Forty years ago, filmmaker John Carpenter dreamt up the eerie, off-kilter title music for Halloween on the fly, just futzing around with a rhythm his music professor dad had taught him on the bongos. It’s since become one of the most iconic horror-movie themes, up there with those from Psycho, The Exorcist and Jaws. But it was never his goal to be a composer – he was just a young director with a shoestring budget who wanted to get what Jamie Lee Curtis has called an “exploitation slasher movie about killing babysitters” in theaters quickly. He went on to score several of his subsequent movies and in the past five years has become a practically full-time musician, releasing two Lost Themes albums with his son Cody and godson Daniel Davies (the latter of whom made the excellent Events Score LP this year). The trio’s latest release is the music to a Halloween sequel that was good enough for Carpenter to give it his blessing, and it works as a stand-alone album, too.
The music here is icier, more gothic and more textured than that of the original. The main theme gets a disco beat and some echoes here and there, but the trio really shines when it steps out of Michael Myers’ looming shadow. “The Shape Hunts Allyson” mixes a chilling keyboard line with deep, gut-checking atmospheres possibly made from bowed guitar. “Michael’s Goodbye” is a heavy-metal crusher full of light and shade. And the seven-and-half–minute “Halloween Triumphant” spins the original theme on its masked head with throbbing synths, echoey rhythms, rock guitar and mood for days. It’s incredible to hear what Carpenter can do without having to worry about all that pesky directing.