in a Palm Springs-esque infinite loop, conjuring an even greater horror to the nightmare.

References

https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803115204971
https://www.onlyinyourstate.com/montana/hitchhiker-of-black-horse-lake-mt/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Horse_Lake
http://northwesternghostsandhauntings.blogspot.com/2010/11/phantom-hitchhiker-of-black-horse-lake.html
https://list25.com/25-urban-legends-in-every-us-state-part-2/
https://www.facebook.com/113499007016906/posts/the-phantom-hitchhiker-of-black-horse-lake-while-driving-on-along-black-horse-la/140796014287205/
https://www.hauntedplaces.org/item/hitchhiker-of-black-horse-lake/

The Sounds of Nightmares: The Best Horror Soundtracks

Categories
Best Of Best of Movies Featured Lifestyle

Horror films rely on a number of factors to deliver scares, attacking as many of a viewer’s senses as possible with a carefully concocted cacophony of sight and sound. On-screen efforts are restricted to targeting our eyes and ears, though let’s be honest, if Tobe Hooper could’ve made us smell the Sawyer family home, he would. This limitation on horror’s sensory maelstrom means that sound is just as, if not more important than the visual nightmares on display. Music is as intrinsic and essential to horror as it is to a musical; each grumbling synth drone and eerie pluck of a harp can conjure dread, unease, tension and suspense from the most unlikely places. More often than not they can punctuate violence and psychological torture to the abject degree, enhancing some of the greatest standout moments in horror cinema history. Look to the stabbing staccato strings in the infamous shower scene in Psycho (1960) or the equally sudden and unnerving strings of Jaws (1975). The best horror soundtracks have inspired these new sounds for decades.

While respect must be paid to the classics, we are indeed living in a golden age of horror cinema and, as a result, an exciting and experimental time for original horror soundtracks. Recently we have seen experimental artists like Jóhann Jóhannsson and Mica Levi growing into Oscar-nominated star composers, musicians like Thom Yorke shifting into the world of movie soundtracks and even indie game composer Disasterpeace taking on the duty of decorating the brilliant It Follows (2014) with his unsettling, synth-led dreamscapes.

Without further ado, here are some of the best horror soundtracks from throughout the ages.

The Thing (1982) – Ennio Morricone

The Thing Album cover vinyl.


Kicking things off with a personal favourite of 80’s sci-fi horror, John Carpenter’s frostbitten opus The Thing stars Kurt Russel as a helicopter pilot in Antarctica, battling a shape-shifting extraterrestrial being. By this time in his career Carpenter had written original scores for every picture he released, ironically enough what is now widely known as his strongest film was actually the first to feature another composer’s music. Ennio Morricone, known for spaghetti westerns like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) and his Oscar-winning music for The Hateful Eight (2015) (which included music he’d originally written for The Thing), took the helm after long conversations with Carpenter in which the director said he wanted the sound “really simple, synth-driven, effective”. The end result is just that, a sparse and minimal synth score which echoes the endless frozen desert surrounding the research base and its inhabitants’ horrific struggle. Not bad considering Morricone was shown an incomplete version of the film with little to no context on what the director wanted.

Suspiria (1977) – Goblin

Suspiria (1977) Goblin Album cover vinyl record.


For our next sonic endeavour we head to Italy for giallo/gore maestro Dario Argento’s most notable grandiose horror-mystery, Suspiria. The film follows Suzy, a ballet student who travels to Germany to attend a prestigious ballet school. Her time at the academy isn’t easy, from strange noises in the night to unexplained illnesses, but when people begin to die around her Suzy starts to uncover the terrifying history of the place.

The tinkling music-box chimes of the main theme in Suspiria are as recognisable to horror buffs as John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978) theme and Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells combined. Claudio Simonetti and Goblin had collaborated with Dario Argento two years earlier, having scored his film Deep Red (1975) after Argento wanted someone in the vein of Deep Purple or Pink Floyd, and had Goblin suggested to him by his producer. After the success of Deep Red (a soundtrack which sold 4 million copies) both Argento and Goblin were free to experiment with Suspiria, meaning a truly unique pairing of aural and visual stimuli was created. Whatever your tastes, it can’t be argued that Suspiria and it’s accompanying music changed the way a lot of people thought about horror, and pioneered a style all of their own.

Beyond the Black Rainbow (2010) – Sinoia Caves

Beyond the Black Rainbow (2010) - Sinoia Caves


Panos Cosmatos’ 2010 sci-fi/horror debut is bleak, sparse, minimal, and in a lot of senses, slow. It is an ethereal dreamscape in which a heavily sedated woman with extrasensory perception tries to escape from a commune which has her held captive. The plot is thin and, it could be argued, merely an excuse for the aural and visual feast which it amounts to. It has been joked that Cosmatos’ work is best enjoyed under the influence of psychedelics, and for his second release as Sinoia Caves, Black Mountain’s Jeremy Schmidt seemed to have taken this sentiment in stride. With sly nods to John Carpenter, Goblin, Jan Hammer and Jon McCallum, Schmidt created not a specifically referential piece of nostalgia but one that reinforces the films 80s aesthetic and contextual themes without appearing intrusive. Cosmatos creates his pieces from an almost naive love of the genre, while also retaining an originality in his art that would equally work without the inspirational ancestry to pay reference to. Thankfully, he seems to pick composers who do the same.

Mandy (2018) – Jóhann Jóhannsson

Mandy (2018) - Jóhann Jóhannsson Album cover vinly


If Mandy was Panos Cosmatos’ love letter to grindhouse and the 80’s, Jóhannson’s sonic counterpart was the perfect accompaniment. A visceral and fierce arrangement, of melancholic synths, earth-rattling guitars, somber strings and erratic percussion takes viewers through as emotional a rollercoaster as the film does. In a tragic turn, one made even more significant by the emotional depth of the composition he had just released, Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson died at age 48, shortly after the film’s release. Several vinyl issues have been released of the heavy metal fever dream which includes Seattle-based experimental metal band Sunn O))) providing the moody, overdriven guitar work. In an interview, Cosmatos spoke of his planning the score with Jóhannsson: “I said, ‘I want it to feel like you’re 11 years old, and you’re in the backseat of your big brother’s Trans Am, and he’s smoking weed, and you can smell the vanilla air freshener, and the leather,” the director said. “It’s kind of scary, but it’s also exhilarating at the same time.” Cosmatos recalled that Jóhannsson paused before replying: “I know exactly what you mean.”

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) – Tobe Hooper and Wayne Bell

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) - Tobe Hooper and Wayne Bell album cover


Tobe Hooper’s 1974 debut classic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre shocked audiences around the world in a single reverberative gasp with its unabashed and unfiltered violence, grimy aesthetic and wacky cast of insidious antagonists. The picture was helped along massively in its cumulative effect by Hooper and sound expert Wayne Bell’s nightmarish soundscapes which blur the same line between music and noise that many modern industrial and underground pop artists frequently emulate, as well as the French abstract ‘musique concrète’ movement. All focus was given to the scene, whether it be one of building tension, horrific release or a mix of both in something like a chase scene, all sound was specifically engineered to enhance the initial idea. Because of the strange and unique pairings of instruments used in each piece, the overall effect is one of just just as unsettling a nature as the horrific visual brutality on display.

Psycho (1960) – Bernard Herrmann

Psycho (1960) - Bernard Herrmann Album Cover


Alfred Hitchcock is a household name in the world of horror, known best for his terrifying and suspenseful The Birds (1963), Rear Window (1954) and, of course, Psycho. Similarly, composer Bernard Herrman’s career spanned from work with Orson Welles in the Mercury Theatre writing the music for The War of the Worlds and Citizen Kane, on dozens of television programs including The Twilight Zone, and later films such as Taxi Driver (1976), whereupon shortly after he died. His work on what is perhaps Hitchcock’s best loved film has come to be one of the best known original scores in horror, particularly the staccato string attack which stabs along with our faceless killer in the infamous ‘shower scene’. Much of the score features a 7th chord that contains both major and minor intervals that film professor Royal Brown calls the ‘Hitchcock chord’. The chord is seen as allowing the films to play out a very ordinary opening scene with its major intervals, while also having the minor intervals to hint at the darkness beyond.

The Lighthouse (2019) – Mark Korven

The Lighthouse (2019) - Mark Korven album cover vinyl record


For his 2019 slow-burning, mythology-laden period chiller The Lighthouse, director Robert Eggers reunited with composer Mark Korven, the man who scored cult sci-fi/horror hit Cube (1997) and Egger’s previous horror breakout The Witch (2015). In an age awash with samey, uninspired horror soundtracks that frequently borrow heavily from Bernard Herrmann’s earlier efforts, a pairing such as Eggers and Korven is a rare and unique treat. For The Witch, Korven took a minimalist approach, utilising his own creation ‘The Apprehension Machine’, a contraption of metal rulers and bows which has been described by some as the most terrifying instrument around. While this fit with the themes and aesthetic explored in The Witch, for The Lighthouse a different approach had to be taken. Heavy use of booming brass permeates the score, echoing the raging sea which surrounds the characters, along with glassy string sections that almost seem to pour from the mysterious light itself. The score acts almost as a third character, diving into the madness the other two end up gleefully embracing.

Under The Skin (2014) – Mica Levi

Under The Skin (2014) album cover

To accompany the alien, otherworldly, uncanny feeling of Jonathan Glazer‘s sci-fi/horror Under The Skin, composer Mica Levi took a rather elemental approach to her score. The lead character in Under The Skin, played by Scarlett Johansson, is a blank-eyed extraterrestrial predator with apparently no human emotion or relatability. Of course Levi would look to György Ligeti’s strikingly impersonal and unsettling work on The Shining (1980) for inspiration. The soundtrack for Under The Skin plays out much like a thought process from something far from human, as if trying to emulate other music the way Johansson’s character tries to emulate other people. “We were looking at the natural sound of an instrument to try and find something identifiably human in it, then slowing things down or changing the pitch of it to make it feel uncomfortable,” Levi said in an interview. Sounds range from swarming dry tremolo strings, insectile digital whirring and buzzing and pitch-shifted drones that seep under the skin in a truly addictive way.

Hellraiser (1987) – Christopher Young

Hellraiser soundtrack album cover (1987) - Christopher Young. Featuring Horror Icon Pinhead


Clive Barker’s Hellraiser, based on his novella The Hellbound Heart, shocked audiences in 1987 with a new blend of gothic, torturous horror. Featuring a mostly amoral cast of characters being tormented by the insidious Cenobites, Barker’s gleefully cruel outlook was a lot for audiences to stomach at first. So much so that production company New World Pictures decided against the avante garde synth soundtrack that John Balance and Peter Christopherson of the underground British electronica group ‘Coil’ were creating, opting instead for a more traditional approach. Thankfully this decision was backed up by the idea to use Chistopher Young (A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985), Invaders from Mars (1986), Sinister (2012)) and arguably one of the greatest traditional horror soundtracks was realized. Predominantly orchestral and with some synth textures added for good measure, the score weaves its way through a myriad of melodies, harmonies and interesting and emotional instrumentation to match Barker’s pitch-black, dissonant romanticism, treading the line between pain and pleasure.

The Beyond (1981) – Fabio Frizzi

The Beyond (1981) - Fabio Frizzi album cover featuring a rotting corpse


Often referred to as the ‘Godfather of Gore’, Lucio Fulci is known for a string of gruesome giallo flicks from Zombie (1979) to The New York Ripper (1982) and A Cat in the Brain (1990). His films range from grounded murder mystery to psychedelic nightmare, all retaining a healthy splattering of his signature excessive style of blood and guts. One of the most off-the-wall endeavors the Italian director ever undertook was 1981’s The Beyond, a truly wacky horror about an old hotel in Louisiana that contains an entrance to Hell. Fabio Frizzi’s score focuses on variations on a few central themes in a tasteful combination of traditional orchestration and electric progressive rock. While tailoring pieces to fit the building of tension, dreamy atmospheres and striking intensity that run throughout, Frizzi’s score provides more bass-driven funk than one might expect to hear over a scene of tarantulas eating someone’s face.

The Devil’s Candy (2017) – Michael Yezerski

The Devil’s Candy (2017) - Michael Yezerski soundtrack cover image with bloody guitar


Sean Byrne’s second offering of violent, visceral horror after his 2009 shocker The Loved Ones features a metalhead artist who becomes obsessed with a demonic painting seemingly created by his subconscious, as well as a disturbed giant of a man whose existence threatens the family’s very lives. Featuring an almost perfect arrangement of existing metal music, from the earth-rattling soundscapes of Sunn 0))) to the groove laden riffing of Machine Head, the film also features an original score by Michael Yezerski. This is truly the heavy metal horror film of the 2010s, in fact any time there isn’t an actual metal band playing viewers are treated to Yezerski’s semi-industrial blend of brutal guitar shredding, atonal clangings and screechings and gut-wobbling drones. Subtlety isn’t the intent of either aural or visual elements here, rather a heart stopping face-slap from start to finish.


Halloween (1978) – John Carpenter

Halloween Soundtrack cover (1978) - John Carpenter featuring a pumpkin and knife


When John Carpenter made the legendary and timeless Halloween he was thirty years old, yet still running things like a college student. Everything he could possibly do himself, he would, including the chillingly minimal and infinitely recognizable score that would help propel his low-budget slasher to worldwide stardom. Drawing on Goblin’s sinister Suspiria score along with Bernard Herrman’s masterfully suspenseful music for Psycho, Carpenter (who recognizes himself as having zero chops as a musician) wrote a simple 5/4 piano rhythm that would end up being one of the most recognized pieces of music in horror. Like the theme from Jaws, the sparse and basic nature of the tune helps build suspense without being intrusive, allowing just enough space between notes for the horrors on screen to set in. The score features many simple, descending piano lines creating an acute sense of foreboding before the sharp, “cattle prod” keyboard stabs have viewers jumping from their seats. Proof that true art is born from limitations, Carpenter’s Halloween theme has been adopted by Pop and Hip-Hop artists alike, and remains to this day one of the most influential horror scores in existence.

References

https://www.udiscovermusic.com/stories/best-horror-movie-soundtracks/
https://www.classicfm.com/discover-music/periods-genres/film-tv/scariest-horror-soundtracks-music-scores/
https://www.stereogum.com/2063184/best-horror-music-movies-tv-2010s/lists/ultimate-playlist/
https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/the-thing-ennio-morricone-and-john-carpenters-thriller-soundtracks-get-special-rereleases-981073/
https://noisegate.com.au/behind-the-score-suspiria-by-goblin/
https://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/19753-sinoia-caves-beyond-the-black-rainbow-ost/

https://thequietus.com/articles/23290-texas-chainsaw-massacre-soundtrack-article
https://www.npr.org/2000/10/30/1113215/bernard-herrmanns-score-to-psycho?t=1628191357826
https://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/19239-mica-levi-under-the-skin-ost/
http://magazine.scoreit.org/there-is-a-light-that-never-goes-out-mark-korven-on-the-lighthouse/
https://moviemusicuk.us/2017/09/14/hellraiser-christopher-young/
https://filmschoolrejects.com/lucio-fulci-movies/2/
https://www.allmusic.com/album/the-beyond-original-motion-picture-soundtrack-mw0000012511
https://bloody-disgusting.com/news/3428439/exclusive-devils-candy-director-sean-byrne-provides-soundtrack-commentary/
https://mondoshop.com/products/the-devils-candy-original-motion-picture-soundtrack
https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-lists/35-greatest-horror-soundtracks-modern-masters-gatekeepers-choose-126190/halloween-john-carpenter-1978-126731/

Urban Legend: The Jersey Devil

Categories
Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore

The Jersey Devil is a creature of legend and innumerable descriptions amongst Southern New Jersey and Philadelphia folklore. A flying, hoofed biped that has been described part kangaroo or part horse, with the wings of some huge malformed bat and the forked tail of Beelzebub himself. Like an equestrian chimera inhabiting South Jersey’s Pine Barrens, the Jersey Devil is said to move very fast, some say in great leaps like a hare, and known to emit a scream like grinding machinery. Not only elusive in appearance, the Jersey Devil also has a rich history of occultism, witchcraft and – oddly enough – politics to explore.

By the early 1900s, South Jersey was abuzz with reports of the Devil. Every man and his dog claimed to have seen or even caught the mysterious mishmash of animals. Commonly described as a combination of kangaroo, bat, and pony, several museums professed to have caught it, each offering their own false promises and disappointing hoaxes. Some said the thing was white, others said brown; some said it leapt, others said it flew. By this point the Jersey Devil was becoming one of the more widespread yet confusing urban legends in Pennsylvania.

Daniel Leeds House 1600's

Originally it was known as the Leeds Devil, a name traced back to a young quaker from the late 1600s, named Daniel Leeds, who emigrated to the US. Overestimating his political prowess, Leeds became involved in government and began writing an almanac. Overestimated still were his expectations on how his peers and neighbors would react to what they described as “Pagan” ideas on astrology and magic, or how they would respond to his allegiance to the royal governor of the colony, or the British in general. Local Quakers were quick to brand him as evil for his strange outlook and even wrote pamphlets labelling him “Satan’s Harbinger”.

In 1859 a reporter’s account of stories they had heard in the Barrens was published in the Atlantic. The tales told of Mother Leeds and her practice of witchcraft, devil worshipping, and appearances from the Devil himself. So the tale goes, in 1735 Mother Leeds found herself to be pregnant, the child she bore being her thirteenth. Mother Leeds, dwelling deep in the New Jersey Pine Barrens, said “Let this one be the devil,” and according to the most popular lore that child was born with horns, hooves, wings, and a tail. The devil flew from the dwelling immediately and into the surrounding darkness.

The legend was helped along by a few noteworthy figures, one of which being Joseph Bonapart, older brother of Napoleon, who in 1812 claimed to have spotted the beast while hunting near his Bordentown estate. From this point it seems every animal attack and odd footprint was blamed on the Devil. One key event cementing the Devil’s legend happened in 1909. In the month of January that year around a thousand reported sightings came in from around South Jersey. Navy Commander Stephen Decatur reportedly saw the creature while testing cannonballs at Hanover Mills Works and, despite blowing a hole through the thing with one of those shells, was not able to kill it.

The Jersey Devil legend has had its peaks and valleys in terms of popularity (one peak being when it was the center of an X-Files episode), though alleged sightings have not stopped to this day. All things considered, the sound of the Devil’s screech as it flies through the Pine Barrens is an experience I would like to miss out on.

https://www.nj.com/entertainment/2016/10/13_places_the_jersey_devil_has_been_spotted_in_the.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Jersey_Devil_(The_X-Files)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jersey_Devil

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/oct/17/jersey-devil-new-jersey-myth-photo-origin-story