The theme song from John Carpenter’s Halloween, to utilize a pun, has been done to death. Every Halloween movie has had its own variation of the original theme – that’s 10 versions, soon to be 11. Bands of all stripes have covered it. It’s been added to seasonal toys and decorations. And then there are the literal hundreds of unlicensed fair-use covers plaguing the spate of generic Halloween music compilations. It’s simple, it’s iconic, and it represents the feeling of Halloween in music better than probably anything else.
My favorite version is actually Tyler Bates’ score from the Rob Zombie Halloweens. It added a subtle kickdrum beat along with some haunting vocal elements, and has wound up on many of my annual Halloween playlists over the years.
On this month’s Friday the 13th, another cover was unexpectedly released by perennial movie soundtrackers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Presumably this version is a “just for fun” thing, not connected to the Halloween reboot coming next year from David Gordon Green, but who knows? This might be some kind of a public audition to do the music for the movie officially. I mean, some graphic designer put a bit of work into the cover art, putting old Bob the ghost on there.
I’ll plop the song right here so you can listen to it while you read the review.
It starts with a loooooooonnnngg, slow buildup. It’s a full minute of near-silence before a single note is played, and two minutes before the famous theme appears. In between, a few sparse notes of the score from earlier in the film are sprinkled around. Just enough to bring you right back to the streets of Haddonfield Illinois in late October, where the wind washes dead leaves across the sidewalks and The Shape first makes his fleeting appearances. It’s my favorite part of the whole track.
When the Halloween Theme proper finally begins, it’s played on a lo-fi, almost toy piano voice, backed by lush synth notes. It sounds good – both retro and modern, but it also serves to remind us how perfect the original piece is. For something so simple, it hasn’t been drastically improved upon in almost 40 years.
When that fades out it seems like the track is over, but then it builds back up and turns into what I can only assume is Trent Reznor’s personal contribution to the song. His signature gritty, grimy electronic beat drives a simplified repetition of the main Halloween Theme bars for several minutes, gradually adding in more static and clutter. It sounds custom made for a Halloween rave, and I don’t necessarily mean that as a knock. It should work great for Halloween parties and I will be testing it out at my own later this week.
You can get John Carpenter’s Halloween Theme by Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross anywhere you get digital music.