The Film Score: Music for Halloween

By Michael San Gabino |

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WFMT re-airs The Film Score: Music for Halloween Monday, October 28 at 10:00 pm.

The Film Score: Music for Halloween, hosted by Chicago Tribune film critic Michael Phillips, presents music from movies that explore the supernatural, the science-fictional, and the demonic (with a few laughs along the way). Look below for a preview of The Film Score: Music for Halloween and some of the spookiest sounds scored for the silver screen.


Alfred Hitchock’s landmark film Psycho shocked moviegoers in 1960, and it continues to haunt viewers today. That is in large part due to Bernard Herrmann’s music. With an orchestra containing only strings (due to budgetary restrictions), Herrmann elevated some of the most famous scenes in film history with his relentless music. What other piercing sounds could one possibly imagine during the iconic shower scene?

The Shining

Stanley Kubrick had an affinity for using music in his movies, and the film adaptation of Stephen King’s The Shining is a perfect example. The opening shots show panoramic mountain landscapes as the Torrance family drives up to the Overlook Hotel, but the soundtrack suggests anything but a restful vacation. Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind’s opening title theme quotes the Latin chant Dies irae, also used in Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique, among other classical works.


Composer Jerry Goldsmith was constantly at odds with director Ridley Scott about the music for the science-fiction horror film Alien. Michael Phillips compares the main title theme used in the movie with the alternate version. Which one is better? That’s for you to decide.


The comedy-horror romp Beetlejuice became a cult hit in the late 1980s. Danny Elfman’s rollicking score only adds to the madness on screen (get ready for the quote of the “Banana Boat Song”).

The Witch

In one of the most recent movies featured in this edition of The Film Score, Mark Korven’s score sets us in 17th century Puritan New England. But when the threat of witchcraft begins to tear a family apart, Korven’s music properly addresses the film’s supernatural overtones.


Dario Argento’s film Suspiria features music by the Italian rock band Goblin. To give you a palate cleanser in the course of the program, we feature a piano waltz that contradicts the rest of the film’s wacko score.


Set in Chicago’s Cabrini Green projects, the film Candyman tells the tale of a man who  can be summoned by saying his name five times in a mirror. The consequences are deadly. This theme of repetition is evidenced in the film’s score by none other than minimalist composer Philip Glass.


In one of John Williams’s most popular scores, Williams demonstrated the power of creating tension and fear with the use of only two notes. We also present one of the more sobering moments in the score with “Quint’s Tale.”

Sorry, Wrong Number

In this film noir thriller, composer Franz Waxman’s Passacaglia for Orchestra gradually unfolds. This richly scored music clearly encapsulates the old Hollywood sound.

Get Out

The 2017 hit Get Out is not only a horror film, but also a commentary on race relations in the United States. In his first film score, Michael Abels’s main title theme incorporates influences from blues and folk music, including Swahili lyrics in the main title theme that chant “run” and “save yourself.”

The Film Score is made possible, in part, by The Grainger Foundation of Lake Forest, Illinois.