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13 Creepiest Horror Movie Themes

From demonic whispers to sinister lullabies to Italian prog-rock band Goblin, it doesn't get scarier than the scores from these horror classics

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'Zombi 2' (1979)

With a thumping beat as persistent as a rabid zombie and menacing faux-choral synths, the theme to Lucio Fulci's Italian gore-fest Zombi 2 sounds a little hokey at first, but after about one minute, it becomes downright eerie. 

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'Friday the 13th' (1980)

While the farting horn section and careening strings of Friday the 13th might sound equally suited to Home Alone, the ominous "ki-ki-ki, ma-ma-ma" that whispers throughout is pure terror. 

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'The Ring' (2002)

Lullaby/music box-themed horror music has been a longtime staple of the genre, as well as children chillingly singing about death. The theme to Gore Verbinski's The Ring combines both for an unsettling tune that will make you want to crawl out of your skin.  

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'Candyland' (1992)

This simple, wistful piano-based theme comes from avant-classical composer Philip Glass. What could be the score for any number of Oscar-nominated films takes on eerie shadings when paired with Candyman's tale of urban legends come true. 

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'Phantasm' (1979)

Don Coscarelli's cult horror classic Phantasm successfully melds a John Carpenter-esque piano riff with synth-y Gregorian choral voices for a theme emphasizing a sense of terror bubbling beneath the surface. 

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'Eyes Without a Face' (1960)

Prior to winning an Oscar for his score to Lawrence of Arabia, composer/conductor Maurice Jarre wrote the tender, haunting theme to the deranged French-Italian classic Eyes Without a Face. Many horror films are about the terror of alienation and the danger of obsession, but few soundtracks manage to capture those feelings with such pathos. 

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'Rosemary's Baby' (1968)

Rosemary's Baby star Mia Farrow sang the wordless "Lullaby" that played over the genre-changing horror film's end credits. Even if you don't place it in the context of a mother singing the spawn of Satan to sleep, it's still creepy as hell. 

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'The Shining' (1980)

Synth music pioneer Wendy Carlos teamed with Rachel Elkind to create the understated electronic score for Stanley Kubrick's high-brow horror classic. Falling somewhere between ambient industrial and church organ music, it's an extremely unsettling listen.  

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'Psycho' (1960)

Yes, the screeching string section that soundtracks the infamous shower scene in Psycho is iconic and unsettling, but that's not why we're including Bernard Herrmann's theme to Alfred Hitchcock's trend-setting slasher film in our list. The more melodic string passages in Psycho perfectly capture the sense of dread, insanity and imminent danger pervading the whole film. 

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'The Exorcist' (1973)

Despite boasting one of the most iconic movie themes ever, The Exorcist's staccato piano riff wasn't composed for William Friedkin's classic: It's actually taken from a prog-rock album. The filmmakers sampled the opening riff from British rocker Mike Oldfield's 1973 album Tubular Bells for the film's recurring musical theme. Although they added their own flourishes, it's not a far cry from the original. 

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'Deep Red' (1975)

Italian prog-rock outfit Goblin began their long-running gig scoring films from genre master Dario Argento on his 1975 movie Deep Red. With an ominous organ solo and an eerie Celesta riff akin to The Exorcist, this is a harrowing score. Plus, the bass line is seriously sick. 

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'Halloween' (1978)

Director John Carpenter himself composed the iconic theme to his slasher classic Halloween. Taking a cue from The Exorcist, which also used a repetitive piano riff to great effect, Carpenter successfully created one of the most instantly frightening horror themes. Much like the film itself, the simplicity of this theme actually makes it more unsettling. 

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'Suspiria' (1977)

Two years after scoring Deep Red, Goblin delivered their most frightening score for Dario Arengto's masterpiece. Seriously, Suspiria's theme is supernaturally good. Just try listening to the demonic murmuring over the innocent Celesta riff that plays throughout the film and not freaking out. 

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