There are many films out there with incredible soundtracks. However, there are a smaller number with instantly recognizable, instantly identifiable scores. Friday the 13th happens to be one of those films. From the moment you hear the haunting whisper of “ki-ki-ki ma-ma-ma,” you know which film it’s from. As it is Friday the 13th, in October no less, it is fitting to revisit this amazing piece of music.
The story begins when director Sean Cunningham called upon his friend Harry Manfredini to help create a score for his new horror movie, Friday the 13th. The two had previously worked on another project of Cunningham’s called Here Come the Tigers back in 1978, and Cunningham knew what Manfredini was capable of. One of the interesting things about this movie, is so little is seen or known about the killer who stalks the residents of Camp Crystal Lake. The viewer is often seeing things from the killer’s perspective, with no real frame of reference to who or what the killer actually is. In an interview from August 2013 (which can be found in the liner notes of Waxwork Records 2104 vinyl release) Manfredini says this on the topic:
Some things were apparent from the start. The killer does not even appear until the final reel of the film. The killer’s point of view was used throughout the film. So, my primary job was to make the audience aware of the unseen killer.
By attaching the score to moments when the killer is present it helps build the tension surrounding the campers. While they may not be aware that a killer is stalking them, the audience is well aware. It also helps separate the times when the campers are simply being campers, and the moments when real danger is approaching.
Now, the score itself is musically incredibly interesting. At times pretty minimal with slight string noises, dainty piano notes and a synthy hum that simply let’s you know that someone is watching. When the action is in full swing, it is easy to make comparisons to the work of Bernard Herrmann who is most famous for his work on Psycho. The angular, decisive rhythms coupled with the dissonance of a major/minor seventh chord sets the audience instantly on edge. Punctuated often by horns and quick bursts of notes, followed by moments of calm, smooth and sustained notes, the viewer is never left in one spot too long. The combination of symphonic instruments coupled with electronic synth and delay effects is one that is used in a way that one can hardly even know it’s happening. It’s subtle combo that works well together and truly adds to the score. Here’s a snippet for ya:
Now to the most infamous part of the Friday the 13th soundtrack; the mysterious “ki-ki-ki” that pretty much everyone is familiar with. Inspired by the work of the composer Penderecki and Betsy Palmer’s character, he combined the two to create a spin on the words “kill mommy.” By creating a catch phrase of sorts that shows up whenever the killer is truly close, Manfredini created a string of consonants that would give even the most avid horror fan the creeps if heard in a dark room late at night.
There have been several different releases of the soundtrack on vinyl over the years, including the infamous blood filled LP from Waxwork Records. Be fair warned though, if interested, this record will cost you some serious cash. The rest, while not currently in print, are fairly easy to come by and worth scooping up if you can. Up there with some of the greats, the film just wouldn’t be the same without Manfredini’s contributions. Whether you’re into vinyl, CD or are simply creating a Halloween playlist, the Friday the 13th soundtrack is a must have for any fan of the film. Give it a spin today and remember…he’s still out there…