Best female horror composers, from Shirley Walker to Laura Karpman

From John Charpentier for Marco Beltrami, there are many well-known male composers who have created tension in their projects. The piano riffs of Halloween are rhythmic and disturbing. It alludes to the slow but persistent approach of Michael Myers, butcher’s knife gripped in one hand eager to slice. In Yell, as Ghostface stalks a victim, the orchestral score soars in intensity. They are very different approaches with the same objective: to terrorize the public.

Of course, horror movies wouldn’t be the same without its soundtrack. But here are seven female composers who deserve recognition from horror fans. Like their male counterparts, they have attributed their talents to well-known projects, from Final destination frankness, to a few unexpected entries, such as the radioactive crackle of the Chernobyl miniseries. Which soundtrack will be on your spooky playlist?

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Shirley Walker – Final Destination (1-3)


Final destination
Picture via New Line Cinema

Instead of a visible monster, death himself is a character who is essentially invisible. Whether it’s a premonition of a plane crash, a highway pile-up, or an amusement park disaster, just because some survive once they stay lucky. Death is full of very dark humor and has a preference for elaborate Mouse Trap type murders. A small crack in a mug full of vodka could leave a mark on the floor over which a sudden fire would greedily spread. To anchor these sets of morbid shivers, the composer Shirley Walker made the score for the top three in the Final destination series before his sudden passing. His score is haunting, as patient as death.


By speaking with Ryan KeaveneyWalker discussed many stories from his career, touching on the theme that plays during the opening credits of the first Final destination. “What a treat for me to be able to write a piece that calls you into the movie and lets you know that something bad is going to happen right from the start,” she said. “I think I spent the most time finding the dark theme and counter-melody of the opening, which continues throughout the score.” Behind the scenes of the third film on Scoring sessionsto help with the thrills and chills, Walker led an orchestra using a nearby “Gross-O-Meter” to rely on when needed.

Mica Levi – Under the skin


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Image via StudioCanal

around the same time Scarlett Johansson teamed up for The Avengers, she played a very different role compared to Black Widow. Instead of saving the world, she was causing chaos. After assimilating the body of a young woman, an alien life form roams Scotland. Her goal is to seduce men who blindly take her for a ride, before she brings them into a dark void that consumes their meat, leaving the skin behind. The score by Mica Levi supernatural and alien sounds thanks to the composer’s experimental approach. Perfect for a character who merges with his initial objective. It was Levi’s first scoring opportunity, and they really showed what a horror soundscape could be.


Director Jonathan Glazer asked questions to Levi in ​​order to help them create the unique score. “Imagine someone just threw 20 bottles down a hill,” was one. “How does it feel to be on fire?” was another. The use of cymbals and determining the themes to include were additional elements to Levi’s composition. Five themes were composed for Johannsson’s Alien arc, with Levi highlighting each as “his make-up, the cosmos, the aliens, his work music, and his feelings.”

Sonya Belousova — MAE


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Image via Dark Sky Films

Natalia Leite directs this story to a hot date gone wrong and a sexual assault that goes unpunished. Noelle (Francesca Eastwood) is an arts student who wants to do something more. And when others prove useless, she begins her own form of vigilante justice. With the co-composer Giona Ostinelli, Sonya Belousova creates an atmosphere that intensifies with their score for MFA It’s not overwhelming, it’s almost silent. Something terrible has happened to Noelle, and she’s become obsessed with doing something terrible over and over again to those she thinks deserve it.


At behind the sound, Belousova explained a key ingredient of the soundtrack. “Noelle changes, and so a word throughout the score is ‘change’. You can find it in almost every line, you don’t always hear it, but you feel it unconsciously. Another element is breathing. We recorded short breaths, long breaths, anxious breaths, hard breaths, relaxed breaths, etc.!” The soundtrack amplifies the state of mind of Noelle’s character. At one point, trying to detailing what happened to her to someone who should be listening, it’s clear that it’s not. Noelle realizes the lack of consequences that will come, and all noise fades away as the score rises as his frustration.

Brittany Allen – What Keeps You Alive


what-keeps-you-in-life
Picture via SXSW

Composer Brittany Allenwho also plays one of the main roles in What keeps you alive, is not too large. It works well with the premise where two young women head to a cabin for a romantic getaway. The romance disintegrates with an unexpected moment of violence. Jules d’Allen survives meeting Jackie (Hannah Anderson), but that’s just the start of the cat-and-mouse game they’re playing.


While talking to EO About her acting process, Allen also talks about the process she put herself through to create the soundtrack. “So with the notation, I would watch a scene multiple times, and sit with what it was, really feel into it, and let it affect me. And then I’d sit at the piano and play fair and trusted my hands.The final product is anchored like the realism displayed between the two lovers-turned-enemies of the film.

Hildur Guðnadóttir — Chernobyl


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Picture via HBO

A prime example of the terror heard throughout the limited series is “Bridge of Death”. He plays the night of the infamous explosion. Miles away, families gather outside to watch all hell die down. In a slow-motion sequence, children play in falling ash and their parents smile, oblivious to the toxic danger. These civilians are marked, if not by immediate death, at least by deplorable long-term health effects.

At pop follower, Hildur Guðnadottir told how she traveled to an abandoned power plant in Lithuania, to collect sounds from the vast space. “Instead of walking in and slamming doors and banging things, I found it much more interesting to just open my ears,” she explained. “It was almost like being on a nuclear treasure hunt. I just opened up all my senses and just searched.” After capturing the recordings, the meticulous process didn’t stop there. She then sorted through the hours of noises, locating the best of the bunch: “I found these little sounds that were in almost inaudible registers, and then I brought them down to register sounds so I could work with them.

Laura Karpman—Lovecraft Country


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Picture via HBO

Traveling through 1950s Jim Crow America, Atticus (Jonathan Majors), Uncle George (Courtney B. Vance), and her friend Letitia (Jurnee Smollet) deal with monsters taken from the pages of HP Lovecraft in Lovecraft Country. But while the sprawling monstrosities are terrible, the racism and bigotry they face are even deadlier with no fictional lore to hide behind. Laura Karpman teams up with Raphael Saadiq to tackle the soundtrack of this HBO series.

From American songwriterKarpman had the opportunity to do something as distinct as the series (and the original novel by Matt Ruff) push to focus on black characters as lead actors. “The Ardham theme, of all of them, is the true representation of this idea of ​​gothic R&B, where you have a really groovy vibe that’s a bit like blurred areait’s a bit like characters with an attitude, and there’s a classicism in there, which I added with the orchestra.

Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch — Censor


Niamh Algar in Censor

The past comes back to haunt, in more ways than one. Enid (Niamh Algar) is a dedicated film censor passionate about the harsh regulation of extreme content in films during the “Video Nasty” movement of the 1980s in the UK. This moral panic was intended to protect children who might find these “video nasties” in their parents’ belongings. After watching a movie to be censored, Enid connects it to her sister’s disappearance and reality blurs with the dark fiction she has consumed. the Censor the soundtrack does wonders to bring the audience back to the era, with Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch recreating the synth sounds of horror cinema’s past.


In an interview with BAFTA Gurudirector Prano Bailey Bond and Levienaise-Farrouch talked about taking inspiration from John Carpenter’s “eerie” and “ambient” synths in Fogto the thrilling threats of Leprechaun in Dark red. Levienaise-Farrouch explained how her score took on a more intimate nature rather than just setting the tone. To achieve a “high, really pure tone” for the soundtrack, she used a Japanese instrument, plucking it with a bow for the desired effect. She wanted to blur the lines of where the music came from, originally assumed to come from the viewing room of Enid’s work, before representing her inner self.


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