The 1920 German silent film The Golem is a classic of early cinema–dark, tortured, dated, and silly, but also genuinely creepy at points. The film is based on an ancient Jewish folktale in which a medieval rabbi molds a giant man from clay, brings him to life with kabbalistic incantations, and uses him to protect the town’s Jewish population from a violent pogrom.
In 2008, the San Francisco International Film Festival commissioned the musician Black Francis to record and perform an original live soundtrack to the film. Francis, better known as the lead singer of the band The Pixies, was an odd match for the film. His songs had previously been used in films such as Fight Club and (500) Days of Summer. But Francis rose to the occasion. Rather than quiet background music, he wrote an entire song for each scene–and they’re loud, moody, bluesy pieces that summon the full fury and horror of the film.
The soundtrack was released as an album, which sounds every bit as good (and as disquieting) on its own. You can also find the entire film online, and watch the collaboration as it was meant to be seen.