14 Reviews (2 New)
A Dark and Scary Place
Screamworks Records releases the motion picture soundtrack to the horror movie Ruin Me for digital download. Ruin Me has a group of teens travelling to Slasher Sleepout – a sort of horror reality event (escape room/haunted house/36-hour endurance trip). Alexandra has never seen a horror film but tags along with her boyfriend, and ends up having to solve a real life murder. Composer Holly Amber Church has previously scored the sci-fi short Archtype, the crime/horror/thriller Rites of Spring, and the supernatural The Devil’s Dolls. New projects include the biopic Butterfly in the Typewriter, and the horror The Toybox. Church’s intention with director Preston DeFrancis’' Ruin Me was to focus on the themes and strong melodic material that morphs and twists with the events in the movie...
Let me say up front that this is one of the most inventive, creepy and claustrophobic horror soundtracks I’ve heard in quite some time. But how have I come to this conclusion? The score is atmospheric from the very start, with piano and dark rumblings briefly introducing the aforementioned string quartet. Piano seems to be intrinsic to horror these days, but it isn’t overdone. The strings which return for the second track are melancholic. 'Slasher Sleepout' has a cowbell and electronic bongo sound (which isn’t as crazy as it sounds), with peripheral rushes, discordant shriek and slam. This is shocking and unexpected. It made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck … and you could call me a veteran of horror!
'Alex Takes Her Pill' leads the listener into a false sense of security, before bringing in a slamming and rumbling which is almost otherworldly. A creepy fluttering, a string build-up and stomping, creates a stalking feel for the following track. Even a prospective pondering scene, such as 'Puzzling it Out', has electronic bells in a simple pattern but with a menacing rumbling in the background, like an approaching storm. 'Alex is Not That Lucky' achieves the same feel but in a completely different manner. 'Tree #4' is a simple Halloween-like slow piano with the intermittent oppressive background. The deep beat frightening feel of menace which comes later is underlined in 'Underwater' by a fluttering string sound with peripheral echo. A melody begins but is taken-over by the rising/falling sound design and retrospective feel. Reassurance vies with the ever-present threat.
'The Trap' begins with a bass tom sound, and then … it all happens! Everything in turn. Even a weird knocking at the door noise. This is stuff you don’t expect to hear and it’s so refreshing. 'The Murder Hole' invokes a wasp swarm, with a shrieking and melody which is not quite allowed to play out. There is a panic-stricken flight feel to 'Running For Answers'. 'The Grain of Truth' has a creeping stomp with high-pitched keys and strings which emerge into a light of realisation – tempered by an almost industrial imbalance. 'End Titles' is a reasonably long suite which conjures-up every emotion you would expect to feel (and some you wouldn’t) in a horror movie.
This is a diverse assortment of quite obviously carefully planned soundtrack music and effects – which still feel very much a part of the overall puzzle. I like this a lot. It avoids all of the modern clichés. It’s a breath of fresh air for the horror music genre. Not only do I want to seek out the film now, but I also feel inclined to check out Holly Amber Church’s other work.
(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2018)
Varèse Sarabande releases the soundtrack to the Robert Rodriguez modern Grindhouse movie Planet Terror for the first time on record, in transparent white vinyl. The movie was a double feature alongside Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof. They were working together on a project but subsequently took an idea each and put them out simultaneously under the Grindhouse main title. The score was composed by Rodriguez, with contributions from Carl Thiel (who worked on the Dusk Till Dawn TV series), Graeme Revell (who took a hand to The Crow and Sin City), songs from Rose McGowan (who starred in the films), with additional music from Nouvelle Vague (which certainly lets down the whole) and Chingon (which achieves the opposite).
Let me start by saying that Planet Terror is an infinitely better film than Death Proof. It’s gritty, action-packed, exaggerated without being too insanely over-the-top, humorous, incorporates a potential victim female who becomes a leg-toting and fearless Ripley-like get it done gal – oh, and it has a pretty good soundtrack, too. The best way to describe the overall sound is an electric Spaghetti Western with New Romantic-like electronic synthesisers forming much of the linking pieces between the action.
It’s worth giving a special stand-out mention to the 'Grindhouse Main Theme' and 'Cherry’s Dance of Death' (the first and last-but-one tracks). Both incorporate the central theme of down-tuned electric guitar and shrieking trumpet sample. The first adds something akin to Arabian pipes into the mix, whereas the latter by Chingon brings a Mexican feel to the grungy driving music. Chingon (which I believe means ‘Bad Ass’ in Spanish) are badly underutilised here. They were on the soundtrack to Tarantino’s Kill Bill 2, and anyone who watched the extras documentary about them would surely have been blown away by their unique mix of traditional Mexican guitars and the Western culture of modern electric guitar. It works really well. Chingon have a CD called Mexican Spaghetti Western; check it out.
The main theme is returned to a few times but avoids outstaying its welcome by means of a slightly different version each time. Aside from the aforementioned tracks, 'Go Go Not Cry Cry' incorporates hints of this within an extended grinding guitar and over-driven shrieking. 'Zero to Fifty in Four' is a good driving version with no trimmings, 'The Ring in the Jacket' uses piano to ring in the main theme with a synth beat. Then there is 'His Prescription …Pain', which is a John Carpenter-like tapping synth with a slight hint of the main theme in the background.
This brings me to the synthesiser side of the score. You can’t hear styles like this without invoking the mostly brilliant film music of John Carpenter. 'Police Station Assault' sounds very similar to Ghosts of Mars. El Wray has the clattering reminiscent of Assault on Precinct 13 or the opening bars of Chariots of Fire. It returns for an eerie electronic reprise in the track 'Dakota'. Electronic drums and synth accompany 'Useless Talent #32', one of the three songs sung by Rose McGowan. 'You Belong to Me' is a cover of the Jo Stafford original from the 1950s, with underlying steel guitar. The other is 'Two Against the World'. She is supposed to sound sexy and sultry but to me just sounds like she’s forgotten her inhaler!
'Melting Member' is the only piece which actually has an old school film score orchestral feel. The mix here is generally electric and Mexican guitars in a Spaghetti Western style, Bluesy guitar, saxophone and harmonica, and synthesised and sampled music and noise. There is plenty to enjoy here for those who prefer actual music to enhance the movement of the film, rather than bland and meaningless orchestral squeaks. This will certainly appeal to collectors of limited vinyl, too. If you haven’t seen the film check it out. It’s all those things said in the first paragraph!
(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2018)
Varese Sarabande Records releases John Carpenter’s classic soundtrack to Christine on LP. It is presented, remastered from the original tapes, on blue vinyl, and features new cover and label artwork by award-winning artist Gary Pullin. There are eighteen tracks, nine on each side. With the current Region B release of the film on Blu-ray and its 35th anniversary due next year, this is the ideal time to remind everyone in a new way about this often forgotten score...
In all but format this is a re-release of the Varese Sarabande soundtrack of Christine I still possess on CD from 1991. I am a huge John Carpenter film, script and music fan. I have all the soundtracks, I originally bought all the videos and now have DVD versions and several Blu-rays. Carpenter’s music, composed in association with Alan Howarth, has always been a big part of his films. I once saw him do a Masterclass at the National Film Institute on the Southbank. At one point he was asked why he composes his own soundtracks. His answer: "Because I’m quick and I’m cheap". Although funny, he did himself a major injustice. But that’s how he is… unassuming. He’s happy in commentaries or interviews to point out mistakes in his films – even though the vast majority of us wouldn’t have noticed.
Carpenter has made many hugely popular and sustaining feature films and, similarly, his soundtracks have easily managed to stand the test of time. Not many film scores are entertaining in their own right as isolated music. Carpenter has made the vast majority of his the case. Having said all this I wouldn’t recommend Christine as a stepping-on point for his music.
Setting aside a collection to demonstrate his capabilities, my favourite Carpenter soundtracks are The Fog, Escape From New York, and Halloween. That’s not to say Christinedoesn’t have its enjoyable moments. 'Moochie’s Death' is a great track, managing to build, fade and build again without losing any of its initial pace. It would even go down well at a Halloween party. 'The Rape', 'Christine Attacks (Plymouth Fury)', and 'Moochie Mix Four' are all very similar. There is some good incidental music on offer here, but the soundtrack isn’t as varied as many of the other films he has worked on. Purely for its variety I would have selected Escape From New York – even though I favour his horror content.
Even if this is targeted purely at Carpenter completists (of which there are many), we are still left with a track-for-track copy of the existing CD. Of course, vinyl sometimes sounds much more raw and alive; however, I was only sent an mp3 version. How am I supposed to review a special vinyl release with new artwork when I haven’t even received any of the actual product? The points awarded here are for the music therefore, and not the retail release.
If you’re a horror fan and haven’t seen any John Carpenter films, your enlightenment starts here. Check out The Thing (1982), Halloween (1978) and The Fog (1979) to set you on your way.
(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2017)
Hot on the heels of Music From John Carpenter’s The Thing, comes Music From Assault on Precinct 13 and Dark Star. It is available from BuySoundtrax Records as a download or as a limited 1500 hard copies. Unlike The Thing, film maestro John Carpenter composed and played the music for these two movies. This mp3 format release is handled by Carpenter’s long-time collaborator, Alan Howarth.
For anyone who hasn’t read my reviews and doesn’t know, I am a huge John Carpenter fan. The man was (is) a genius, and his soundtracks - of which I have them all - fit the mood and feel of the content perfectly. As you might expect, he knows what he wants. Dark Star and Assault are early film releases of Carpenter’s; in fact he started making Dark Star when he was still at film school. Consequentially, Dark Star’s score is more composed of sound effects and dialogue. There is music present, just not very much of it.
Full CD soundtracks from Varese Sarabande Records have been released previously for both of these films, back in the 1990s. Assault has its memorable tracks, such as the simple but effective 'Main Title', 'Street Thunder', and the contemplative 'Julia'. However, it’s far from being the most varied or entertaining music - which probably falls to Escape From New York (although Halloween is more famous and instantly recognisable).
For someone such as myself this download release is nothing new or different. Why not simply re-release the original CDs? The re-recorded track listings are almost the same, only with subtle changes, such as the odd word here or there added or removed, as if Alan Howarth were stating to those that will listen that this is his version. Carpenter himself has a very philosophical view to remakes of his output: he simply takes the money and sits back and allows them to fail.
I’m all for keeping this material in the public domain, but a limited release such as this is hardly likely to make much of an impact. How about releasing a new remastered Best of John Carpenter Music CD for wider distribution?
(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2012)
Arriving hot on the heels of the Dark Star / Assault on Precinct 13 release, comes the reissue of the year 2000 soundtrack of John Carpenter’s 1979 horror classic The Fog. It is issued by Silva Screen as a limited CD release or download, and this time significantly expands on the running time content of the original. The arrangement is by long-time Carpenter collaborator, Alan Howarth.
My copy was downloaded as MP3 files and, although they play just as well, giving you the option of dragging on to an MP3 player or burning to disc - I do miss the finished package which comes as part of a collection. Call me old-fashioned, but there’s nothing like walking into a shop (or even shopping online) to possess the official product complete with booklet, etc. and having it sitting on a shelf with others of its kind.
Anyway, on to the music itself. I am a big John Carpenter fan. He was/is a master craftsman, and much of his music composed for his own films has become iconic. The compositions greatly enhance the already fantastic content, but never more so than on The Fog, which slowly builds tension by having slow piano pieces, eerie electronic wave moods, and the ultra effective slamming of the brilliant 'Reel 9' track, during which the fog moves menacingly through the town towards the survivors in the church.
Included with the music we get a couple of dialogue pieces, the most significant of which is the opening scene of the film wherein the old-timer tells the camp fire ghost story of what happened here on a foggy night many years before. In addition, there is radio interview with Jamie Lee Curtis about her part in the film. The 14-track 2000 release of this soundtrack his been remastered and further expanded by Howarth to include ten new tracks. Truth be told, most of these are, again, variations on familiar themes. But there are some welcome differences, with stand-out new tracks being 'Stevie’s Lighthouse', 'Knock at the Door' and 'Fog Reflection'. 'The Fog Enters Town' is a shorter version of 'Reel 9'.
This is the most comprehensive collection of John Carpenter’s music for The Fog. It will certainly appeal to Carpenter fans, and almost certainly to many film music collectors. I can say one thing with conviction: “There’s something in The Fog.”
(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2012)
Silva Screen Records - which has a long and illustrious tradition for presenting film scores – releases Hammer Horror Classic Themes 1958 – 1974. This is a collection of 18 tracks spanning 16 years. It incorporates sleeve notes and composer biographies by Marcus Hearn, author of such related reference books as The Hammer Story, The Art of Hammer, and Hammer Glamour.
It’s very nice to be offered music from so many horror classics in one place, as opposed to CDs or downloads of individual films, much of which (particularly the incidental soundscapes) would be skipped over. Such is the wealth of films and film music in the Hammer archive it’s not beyond the realms of possibility to expect a second volume to this release.
The collection kicks off in resounding fashion with Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter. The movie is a little po-faced but I love it to undeath for its more original approach to vampirism. It is also significant as it features the First Lady of Fantasy Caroline Munro looking as gorgeous as they come. The music is upbeat and purposeful; very ‘tally ho, charge’ – which isn’t surprising when you consider the amount of riding around on horses that takes place on screen. Twins of Evil continues the tradition of having the listener stand up and take notice. Come track three we begin to experience more of a suite, with a variety of light and shade, theme and incidental melded into single pieces. All very dramatic as you might expect for horror during this period.
James Bernard was a prolific composer for Hammer, turning out many fine scores – so it’s not surprising his output is represented here on eight of the eighteen tracks. It’s refreshing to hear examples from ten different contributors, and that often overlooked movies (such as The Lost Continent, Hands of the Ripper, and The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires) are represented here, taking their place with the greats… as well they should. An enjoyable collection of music from an era long gone but far from forgotten.
1. Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter (Laurie Johnson)
2. Twins Of Evil (Harry Robinson)
3. The Kiss Of The Vampire (James Bernard)
4. The Mummy (Franz Reizenstein)
4. Dracula (James Bernard)
6. Quatermass And The Pit (Tristram Cary)
7. The Legend Of The 7 Golden Vampires (James Bernard)
8. The Lost Continent (Roy Phillips)
9. Dracula AD 1972 (Mike Vickers)
10. The Devil Rides Out (James Bernard)
11. Countess Dracula (Harry Robinson)
12. The Gorgon (James Bernard)
13. Hands Of The Ripper (Christopher Gunning)
14. Dr Jekyll & Sister Hyde (David Whitaker)
15. She (James Bernard)
16. The Satanic Rites Of Dracula (John Cacavas)
17. Taste The Blood Of Dracula (James Bernard)
18. Frankenstein And The Monster From Hell (James Bernard)
(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2017)
Back Lot Music releases the soundtrack by Bear McCreary to the Universal Pictures horror movie Happy Death Day. The film, written by Scott Lobdell and directed by Christopher Landon, stars Jessica Rothe and Israel Broussard. Tree Gelbman wakes up in bed with Carter Davis and has recollections of having lived her life before. When a baby-face masked intruder kills her, Tree wakes up in bed again. It seems that she is destined to endure a Groundhog Day-like existence until she learns more and discovers the identity of her killer. The featured tracks are 'Day One', 'Day Two', 'Day Three', 'Day Four', 'Hospital Pursuit', 'The Bell Tower', 'Righting Wrongs', 'Tree Takes Control', and 'The Cupcake'...
Bear McCreary has quite a track record for prominent movie and TV series soundtracks, including 10 Cloverfield Lane, Animal Crackers, Rebel in the Rye, the revamped Battlestar Galactica, Black Sails, Outlander, The Walking Dead, and Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. He also has an EMMY award for the theme to Da Vinci’s Demons. Quite impressive for a composer still in his thirties, I’m sure you’ll agree.
As the killer in the film wears a baby-face mask, McCreary decided to record his three-year old daughter. He collected together giggles and whispers before distorting the sounds into what he calls vocals textures. Strange breathing and even whimpering is used as the main theme for the killer. Adding a full orchestra turns the whole sound otherworldly and off-kilter.
The film’s main theme is returned to often, but not simply for the sake of uninventiveness. Each time is within a different context and soundscape. Mostly, it is utilised in the first four tracks; pivotal scenes which follow get their own sense of urgency. This work isn’t going to set the world alight, but it is a little different from what has become known as the standard sharp piano piece or screeching violins. A soundtrack exists to enhance the effectiveness and enjoyment of a movie, so it’s no surprise that this one works well as a background score to doing other things.
(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2017)
To coincide with the 35th anniversary of John Carpenter’s classic grandfather of all slasher films, Halloween, comes this single CD release of 22 tracks incorporating music from the Halloween movies franchise. Included are examples from Halloween by Carpenter, Halloween II by Carpenter & Alan Howarth, Halloween III: Season of the Witch by Carpenter & Howarth, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers by Howarth, Halloween V: The Revenge of Michael Myers by Howarth, Halloween VI: The Curse of Michael Myers by Howarth, Halloween H20: 20 Years Later by John Ottman, Halloween Resurrection by Danny Lux, Halloween (2007) by Tyler Bates, and Halloween II (2009) by Bates. It is available by download or on limited edition CD from BSX Records. The collection is produced and arranged by Dominik Hauser, and the colour booklet houses an article by Randall D. Larson called 'Designed to Chill – The Cinematic Musical Heritage of Halloween'.
Let me just say from the outset, I don’t like it at all. Phew! That’s got that one out of the way. However, rather suspecting the great editor may require more of an explanation, I’ll just add that this release is a missed opportunity of monumental proportions.
Now, you might just have garnered from some of my previous reviews that I’m a huge John Carpenter fan. I’ve followed the man’s progress practically from the start, reading the novelisation of Dark Star by my favourite science fiction writer, Alan Dean Foster, before I saw the actual film. Halloween, the original 1978 classic, is still probably my favourite movie of all time – it’s certainly in my top three, alongside The Italian Job and Westworld.
I could bore everyone into a coma with just a few of the countless snippets of interesting information I’ve accumulated about the film. However, this is about the music, and Halloween is one of only three famous horror scores I can think of which are instantly recognisable. Carpenter, who has composed the majority of his own films music, has a knack of finding just the right sounds to complement and enhance the action. There’s a certain atmosphere at play, and that’s something you simply don’t tamper with. And that brings me to my main gripe regarding this new collection...
The John Carpenter tracks from the first three Halloween movies I know very well, having collected them on the original soundtrack CDs and on Carpenter collections over the years. It’s the same music but it’s different. A fan can tell. These tracks have been re-recorded - or at the very least, rearranged - and have therefore lost much of their impact. By extending the tracks and adding elements in an attempt to make them more appealing to a younger generation, the opposite effect has been achieved. On some it’s simply little nuances, but to the old school fan who knows where these pieces of music fit into the pace and atmosphere of what is (in the case of the first film) a master-class of lighting and directing, it is simply sacrilege.
There are only three tracks from Carpenter’s Halloween: 'Main Title (presented with and without the top and tail children’s song), 'Laurie’s Theme', and 'The Shape Stalks'; just one from the Carpenter scripted Halloween II: 'Theme' (where is the Murder Montage?); and three from the Myers-free Halloween III: 'Silver Shamrock Commercial', 'Drive to Santa Mira', and the excellent 'Chariots of Pumpkins'. Practically every other track included on this release is a variation on these pieces – including the 2007 and 2009 remakes. There are just a couple of exceptions: 'Thorn', from Halloween VI and 'The Ceremony', from Halloween Resurrection successfully offer us original and captivating pieces.
Film score enthusiasts who haven’t come across this music before will undoubtedly hear much to appreciate. However, Carpenter fans of all generations will do better to seek out copies of the original CD soundtracks to the first three films, or pick up a collection of Carpenter’s film music, such as the Varese Sarabande releases of a few years back.
(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2013)
ScreamWorks Records releases the soundtrack to horror film sequel Jeepers Creepers 3by Andrew Morgan Smith. In the movie the Creeper terrorises a farming community, prompting the assembling of an official taskforce to seek out and destroy the organ-stealing monster once and for all… The track listing is: Field Chase and the Truck, The Scent of Fear, The Team, Gaylen and Kenny, Abandoned Vehicle, Miller, The Farm, Old Secrets, Tashtego and the Hand, Highway Chase, Showdown, Gaylen and Buddy, He Found Me, and Back Outside...
This third film in the franchise – again written and directed by Victor Salva – actually takes place between the first two, due to the creature’s unique active and dormant life cycle. I love the original film; particularly the first half wherein the nature of the beast is uncertain. The music by Bennett Salvay undoubtedly aided in the heightening of the suspense, but simultaneously secreted itself in the background. They say the best incidental film music is that which you don’t consciously notice, and that was certainly the case. The question is does Jeepers Creepers 3 smoothly survive the transition to a different composer?
After graduating from composition and music media at the University of Louisiana, Andrew Morgan Smith cut his teeth writing for SyFy movies such as Zombie Shark, A Deadly Affair, and A Sort of Homecoming. He has since moved on to TV and independent films. Potentially, Jeepers Creepers 3 is the highest profile film he has worked on. His intention is to pay tribute to what has gone before and infuse the old with the new. He wants to create a Jerry Goldsmith inspired orchestral sound, but also to include separate sound design elements and a kinetic pulse. On the face of it this sounds like a standard answer for the purposes of pleasing everyone, but it turns out to be an accurate description, more or less. In fact, Andrew Morgan Smith does himself a little bit of a disservice.
Parts of this score sound like a traditional horror movie from the 1970s or 1980s, with lots of string work punctuated by slashing, screeching discordance. That’s not necessarily a criticism. Personally, I long for a partial return to classic horror music – as long as it is used to genuinely enhance the action, rather than as cheap trick slamming of doors and knocking over of props. This is old school horror ramped-up with a modern hook. There is atmospheric pacing, with a sense of impending climax. At the time of writing I haven’t yet seen this film but just the drama and edgy tension described by this music seems to draw a broad picture of increasing set pieces which I look forward to experiencing on screen.
(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2017)
Lakeshore Records releases Saw: Anthology: Vol 1 and Vol 2 for digital download, CD and LP formats. Vol 1 incorporates music from films 1 to 4 in the franchise, and Vol 2 films 5 to 8 – including the latest film Jigsaw. Approximately twelve hours of title and incidental score has been reduced to around two by composer and arranger Charlie Clouser, keyboard player for Nine Inch Nails during The Downward Spiral tour, and remix and production contributor for David Bowie, Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie and Rammstein. He has scored around fifteen feature films, and six TV dramas – including American Horror Story. This anthology has no fewer than 66 tracks of suites and montages over the two volumes...
I have always considered the Saw films as basically okay, but nothing special. The first was and will probably always be the best, but then the originality disappeared to be replaced by fatally sadistic set-pieces. I have no problem with gore so long as it’s conducive to a well-written plot. It has been said the best incidental music is that which you don’t hear – meaning its sole purpose is to bolster and aid the dramatisation of what is taking place on screen. We hear it but subtly and almost subconsciously. The right balance of music can double the scare-factor. However, separated from its visual source it can be difficult to sufficiently analyse and do justice to what is essentially a number of harsh sound effects dropped into a partly orchestral score.
Not enough justice is given to the fact the incidental music has to match the score and so is part of a whole. Unlike normal Rock music, for instance, soundtracks can stop and start abruptly and, unless there is a building menace, in turns both ‘shout’ and ‘whisper’ to the listener.
Believe it or not, people forget this ultimate fact unless they’re well used to making the distinction. Much of the Saw music is Industrial in its noise and sound construct, as you might expect considering the elaborate construction of the metal traps in the films. Understandably, keyboards are utilised in many of the pieces, but used with other effects which disguise their normal presence. There are a lot of ‘screeching’, ‘grinding’ and ‘chugging’ sounds which conjure-up images of blades and heavy machinery, even if you haven’t seen the films.
I’m surprised to discover this collection works far better than I expected. Whittling the music down to two hours couldn’t have been as difficult as indicated; for the casual listener the longer suites are always going to come across as more coherent: a progression of chilling music rather than short and abrupt noise. So, although we have such titles as Footcuffed, Sewer Runs, F**k This S**t, Needle Pit, Bed Ripper, S**thole, Eye Trap, and Pigs Revealed, it is Hello Zepp + Overture, Wilson Steel, Hello Eric, Just Begun Your Test, What It Takes, Zep Six, Jill Dream, and Doctor Gordon which prove to be the more palatable offerings. This is a good anthology for collectors of film music and Saw fans (Saw Tips?) alike.
Varèse Sarabande Records releases The Strangers: Prey at Night original movie soundtrack both digitally and on CD. This film has been a long time coming. The original Strangers film from 2008 (in which a couple is terrorised in their home by three strangely masked intruders) was supposed to have been followed-up pretty quickly with a sequel. For one reason or another it never quite happened. That is until now, ten years later. This time it happens at a secluded mobile home park. The music is composed by Adrian Johnston, who has worked previously on Kinky Boots, Brideshead Revisited, and Becoming Jane. This soundtrack also includes five previously released songs from different eras...
The songs here consist of two from Kim Wilde ('Kids in America', and 'Cambodia'), 'Total Eclipse of the Heart' by Bonnie Tyler, 'Making Love Out Of Nothing At All' by Air Supply, and (probably the best of the bunch) 'Live it Up' by Mental As Anything. Any fans of these songs will be surprised and delighted to experience them again while watching the film, but on a film soundtrack they are a bit of a non-entity. Had this collection been made up of songs matching the theme (such as School of Rock, for example) I can understand the attraction. However, anyone who likes one or two of these songs will already have downloaded them.
As for the incidental music, the main theme is stolen straight from John Carpenter’s The Fog. The following tracks consist of a lot of low rumbling indicating underlying menace, with electronic flourishes and music box tinkles. Probably the best track is 'Pulled to Safety' which contains an inherent wonky, off-kilter feel to it. 'End Titles' is a rehash of the main theme (or should I say, Carpenter’s The Fog), and 'Bonus Track' is a sort of a remix of the main theme (or should I say… etc.). I will say this version is somewhat different and should have been used instead.
Adrian Johnston mixed acoustic instruments, vintage synths and organs, and this is most evident on 'Inferno'. He apparently recorded the music at night in an atmospheric, centuries old deconsecrated chapel. He projected the film onto a 30-foot high screen and improvised to the pictures. It makes for a better story than the music itself which is, at best, average.
(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2018)
To replace the original deleted soundtrack, comes The Thing: Music From The Motion Picture, available as a limited edition CD or as a digital download from BuySoundtrax Records. To avoid confusion it should be pointed out that this is the classic John Carpenter version from the early eighties, and not the recent very average prequel. Carpenter composed very powerful enhancing music for his films, but in this case he wanted to bring in Ennio Morricone who had impressed him greatly with several memorable spaghetti western tunes.
Morricone produced an orchestral soundtrack, but Carpenter wanted something more in the vein of his own music from Escape From New York, released only the year before. So, Morricone offered up a more electronic synthesizer score. Even then Carpenter utilised only a part of the music given to him, because he needed a recurring theme - something a little sinister to reflect the isolation of the characters and the siege feel so favoured by the director.
Alan Howath, who collaborated with John Carpenter on many of his soundtracks, as well as providing sound effects for a handful of blockbuster movies in the eighties, before composing some of his own - has painstakingly reconstructed Morricone’s original full soundtrack using new technology to create the sounds of the old recording. The tracks have also been rearranged to match the order they would have been in the film.
Listening carefully to the content it’s difficult to imagine where the music would have fit in to the very different mood of the film. The Thing has a very claustrophobic feel, and this would have been destroyed by some of the more orchestral pieces. To be frank, there is only one powerful track on this collection and that is the building electronic throb which was actually used as the main piece in the movie. The rest is not exactly entertaining. The composer himself described his electronic theme as Morricone doing John Carpenter. This begs the question, why didn’t Carpenter do it himself in the first place?
(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2011)
Varèse Sarabande releases the Stephen King Soundtrack Collection, a box set of four film scores across eight CDs. The projects covered are Dreamcatcher (2 x CD), The Stand (2 x CD), the mini-series version of The Shining (3 x CD), and Firestarter (1 x CD). The set is limited to 1500 copies, and incorporates a 24-page bound booklet.
Let’s begin with Firestarter. In the 1984 movie directed by Mark L. Lester and featuring a young Drew Barrymore after the days of E.T. The Extraterrestrial, a college couple acquire telekinetic abilities and have a daughter born with the power of pyrokinesis. They are forced to go on the run from government personnel determined to use her as a weapon. This music is being reissued for the first time in 15 years.
The score is by Tangerine Dream, who are no strangers to film music. In fact, their output over the years has been more than prolific – and revitalised by the recent release of Sorcerer on Blu-ray. Christopher Franke of Tangerine Dream composed and played all the music for the outstanding SF series Babylon 5. A ground-breaking achievement. Firestarter is considered to be some of their best work, but for me it’s too symptomatic of the 1980s with lots of high-pitched synthesizers battling with each other. There were so many movies from this period with a similar flavour it was difficult to see where it all came from. Many film scores are over-dramatic and this one comes across as Kraftwerk on speed! More than a little chaotic.
In 1994’s The Stand, directed by Mick Garris, a catastrophic influenza virus wipes out half the population. The scattered survivors join with either Mother Abagail or Randall Flagg, and will clash in the ultimate battle between good and evil. This music by EMMY nominated composer W.G. Snuffy Walden is for the four-part mini-series adapted from King’s best selling book. Walden has composed music for a number of films and TV shows including The West Wing, The Wonder Years, Roseanne, and Leaving Normal.
This is by far the best of the bunch on offer here. For anyone who likes rock and blues it will stand out as atmospheric and entertaining. Certainly, it is mostly music in its own right as opposed to incidental background vignettes. It begins with a chorus-effect steel guitar piece, and is followed by a slow guitar-picking melody. The remainder of disc one incorporates an electric guitar, keyboard effects and a drum machine; a slow piano piece, atmospheric mid-paced guitar in the style of Dave Gilmour, harmonica and violin.
The final track of this disc is a gentle introduction to disc 2, which is more in the traditional vein of an incidental film with orchestral overtones. Immediately, the mood is darker and off-kilter. The guitar returns but is used sparingly – sometimes to create menace. There is some disturbing off-key piano, and a driven band concept which reminded me of John Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China (and in particular, Pork Chop Express). There is also a montage piece which brought back The A-Team building a Sherman tank out of old paint pots and a bag of nails! The Stand soundtrack is varied and very enjoyable.
In 2003’s Dreamcatcher, directed by Lawrence Kasdan, a group of friends on a camping trip come into contact with a nearby town being assaulted by parasitic extraterrestrial creatures. Through the outsiders they will be attacked from within. This is one of those King adaptations I keep changing my mind about. But as for the music, it comes from Academy Award nominee James Newton Howard. There is a running theme of a ticking/clicking pace inherent in the music of these two discs. The first three tracks are upbeat and entertaining, but the standard isn’t maintained as much as I would have liked. There is a piano section as if to a child, an industrial piece which builds towards a crescendo but just stops instead, and low haunting rumbles and creaks like you would expect to hear in a 1950s science fiction show. Dramatic shrieks and orchestral flourishes turn to traditional horror score shock effects, before becoming a drama-like throb of televisual sound to wrap-up disc one. A similar throbbing music introduces disc two. Here there are Psycho slashes, wide film score moments, and paced action pieces. It then turns to the territory of the early tracks of disc one. It ends with a funky bass which fugues into the main theme.
In 1997’s The Shining TV Series, directed by Mick Garris, a recovering alcoholic writer moves his family into a house as caretaker, only to discover to everyone’s cost that it’s haunted. This is a three-disc score penned by Nicholas Pike. Each disc follows the events of an episode, so that we get an approximation of the emotions endured by the characters over a three day period. Ambient noises, Halloween-like piano and wibbly you-are-now-entering-another-dimension sounds begin disc one. The first proper music comes with track seven’s 'Red Between the Lines'. The real menace begins two tracks later, and Halloween makes a return with some angelic singing.
The order of the day here seems to be moderately-paced ambient sounds punctuated by the odd rumble and industrial slashes for shock value. It’s the same formula for disc two but with much more underlying menace. Also, the traditional horror music element of the cello to build suspense creeps in. Ditto for disc three. I expected some greater crescendos and longer suites for the conclusion of the piece, but no such luck.
There are some alternative mixes at the end which, frankly, sound the same as the original versions. These three discs are the least entertaining as isolated music, which is odd as the TV version of The Shining is considerably better than the film and I’m certain I would have noticed if the soundtrack felt out of place. They do say the best incidental music is that which you don’t notice; it’s all part of the overall film-going experience.
Courtesy of Demon Records comes Vault of Horror – The Italian Connection, 20 tracks from composers Ennio Morricone, Fabio Frizzi, Franco Micalizzi, Stelvio Cipriani and others taken from horror films from their heyday in the 1970s and 1980s – with one or two outside of that period. The format comes as 2 x 180G black vinyl records, a CD version and a 12 x 12 art print. In addition, film historian Alan Jones provides comprehensive biographical notes.
The full track listing is: Blood and Black Lace (Carlo Rustichelli), The Last Hunter (Franco Micalizzi), Porno Holocaust (Nico Fidenco), Eaten Alive (Roberto Donati), The New York Ripper (Francesco De Masi), Beyond the Door (Franco Micalizzi – featuring Warren Wilson), Tentacles (Stelvio Cipriani), Cannibal Ferox (Roberto Donati), Cannibal Apocalypse (A. Blonksteiner), Absurd (Carlo Maria Cordio), Zombie Flesh Eaters (Fabio Frizzi), City of the Living Dead (Fabio Frizzi), The Beyond (Fabio Frizzi), House by the Cemetery (Walter Rizatti), Zombie Flesh Eaters 2 (Stefano Mainetti), Bronx Warriors (Walter Rizatti), The New barbarians (Claudio Simonetti), Rome 2033 – The Fighter Centurions (Riz Ortolani), Holocaust 2000 (Ennio Morricone), and Emanuelle in America (Nico Fidenco).
It comes as a very nice surprise to receive this as a vinyl release. Vinyl is making a big comeback, particularly for collectors. I possess a retro-style modern turntable, but – although I still have all my old discs – I seldom dig them out for a spin. It’s down to laziness, I suppose, because I’ve always considered records to be something special. CDs and downloads are often over-produced, whereas a record encapsulates that energy and raw power. It feels much more natural.
I have viewed a number of Italian horror movies and so fully expected this to be a collection of loud and over-dramatic shrieking noises punctuated by jazzy 1970s The Streets of San Franciso music. What I didn’t expect was such diverse music styles. Imagine normal suites showcasing the music of the time. For example, the brass-led treatment of track one becomes keyboard influenced in the style of Barry Gray’s UFO series in another piece. This trek through the 1970s and 1980s continues, to incorporate progressive rock guitar, concept-like meanderings, jazzy rock, before descending into a little soul and Motown. The singing on one track sounds so out of place you wonder if you’re actually hearing it. It’s not until track nine that the soundtrack incorporates uneasiness into the equation. But it all changes again as right afterward we temporarily enter Emerson, Lake and Palmer country.
Variety is the spice of life, they say; that’s certainly the case here. No two tracks are alike, and only one or two actually offer a hint that they are from a horror film. It’s almost as if the records have been put in the wrong sleeve. That doesn’t change the fact, however, that this offering is something a little different. My music tastes are a little heavier than this, but it does make for prog-style easy listening. I love the cover artwork by Graham Humphreys which, aside from the motorbike, looks all very H.P. Lovecraft – particularly the sea monster lurking in the background. The poster print is a nice touch, and the overall presentation earns this release an extra point.
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