John Carpenter has been responsible for much of the horror genre’s most striking soundtrack work in the fifteen movies he’s both directed and scored. The themes that drive them can be stripped to a few coldly repeating notes, take on the electrifying thunder of a rock concert, or submerge themselves into exotic, unholy miasmas. It’s work that instantly floods his fans’ musical memory with imagery of a menacing shape stalking a babysitter, a relentless wall of ghost-filled fog, lightning-fisted kung fu fighters, or a mirror holding the gateway to hell.
The son of a music professor, Carpenter attended the University of Southern California when the sounds of progressive, synthesizer-driven rock were on the horizon. It was with the minimal, iconic music of Halloween where Carpenter truly broke through as a major director - and film musician. Composers before him had used minimalism to create terror, whether it was two piano notes for a killer shark or the stabbing strings of a mother-obsessed psychopath, but it was Halloween’s brilliantly interwoven synth melodies that truly took genre scoring to a new, more sinister level.