Listening for Romance in Horror: A Playlist

Listening for Romance in Horror: A Playlist


Not many storytellers tackle romance when confronting horror, the two just don’t seem to mix. Who has time to fall in love when there are zombies knocking at the door, or an angry spirit haunting your house and making a mess of things? Well, that just may be the perfect time to light that flame between two starry-eyed characters.


Music lifts the soul. It carries us to places far beyond the reaches of our sight, harnessing the ability to touch on any emotion. So it is no wonder that film scores play such a vital role in the movie watching experience, including the horror genre. While the bulk of horror film music revolves around building tension, for horror stories that involve romance, the skill of composers are put to the test.


As Malini Mohana, contributor to R.O.I Media and Psychology writes: “Skilled composers manipulate the emotion within a song by knowing what their audience’s expectations are, and controlling when those expectations will (and will not) be met. This successful manipulation is what elicits the chills that are part of any moving song.” Tie the appropriate film score to a horror film that encompasses a touch of romance will be sure to send you on a rollercoaster of emotions.


Here are 8 tracks featured in horror films encompassing romance:


1. The Village – “What Are You Asking Me?”

Directed by M. Night Shyamalan with music composed by James Newton Howard and featured American violinist Hilary Hahn, this romantic horror film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Score after its release in 2004. Howard has written scores for over an astonishing 100 films and is the recipient of both a Grammy and Emmy Award, including 8 Academy Award nominations. This particular piece captures the heartstrings of Ivy and Lucius as they battle their affections as well as the monsters that threaten their village’s existence.

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2. Crimson Peak – “Edith’s Theme”

When a young, aspiring writer turns to love in comfort of tragedy, things take a horrible turn as she confronts her new life in the cold and harsh Crimson Peak. Director Guillermo del Toro and music composer Fernando Velazquez team up to sweep audiences off their feet in what del Toro calls a “film story and gothic romance”. Velazquez is no stranger to horror as he is best known for his World Soundtrack-nominated work for The Orphanage. Released in 2015, “Edith’s Theme” transports us to a time of grand balls and sought-after happily-ever-afters.



3. Stigmata – “Await/Reflect”

Released in 1999, the film that takes on the controversial topic of the Catholic Church and its role in the supernatural, is also a musical time-capsule of the 90s. While Natalie Imbruglia and Chumbawamba line the soundtrack, “Await/Reflect” is a more subdued orchestra piece by Billy Corgan and Elia Cmiral. Stigmata was directed by Rupert Wainwright. While it received much negative critical review, this track does a wonderful job of tying in the blossoming affection between Frankie and the Jesuit priest attempting to save her.



4. The Queen of the Damned – “On the Beach”

While this track is not officially listed on the soundtrack titles list, it was featured in the film as a double-violin score played originally by Indian-born American musician L. Shankar. Directed by Michael Rymer with music by Richard Gibbs and Jonathan Davis, the film is an adaptation of horror writer Anne Rice’s ‘The Vampire Chronicles’ series. Featuring a love story and raw passion, this Indian score captures the rapid heartstrings of having it all on the line.



5. Let the Right One In – “Eli’s Theme”

This movie received high critical acclaim internationally since its release in 2008. Directed by Tomas Alfredson, it is a simple love story of a bullied 12-year old boy and a girl who would change his life. The film would grow to warm our hearts with its moving story and glowing soundtrack by Swedish composer Johan Söderqvist. The song ‘Eli’s Theme’ exposes the vulnerability of a hard life met with a friendly face. This horror movie is a beautiful tale of love despite horror. 

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6. Corpse Bride – “The Piano Duet”

Tim Burton’s 2005 stop-motion animated musical is whimsical in its traditional Tim Burton style, and like many of his films, Corpse Bride encircles a love story among an otherwise macabre setting. ‘The Piano Duet’ was composed by the legendary Danny Elfman, winner of both Grammy and Emmy awards. In this short piece, characters Victor Van Dort and Emily dabble on a rickety, old piano with fingers of bones and hearts aglow.



7. The Woman in Black – “Tea for Three Plus One”

In this 2012 British-American film directed by James Watkins to the same title of the novel written by Susan Hill, film composer Marco Beltrami bottles the Victorian age along with something sinister. Beltrami, who is a long-time friend of Wes Craven (Nightmare on Elm Street), is known for his work in horror with such films as Mimic, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, and The Faculty. He has been nominated twice by the Academy Awards for his work. Although The Woman in Black is not a traditional love story, it focuses on the love between a mother and her son, a bond left unbroken far beyond the grave.



8. We Are What We Are – “Cambridge Town”

Screened at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, We Are What We Are is a remake of a 2010 Mexican film by the same name. The movie (without giving away any spoilers) deals with a tight-knit family who does what they must to survive – the only way they know how. A widowed father with two daughters, he must cope when one of them falls in love, something he may not be entirely prepared to do. With music by Jeff Grace, Darren Morris and Phil Mossman, this film features a soundtrack with such beauties as ‘Cambridge Town’ performed by Nick Garrie and a mystery girl he met: “[She was] a girl I met on the beach in St.Tropez—she lived near the recording studio,” Garrie says. “I wrote the song the night before and asked her if she’d sing it with me. She did, and I never saw her again—and I don’t remember her name.”

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-By Christina Persaud



Cambridge Town. (n.d.). Retrieved from
Corpse Bride (2005) – IMDb. (n.d.). Retrieved from
Corpse Bride OST – 11 The Piano Duet. (n.d.). Retrieved from
Crimson Peak (2015) – IMDb. (n.d.). Retrieved from
Eli’s Theme – Let The Right One In OST 2008. (n.d.). Retrieved from
Fernando Velázquez – Edith’s Theme. (n.d.). Retrieved from
Just A Rambler: Nick Garrie Reclaims His Masterful “Nightmare” | Newcity Music. (n.d.). Retrieved from
Let the Right One In (2008) – IMDb. (n.d.). Retrieved from
Music & How It Impacts Your Brain, Emotions | Psych Central. (n.d.). Retrieved from
Queen of the Damned – The Perfect Violin Solo. (n.d.). Retrieved from
Queen of the Damned (2002) – IMDb. (n.d.). Retrieved from
Stigmata – Billy Corgan – Await / Reflect. (n.d.). Retrieved from
Stigmata (1999) – IMDb. (n.d.). Retrieved from
The Village (2004) – IMDb. (n.d.). Retrieved from
The Village Score – 02 – What Are You Asking Me? – James Newton Howard. (n.d.). Retrieved from
We Are What We Are (2013) – IMDb. (n.d.). Retrieved from
Why Does Music Make Us Feel? – Scientific American. (n.d.). Retrieved from
The Woman In Black – Opening Theme – Tea For Three Plus One. (n.d.). Retrieved from
The Woman in Black (2012) – IMDb. (n.d.). Retrieved from



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