The Big Question is where multiple Daily Grindhouse contributors and friends offer their answers to some burning question. In observance of Rocktoberfest 2019, all of October’s questions will be about the intersection of horror and music. Check in every Friday afternoon in October to see what some of your favorite writers have to say. The results…may surprise you.
Today’s big question is…
What is your Favorite Score by Claudio Simonetti and/or Goblin?
Claudio Simonetti/Goblin have scored a lot of films in their days (either together or separately)—for titles in multiple genres such as giallo, horror, post-apocalyptic, sci-fi, thrillers, and more. Here’s just a sampling of what the Italian powerhouses have put out over the decades:
- DEEP RED
- SUSPIRIA (1977)
- DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978)
- CUT AND RUN
- WARRIORS OF THE WASTELAND
- HANDS OF STEEL
- PATRICK (1978) (European release)
- NIGHTMARE BEACH
- YOU’LL DIE AT MIDNIGHT
- BLOODSTAINED SHADOW
- BEYOND THE DARKNESS
- THE CARD PLAYER
- MOTHER OF TEARS
- HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD
- THE OTHER HELL
- THE CHURCH
- FRAT HOUSE MASSACRE
- DRACULA 3D
- THE EDITOR
- VIOLENT SHIT: THE MOVIE
Nathan Smith – DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978)
George Romero’s DAWN OF THE DEAD is my favorite film ever—and, I’d argue, a contender for the greatest horror film ever made. I’ve seen the landmark 1978 title more times than I can count, so it’s pretty easy to assume that Goblin’s blistering score is mapped out in my brain that the ravenous corpses in the film crave so badly. I can place the tracks to the corresponding scene when I close my eyes. Is it Peter and Roger’s first run on the mall, backed by the rollicking thunder of Simonetti and company’s composition? Or is it the helicopter’s arrival at the airstrip so that our heroes may gas and go, that slimy synthesizer crawling over your left/right audio channels—a sample of which that made its way over the Universal logo in Edgar Wright’s SHAUN OF THE DEAD? Perhaps it’s the booming, doom inducing music, with that thumping bass drum (of which Ennio Morricone’s THE THING score feels similarly redolent of) that accompanies the foursome’s approach by air to the brick and mortar mall that proves to be a sanctuary from the walking dead, and the untimely grave for others.
Jay Alary — SUSPIRIA (1977)
I’ll admit that I’m unfamiliar with much of Italian horror, including its notable composers (save for Ennio Morricone), but I love Goblin’s score for SUSPIRIA, so much so that its opening piece, “Suspiria,” haunts me for weeks after each film revisit. It’s difficult for a self-described punk to admit to liking any work from a 70s prog rock band, but dammit, it’s that good! The entire score is creepy, a foreboding chorus to the nefarious goings-on at a German dance school (those sinister whispers send shudders through my body and not the good kind). The use of a mellotron successfully creates a malevolent music box, its taunting tune playing on an endless loop for as long as the dance school has existed. The score is cacophony to the extreme, a brilliant chaotic clash of frenetic sound and repetition that envelopes Jessica Harper and the viewer as the film descends into madness and it’s simply thrilling. When my partner, Amanda, returned from her recent trip to Rome, she picked me up a copy of the Italian vinyl release (she knows me so well), replacing my need to spin the soundtrack CD that comes with the deluxe Synapse Blu-ray. Thanks, my love!
Sarah Jane – DEEP RED
There are so many great Goblin scores, it’s hard to narrow it down to just one favorite. Their score for SUSPIRIA is iconic. When you hear a piece of music from the movie, you instantly know where it comes from. For years now, on Halloween, we’d play the SUSPIRIA score while passing out candy to the trick-or-treaters. It’s always fun to see people get scared by those Goblin songs. My absolute favorite Goblin score, though, has to be the one for DEEP RED. Although they didn’t compose all of the music heard in the film (they share the credit with Giorgio Gaslini), the songs they did write are amazing. It’s a mix of jazzy prog rock, which on paper might seem awful, but it absolutely works in the film. I was lucky enough to see Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin (yes, there are currently two versions of the band—it’s complicated) play the score live to a screening of DEEP RED last month. Even if the venue wasn’t ideal, it was still a great experience. It’s my favorite Argento movie and in my top three favorite films of all time so hearing the music live, by Goblin no less, was a highlight for me.
Rob Dean — PHENOMENA
While SUSPIRIA’s title track is the hypnotic hook that lured me into learning about and loving the music of Claudio Simonetti and the various permutations of Goblin, but my favorite score by Claudio Simonetti and/or Goblin remains PHENOMENA. It is this weird amalgam of fantasy elements against the harsh synths and bass of their usual, stunning giallo affair. By marrying the two worlds (just as Argento does in the film, between the superheroic supernatural and the sinister), it creates this rollercoaster of a dream turned nightmare and back to dream again. PHENOMENA is a crazypants movie with so many elements smooshed together that it shouldn’t work but instead is a spectacular trip. It’s only fitting that the score for it matches those disparate elements colliding.
Matt Wedge — TENEBRAE
I always looked at Dario Argento’s films as opulent, hyper-violent music videos. That is why I love them so much and have the ability to overlook the plot holes and other wonky elements that come along with his best work. Not surprisingly, the best of his films featured music either by Goblin or Claudio Simonetti. Simonetti and his Goblin bandmates Fabio Pignatelli and Massimo Morante (credited as Simonetti-Morante-Pignatelli due to some sort of legal hangup over the use of the name Goblin) truly outdid themselves when it came to arguably Argento’s finest giallo, TENEBRAE. An instant ear-worm, the main theme from the film matches the absurd, over-the-top, menacing yet fun tone of the movie in ways that rival their work with the maestro on SUSPIRIA. So propulsive, Gothic, and flat out fun, writer/director Nicolas Pesce used the theme for the closing credits of his bonkers 2018 indie fave PIERCING and it worked just as well in that circumstance.
Jon Abrams — THE HEROIN BUSTERS
What is my favorite score by Claudio Simonetti and/or Goblin? Well, my favorites are PHENOMENA (I’m predictable), DAWN OF THE DEAD (I’m just like you!), CONQUEST (I’m also weird), and THE CHURCH (fuckin-A! LA CHIESA! Although Keith Emerson’s main theme is the VIP for sure), but I’ll go with one that’s way underrated, to OD on a term: LA VIA DELLA DROGA, aka THE HEROIN BUSTERS, which isn’t an Argento movie — it’s an Enzo G. Castellari — and isn’t even a horror movie — it’s a crime thriller! Obviously the Goblin gang was well experienced in horror by the time they got around to this gig, because the score for HEROIN BUSTERS is thick with atmosphere and probably conjures up dread at times when they’re shooting for suspense. The title track is super-electric-guitar-heavy and absolutely invokes exactly what you imagine when you picture the platonic cinematic ideal of the drug-addled 1970s. I’m not sure this is the aim, but this music totally sounds like it’d be perfect to do heroin by. Although so does SUSPIRIA. Also, kids, please, don’t do heroin.
WHAT ABOUT YOU, GENTLE READERS? WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE SOUNDTRACKS? SOUND OFF IN THE COMMENTS BELOW!
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Tags: Claudio Simonetti, dario argento, Dawn Of The Dead, Deep Red, Enzo G. Castellari, Fabio Pignatelli, george romero, Giallo, Goblin, Italian, Massimo Morante, Phenomena, Suspiria, Tenebrae, The Heroin Busters