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Horror synth

‘The Call’ Brings ‘80s Horror Synth, Darkwave to 2020 with Composer Samuel Joseph Smythe

October 3, 2020 — A new horror movie is hitting theaters and drive-ins across the United States on October 2, and it brought with it a familiar piece of ‘80s pop culture. The Call looks promising, but we are more interested in the darkwave-like score. The folks over at Dread Central sat down with composer Samuel Joseph Smythe to talk about the music and what influenced him to make a horror synth score for a 2020 movie.

It is disappointing that none of Smythe’s music made it into the trailer, which looks refreshing if you are a genre fan. The film is set in the ‘80s, which is the inspiration for Smythe’s original music. A group of teenagers heads to a house on a hill for some mischief when the homeowner catches them. A tragic accident results in the homeowner’s death, and sometime later, her husband invites the kids back after they are named in her will. Everything isn’t as it seems, and their perceived jackpot turns into a nightmare. It sounds like a fairly generic horror plot, but a little music goes a long way to create suspense in horror, and it sounds like Smythe has some pedigree.

When asked about how he became involved in The Call, Smythe explained that he had worked on a horror movie with director Timothy Woodward Jr. before and was excited to score another horror movie. He continued to explain how he came up with the whole vibe of the score:

In our first conversations about the film, he talked about how it has a real 1980s horror flick vibe, and we immediately started naming some of our favorite horror films from that era.  When he mentioned Nightmare on Elm Street I knew exactly what he was going for.  Over a decade ago I studied film scoring from that film’s composer, Charles Bernstein, and I got to know some of the scoring techniques and synth sounds he used in it, so I knew I’d have a lot of fun weaving that into my horror score.

When Dread Central asked Smythe to describe his score, he gave an answer guaranteed to make ‘80s horror fans excited:

Since this film is set in the 1980s the director and I really wanted to keep that feel using some classic synth sounds from horror films of that era. I created a lot of synth sounds that were a basis for the score’s overall tone.  For synth fans, this meant a lot of Roland Jupiter-8, Fairlight and Synclavier synths, classics from the 80s.  Legendary director and composer John Carpenter was a real pioneer from this era that brought synths into horror films and I studied his sounds to really dial in the tone for The Call.

It sounds like this will be an awesome movie for horror fans and fans of 80s horror synth alike, a sub-genre that is also known as darkwave by electronic music aficionados. Smythe hits all the right notes with his inspirations, and it will be just as exciting to hear his take on 80s horror sound as it will be to watch the movie. There is nowhere to find Samuel Joseph Smythe’s original score for The Call right now, but that may change if enough people show an interest in it.

The Call is currently playing in theaters. Check your local listing for times.


Arthur Thares
Arthur is an avid television and movie fan with horror being his favored genre. If you can name it, he has probably seen it. Twice. During the day you can find him in his office listening to jazz and writing about things that inspire him.


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