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eighties horror you might have missed

Soundtrack: Halloween III (1982)

The score for Halloween III is my favorite John Carpenter (and Alan Howarth) soundtrack. If you've seen the film, you know that it has little to do with the rest of the Halloween franchise and trades Michael Myers for a more sci-fi-evil-mad-scientist approach; it was the first in the series not to be directed written by Carpenter [ed: Peter points out that Halloween II was not directed by Carpenter either]. He did compose the soundtrack, however, along with Alan Howarth, who he had collaborated with on the Escape From New York soundtrack the year prior.

Like the Halloween II soundtrack (also composed by Howarth), the score is exclusively synthesizer-driven, dropping the familiar piano instrumentation from the original Halloween theme.There are a multitude of very long synth drones and dark filter sweeps throughout, contrasting with moments of heavy arpeggiation, descending pitch stabs and static melody. The instruments are layered together to create a complex texture, while preserving the minimal structure that Carpenter is famous for. There's also a wonderful deep bass pulse (another Carpenter trademark) that closely resembles the one featured in The Thing (also released in 1982). Carpenter and Howarth used a simple set of instruments to create the soundtrack, consisting of Prophet 5 and Prophet 10 synthesizers, with an ARP Avatar and LM-2 Linn Drum.

To put this album into context, 1982 was a time when synthpop acts such as Soft Cell, Depeche Mode, OMD, Cabaret Voltaire, and New Order were just beginning to enjoy commerical success. Kraftwerk had released their Computer World album the year before and MIDI (the standard for synthesizer communication) had just been introduced. You can feel the influence of this score (and Carpenter, in general) in the work of early Autechre, particualrly with the dark synths used on their first few albums. It's also easy to see it as an inspiration for Coil's 1984 rejected soundtrack for Hellraiser (coincidentally the group formed in 1982).

In general, this album is more than just a series of disconnected cues, and is cohesive enough to listen to from start to finish. I will say that the crazy-carnival Silver Shamrock commercial (track 7) will be stuck in your head FOREVER - you're going to need to uncheck that one in iTunes. And make sure that you get the expanded version of the soundtrack, which has 25 tracks (the original release only had 12).

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" was the first in the series not to be directed by Carpenter" is an incorrect statement, as Halloween II was directed by Rick Rosenthal.

Btw, loved the Charles Bernstein interview! It's interesting to learn about the usage of vintage synths on soundtracks.

I guess I always think of Carpenter directing it since he wrote it and worked on the score! Thanks for the correction - i added it to the post. And glad you liked the Charles Bernstein interview - hopefully I can setup some additional composer interviews in the future!