Composer Chris Dudley's Top 5 Horror Films

From Underoath to haunting underscores, musical man Chris Dudley counts down his top five most influential horror movies.

By Angel Melanson · @HorrorGirlProbs · August 19, 2022, 4:00 PM EDT
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Graphic by Jason Kauzlarich

Composer and multi-instrumentalist Chris Dudley most known as the keyboardist in the multi-Grammy award-nominated band Underoath has brought his unique ear and style to the world of film scoring after nearly two decades and over a million albums sold. Dudley's work can be heard in Orphan: First Kill, out this week, Bad Candy, and the upcoming The Beast Comes At Midnight. A longtime horror fan, Chris joined us to talk about five of his ultimate favorite horror movies and the lifelong spell the horror aisles of his local video store cast over him.


Horror, for me (as with so many of us), found me at an age where I was trying to figure out who I was. Turns out a lot of who I was became apparent while wandering the aisles of my local video store. I discovered I liked being scared from the safety of my locked bedroom. I found that I liked sharing experiences (and movies) with my loved ones. More impactful, though, may be my realization (while falling asleep to a hundred different horror movies in the background during those years) of how impactful the sound and music of a film can be on its own. If I trace it back, that’s probably the genesis of what became my career as a musician and film composer. Working in film now, one would think the magic may be diminished, but it’s just as much there as it was when I was 12, gazing at the Shocker box art and wondering if someone really could survive “the chair.”

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Some films have stuck with me more than others over the years. Some faded away hours after watching, and some will never leave my brain. That being said, making a “Top 5” list is always hard because it seems so ‘final’… so I’ll use a little loophole. These are my top 5 favorite horror films as it stands today. I found some of these films, and some of them found me, but they will all find a way to my TV regularly for the rest of my life.

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5. Scream

Probably my most revisited film on this list just because of how damn fun it is. Remembering the state of mainstream horror before this film came out is a little sad, but this was simply a turning point in modern horror, an expertly crafted whodunit, and a film I will rewatch until the end. Craven is King.

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4. The Blair Witch Project

Had the pleasure of seeing this opening night, and I’ll never forget it. I wasn’t on the internet much at that time and thought (like many did those first few weeks) that the film was real. I’ve never been more scared in a movie, hands down. Who knows if anything will be able to do what this film did again, but I’m just thankful I was able to experience it in real-time.

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3. Hereditary

Possibly my favorite horror film of the past decade. Absolutely crushing emotionally, genuinely chilling sequences all anchored by multiple all-time-great performances. I walked out of this knowing anything Ari Aster will ever do will have me in a theatre opening night.

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2. Psycho

Simply one of the best films of all time. The tension is undeniable from Marion's escape from town to the looming police presence, to her ultimately fatal encounter with Norman Bates, and even into the investigation into her disappearance and Norman's cover-up attempt. The fact that it holds up over 60 years later is a testament. Sometimes I think about if I had the power to go back in time and watch a film opening night with an audience in a theater, which film would it be... This is always towards the top of the list.

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1.The Shining

One of my first memories of being exposed to horror was a recorded-from-the-USA-network VHS of The Shining when I was a kid. I will never forget the uneasy feeling I got watching this, even from the opening credits (that score?!). Additionally, the idea as a kid of your dad not being your protector struck a chord that chills me to this day. A masterpiece.
Check out The Shining on the cover of FANGORIA Volume I issue #7.