It’s an exciting time to be alive for horror nerds, vinyl nerds, and soundtrack nerds alike. And for the rare but wonderful horror soundtrack vinyl nerd—well, let’s just say your ship has come in, buddy. The internet is blowing up with talk about the three major record labels at the forefront of the vinyl soundtrack revival: Death Waltz Recording Company, Waxwork Records, and One Way Static Records. Each of these amazing distributors is going to great lengths to bring us the ultimate versions of some of our favorite (though sometimes long-lost) scores. Everything is taken under great consideration, from the mastering and pressing processes, to the artwork featuring top-class artists, to the liner notes from composers and directors. And I couldn’t be more pleased.
Recently, Waxwork announced they would be handling a re-release of the John Harrison classic score for Creepshow. It’s one of my absolute favorite scores, and I’ve been hoping since the beginning of this soundtrack boom that someone would dig it out and give it a proper release. Well, Waxwork is delivering, offering up a transfer from original tapes with artwork by Ghoulish Gary Pullin (!!!). With this monumental release close to being checked off my list, I started thinking about what other out of print scores I’d like to see get the deluxe vinyl treatment. Below is a list of six soundtracks that need to make a vinyl comeback, pronto.
6. Child’s Play (1986) – Joe Renzetti
When I was a kid and watching horror movies, Child’s Play was one of the few that actually scared me. And it scared me a lot. Like, almost to the point of trauma. I mean, killer dolls are pretty freaky in general, but the original Child’s Play has an atmosphere of terror above and beyond, say, Demonic Toys or Dolly Dearest. And I think it’s largely the work of Joe Renzetti’s score. Completely void of consistent melody (except for the credits sequence), the score for Child’s Play is often something akin to David Lynch’s Eraserhead: metallic banging and cold industrial tones that reflect the inhumanity of not only Chucky the Best Friend Doll come to life but also of Charles Lee Ray, the serial killer piloting said doll. The sequence in the hospital is forever cemented in my memory, in no small part by the anxiety inducing minimalism of the score.
5. Eaten Alive (1977) – Wayne Bell and Tobe Hooper
Not a whole lot of cred is given to Tobe Hooper’s follow up to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but I think it’s good in its own right. What makes this one pop is Hooper and Bell’s mixture of what sounds like junk noise and weird, eerie synthesizer tones. The slowly modulating synths, when paired with the intense color saturation inside of Judd’s motel and the fact that all of the characters seem to be sweating profusely throughout the film, create a dizzy, almost nauseating effect. The closest thing to a release of this soundtrack that I’ve seen is a C30 cassette released by bootleg badasses Dutch Oven Classic Horror Soundtracks. Even still, I’m fairly certain it was nothing more than a direct audio rip from the film with a lot of the dialogue removed rather than a legit transfer of the original tapes.
4. Demons (1985) – Claudio Simonetti
We’ve seen Claudio Simonetti’s score for Demons in a number of different formats from a variety of distributors. But none really live up to what could be achieved with a solid transfer from the original recordings remastered for vinyl. While the collection of heavy-metal tracks used to highlight the theater goers’ battle against glowing-eyed oozing ghouls are likely more famous than the original pieces composed for the film, we have to give credit to Simonetti’s weird blend of classical tropes, hip-hop-esque hits and samples, and grungy rock cuts for giving Demons its cohesive overall feel. The title theme alone is iconic in its originality. I also have to show major respect in particular for the track “Out of Time,” which wavers between being a particularly driven orchestral piece and a shimmering too-funky-for-school synth jam.
3. The Thing (1982) – Ennio Morricone
I’ve said it before, but horror movies (and to a large degree their soundtracks) were immensely important to me growing up. And I can distinctly remember recreating the theme to the The Thing on an awesomely crappy Casio keyboard as a kid. The score for The Thing was composed by soundtrack legend Ennio Morricone, making it one of the few early Carpenter features not scored by Carpenter himself (though he an Alan Hayworth contributed incidental music for the film). The minimal, often inaudibly soft score perfectly highlights the isolation each man at the research station experiences as the world, and finally humanity itself, seems further and further away. I personally would like to see a two-disc vinyl version produced restoring the Carpenter and Hayworth cuts to this epic score.
2. City of the Living Dead (1980) – Fabio Frizzi
Besides maybe Zombi, City of the Living Dead is my favorite Fabio Frizzi score. It’s admittedly a hard decision to come to, as Frizzi is one of my all time favorite composers within the horror genre. In fact, when I think of soundtracks to Italian horror films, the “theme” to City of the Living Dead, “Apoteosi Del Mistero” (or “Apotheosis of Mystery”) comes to mind as the perfect example. It has all of the standard elements in place: synthesized choir voices, plodding, constant electronic kick drums, delicate guitar, and a dark yet triumphant melody. And let’s not forget the prog-rock and Italo-funk inspired “Suoni Dissonanti” (“Dissonant Sounds”). A truly menacing accompaniment to the fog rolling into Dunwich.
1. Phantasm (1979) – Fred Myrow and Malcolm Seagrave
Of all the dream re-releases on this list, Phantasm is my holy grail. Consisting largely of variations on the main title—an unforgettable piano line that’s cemented itself into the hall of classic horror themes, alongside Halloween and The Exorcist—the experience of listening to the score is like watching the movie. From moments resembling upbeat disco to stretches of grim atmospheric drone, the overall rising tension of the film is perfectly reflected in the score. This hasn’t appeared on vinyl since 1979, and if you want one now, you’ll have to shell out upwards of $140 for a copy in used condition. Let’s hope that someone finds away to bring this masterpiece back out of the vaults for today’s teeming horde of soundtrack aficionados.
0. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) – Wayne Bell and Tobe Hooper
OK, I know I said there were only six on this list, but I have to give an extra special “If only…” shout-out to the soundtrack for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Hooper and Bell’s unconventional approach to sound design for the film is one of the greatest things about TTCM. The soundscapes they manage to cobble together are as decaying and decrepit as Grandpa in the attic and yet have a serious mean streak… also like Grandpa in the attic. From what I’ve read, however, the original tapes for this release (meaning those sans-dialogue) were destroyed in a studio fire, leaving us no hope for a re-release. However, bootleg copies can be found floating around the internet. Some of these (like the Dutch Oven release from years back) are basically the film recorded onto tape. And to be honest, it makes a great listen on a long drive. I got the idea from Aaron Dilloway (Ohio sound artist formerly of the band Wolf Eyes) who called The Texas Chainsaw Massacre the best book on tape ever!