Comedian turned director Jordan Peele has singlehandedly reinvented horror. Ever since its inception, the genre has been obsessed both with societal power structures and the concept of the other; figures who, in film’s like 1922’s Nosferatu, threaten those same structures. By combining this aspect of horror cinema with that of body-snatching – one central to films like George A. Romero’s Night Of The Living Dead and Children Of The Damned – Peele has found himself a vital purveyor of a new, socially conscious form of horror that tackles one of the most important social debates of our time: identity.
With films like Get Out, Us, and, more recently, Candyman – for which he was a producer – Peele has showcased an in-depth understanding of the horror genre and its abilities to unearth society’s subconscious fears. It’s no surprise, then, that he was invited to “nerd out” about horror films in a recent interview, during which he was asked about his life-long love of horror cinema. At one point, Peele was asked to name his favourite horror soundtrack, to which he replied: “There’s so many good horror soundtracks, but A Nightmare On Elm Street’s theme is just – ah, it just gets me. It’s so creepy. [sings main theme] It has the perfect note-choice, progression.”
The score for A Nightmare on Elm Street was composed by Charles Bernstein. He was bought in early on to meet with the film’s director, Wes Craven, who quickly hired him to score his low-budget 1984 horror flick. On working with Craven, Bernstein said: “Wes was easy to work with, he gave me a lot of freedom, but we could discuss ideas and approaches. In many ways, he was an ideal director to communicate with because he listened well and was open to all ideas.”
The freedom Bernstein was given allowed him to create one of horror’s most mesmeric and haunting electronic scores, a soundtrack that also just so happened to be the perfect fit for a production with a minimal budget.
The tune that Peele so gracefully hummed during his interview was ‘Freddy’s Theme’, the film’s recurring musical motif. The lyrics for Freddy’s theme song, which is sung by the jump rope children throughout the series, were based on the lines from the nursery rhyme ‘One, Two, Buckle My Shoe’ and were already written prior to Berstein taking on the project.
These words, however, had not yet been set to a melody. Taking a tune written not by himself but by the boyfriend of one of the film’s star Heather Langenkamp, Berstein integrated the contribution into his soundtrack as he saw fit. Today, it is still one of the evocative musical cues in all of ’80s horror.
Watch the full interview below.