Cliff Martinez's top horror scores

The Drive and Only God Forgives composer talks about his cult soundtracks of terror

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cliff martinez

Dazed Digital is running a Dark Arts season inspired by our November Dark Arts issue for Halloween. Among other things, we've walked the path of darkness via the Hollywood Walk of Death and talked to Chucky creator Don Mancini. Check our Dark Arts section for more. 

Cliff Martinez is no stranger to soundtracking horrific scenes. From his chillingly stylish score for Drive (which soundtracked, among other things, Ryan Gosling smashing in people's heads) to the nightmarishly dreamy soundscapes of Only God Forgives, Martinez has an ear for what sounds good playing in the background of unimaginable violence and perversion. He lists his favourites here:

Psycho (1960)

People don’t usually use music as an irritant; they don’t use it to be disturbing. It’s one of the few things I can think of where music sounds like violence; Rites of Spring is another one. That scene did for showers what Jaws did for swimming in the ocean. I can’t think of any other horror film that’s been so closely associated with its score. I saw it when I was ten, and I don’t think I took a shower for a couple of years afterwards – it was baths all the way. That’s when you know you’ve got something special – you keep people from bathing for two years. 

Hellraiser (1987)

Scores contribute to the longevity of a film; they determine if it makes a film a classic. Music is the only ingredient that motivates me to watch a film a second or third time. I used to have a Hellraiser club where we got together once a week, smoke weed, drink and watch Hellraiser. It holds up under billions of viewings with a bunch of potheads quoting the film – what allows that is the power of the score. It's just great – a mix of fast, spacious orchestral sounds – and yet it’s very claustrophobically set in a small dark house. Classics are films people like to watch over and over and over, and music is the only ingredient that motivates you to watch a film a second time.

Deep Red (1975)

When Nicolas Winding Refn started talking to me about Only God Forgives, he mentioned he loved horror movies. I watched Dario Argento's Deep Red on the plane to Thailand and really liked the music, which is by a rock group called Goblin. They come from the Genesis prog-rock school of rock’n’roll, but with a terrifically creepy edge to it. It doesn’t sound like music at all, and it was definitely an influence on the fight scene in Only God Forgives. 

Alien (1979)

Jerry Goldsmith kind of a classic film composer; and then of course that film is just a landmark horror film. Alien is one of the few scores that holds up as a standalone listening experience on a CD. It’s thought of as Goldsmith’s most modern, most contemporary score – one of his greats. The score is textural, dark, scary and threatening, but surprisingly melodic and emotional in places. It sounds like isolation; very lonely and very, very dark and threatening. 

Dracula (1992)

I love the score from Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula. Wojciech Killar composed a stunning score: it’s got the romance, the mystery, the power… It’s one of the first Dracula films where the character is meant to be sensual, and the music highlights that. It points to a psychological, tragic component in Dracula that you don’t see in many films. 

The original Cliff Martinez soundtrack for Solaris will be issued by Invada for the first time on vinyl on 2 December. 

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