Film Soundtracks (Page 2)

7 Reviews (3 New)

A Dark and Scary Place

All Hallows' II, by OGRE and Dallas Campbell

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Fictitious Synth Horror Concept Album

Label: OGRE Sound

January 2019

Long-time collaborating retro musicians and recording artists Robin Ogden (known as OGRE) and Dallas Campbell release the fictitious horror movie soundtrack All Hallows’ II, available for download and on cassette. The premise is that 35 years ago, police discovered the remains of over a dozen former patients in the sub-basement of an alternative healthcare facility, The Shephard Institute For Psionic Inquiry. All Hallows’ II is the story of investigative journalist Ellis Ledstone and Shephard’s other victims, whose bodies were never found. Using the case files from the events of 1983, it is the listener’s task to assess all of the evidence and uncover what really happened at the institute. There are logged interviews, reports and artefacts which are included digitally with the release, and physically with hard prints with the soundtrack.


Loving mysteries and being a life-time horror enthusiast, I found this concept more than intriguing. Furthermore, the invocation of the weird fiction of H.P. Lovecraft (one of my favourite authors of all time) and the film music of John Carpenter (my favourite film director bar none – I have all of his soundtracks, too) this really had been built-up to the point of high expectation. This is always a danger; using classic names invariably leads to a disappointing let-down. However, these guys have a passion for what they do, which is exemplified by the fact they live 3,594 miles apart and have never met in person, collaborating only on-line using FaceTime, Dropbox and Sid Meier’s Civilisation V. All Hallows’ II is their fourth collaboration, their last score being a reimagining of George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. They have a common fondness for analogue, tape machines and vintage synths. But how does the duo’s latest offering shape-up?


There are 24 tracks offered-up, many of them brief linking sections featuring mood pieces or sampled sounds, but even these include some nice surprising little melodies which I wish had lasted a little longer. The entire myth score is tributes and influences from the classic synthesiser soundtracks of the 1980s, like Tangerine Dream and bands such as Goblin and Kraftwerk. So we have 'Ident VI', which is a short Close Encounters of the Third Kind-like introduction. 'Admittance', and 'Have You Seen Me' are straight out of the John Carpenter book – the latter with added curious drum beat changes. 'The Couvert Tapes' goes one step further by emulating Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness with a back beat. 'Last Days of Daylight' is reminiscent of many neon glitzy horror films of the late 1980s.


I realise this is supposed to be a fictitious horror movie soundtrack, but I would have preferred to have had this seemingly bottomless box of electronic sounds and music patched together into longer pieces of music. In fact, many of these segments deserve an extended stay. Six or eight tracks only would have meant many of these melodies and samples could have been incorporated into one more coherent (and cohesive) piece. '911', 'The Gate is Open', and particularly 'Details Unknown' could have shone more brightly. 'Satanic Panic' promises much, but isn’t a strong piece to end the album with.


Much of this type of music hasn’t been enjoyed since the New Romantics era. For that reason it’s priceless, but I also can’t help feeling it is a missed opportunity. Look out for a selection of B-Sides and cuts entitled: All Hallows’ II: Coda, which will follow this release.

Verdict: 7 out of 10

(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2019) 

Jigsaw, by Charlie Clouser

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Label: Lakeshore Records

October 2017

Lakeshore Records releases Jigsaw – the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, available for digital download. The scores for the previous seven Saw films in the franchise were created by Charlie Clouser, and he returns here to contribute both continuity and originality to the concept’s soundscape. In the movie itself a new game begins. When a number of elaborate killings seem to point to the Jigsaw Killer, John Kramer, the police and the public are put into disarray. After all, Kramer has been dead for ten years. Is it a sick tribute copycat or the real thing? The soundtrack features over an hour of theme and incidental music...


The   first Saw  film was quite inventive, managing to incorporate gruesome set-pieces which were conducive to the plot. The killer was dying and, like a judge, enticed a group of people into a series of traps and charged them with proving their right to existence. The sequels which followed were variations on a theme; they proved watchable without saying anything new or different.


One thing immediately evident upon hearing the Jigsaw  soundtrack is that it perfectly fits the theme and premise of the movie. As you would expect, it’s essentially industrial in its design, with mechanical sound effects playing just as much a part as the music itself. In fact, this score is very much a sum of its parts. Those parts include not only the expected modulated synthesisers and electronic paraphernalia, but also electric, acoustic and pedal steel guitars, along with a Chinese ghuzheng which creates a shuddering sound by use of a bow, and a Que Lastas – a stainless steel sheet with piano strings and metal rods. The point is that this potpourri of instruments allows the origins of the sounds to be unidentifiable; thus it sneaks in under the radar screen and simply enhances the visual entertainment.


It’s difficult to fully appreciate these tracks, detached as they are from the complete film going experience. The incidental sounds mainly come across as noise and effects intended to heighten tension – which is what they are! Thus, as independent music, the best examples are 'Zepp Eight' (an adaptation of a previously utilised montage by Clouser), and 'Cycle Trap' (an enjoyable piece of industrial Metal music). 'Chain Hangers', and 'Shotgun' are also worth a listen. The first half of 'Replica Lair' sounds very similar to The Exorcist/Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells.

Verdict: 5 out of 10

(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2017) 

The Body Tree, by Navid Hejazi

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Label: Plaza Mayor Company Ltd

March 2019

The Plaza Mayor Company releases the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack to The Body Tree. In the film directed by Thomas Dunn (known for writing The Ungodly), a group of American college students travel to Siberia to honour a friend who has died, and get caught-up in a cat and mouse whodunnit. “Nobody leaves.” The music is composed, produced and performed by Navid Hejazi, who was charged with coming up with a minimalist approach to capture the essence of the location. The director wanted a thriller score, rather than outright horror, to highlight the heightening tension between the characters and punctuate the scary moments...


The track listing is: Opening Titles; Siberia; The Tree of Spirits; The Doll; Shamanic Rituals; The Ceremony; Memories of Kara; Forest Chase; Suspicions; Eric Becomes the Demon; Proof; Eric Attacks; Sandra Escapes; The Only One Left; When You Love Someone; and Alternate End Credits.


I’m sorry to announce that The Body Tree is one of the dullest, non-descript scores I have come across – certainly since Cradle of Fear. This could have been so much more. I fully understand the fundamental purpose of a film soundtrack is to enhance the atmosphere of the inherent scenes. But there needs to be music which the viewer/listener can latch onto, even if it’s subconsciously. If you haven’t got proper music then you can’t hope to put everyone at their ease. To my mind, this needs to be established for any subsequent change of mood and atmosphere to take effect. You can’t have one without the other, otherwise the eyes and ears of the audience will not feel that they have been dragged out of their comfort zone into a world of uncertainly and terror.


As there is no real music present, I would describe this score as sound design. The promotional blurb has it pretty spot on when they promote it as electronic and organic/ethnic. Each track is made up of a series of separate or flowing ambient, atmospheric and tribal noises. There are lots of dark, menacing rumblings, swarming sounds, fluttering sweeps, very low percussion, fuzz and background pagan activity. All of this may well prove effective in the film, but this is a review of the stand-alone soundtrack, and I can’t imagine many people being entertained by a series of unconnected noises.

Verdict: 3 out of 10

(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2019) 

Dogged, by James Griffiths

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Label: ScreamWorks Records

July 2018

Screamworks Records releases another film soundtrack for digital download. This time it’s the pagan chiller Dogged. The movie, directed by Richard Rowntree, has Sam returning to the island of his birth to attend a funeral. However, things have changed, and Sam discovers a community with a dark secret   (The Wicker Man, anybody?). James Griffiths was the composer of  The   Drift, finalist at the Music & Sound Awards 2016, The Siren, In the Park, and 68 Kill. The folk horror Dogged creates a string quartet, accompanying electronics and gut-wrenching vocals to enhance the gritty performance of the film...


'The Dogged Danse' starts things off with a main theme, a slow-paced retro   string piece, which is followed-up by a moderate piano composition which   immediately brings back the strings. 'Islander' utilises a creaking reminiscent of a wooden ship, and some industrial noises. There is eerie electronica in track four, but it doesn’t last long before the central theme is back biting at its ankles. Then there is more string and piano with different sound effects and echoing. I thought that the track 'Daniel' was going to be different; there are some inventive noises at the beginning, but the same feel follows.


Twelve tracks in and 'The Chase of the Fox' is the first time anything different   happens. The building-up of odd noise develops into the up-tempo chase itself, but the fade-out returns to the same tired tune. 'Displeasure' gives us some much needed atmosphere with distant wolf calls and ambient noises. However (yes, you guessed it), a semblance of the same music intrudes yet again. Even the refreshing chugging organ with woodwind accompaniment is played-out with the slow piano. 'The Cult Parts 1 & 2' are probably the stand out pieces, ostensibly because they are so different from the rest. It’s a taster of what could have been achieved had the composer been more diverse in his offerings.


The last section of 'Bad Majik' shows promise, but it’s too little too late. 'The Dogged Danse' music is slightly faster than the opening version. It reminds me of the kind of theme we might expect to hear for an Agatha Christie TV movie. Although there are 29 tracks on this release, the sheer amount of reprised work means there’s probably only six or seven worth listening to.

Verdict: 3 out of 10

(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2018) 

Devil's Tree: Rooted Evil, by Chad Cannon

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Label: MovieScore Media

May 2018

Devil’s Tree: Rooted Evil is a horror/fantasy film following Sam, a budding journalist, who investigates the dark history of the tree. Fighting her own inner demons, she uncovers the origins of what haunts the tree. ScreamWorks Records releases the official soundtrack, available for download and physical product (Quartet Records)...


Composer Chad Cannon cut his teeth as part of the orchestral team of Conrad Pope on Godzilla and the last two Hobbit films. He co-composed a Chinese score for The Cairo Declaration, won an award for his music on the documentary Paper Lanterns, and is founder of the Asia/America New Music Institute, which promotes music relationships between the USA and Japan.


The original plan was to base the score around a church organ sound, but the trick was to avoid what he calls ‘kitchyness’ – in other words, any old-school stereotypes in horror. Instead, he wanted to experiment with individual pipe sounds. He and his engineer carefully recorded the frequencies which emanated via the lowest pedals for each dissonance. The idea being to manipulate the music over a heartbeat background.


Let me take you through the tracks to get a general idea of the effect. 'The Boy' is a slow and atmospheric introduction. 'Devil’s Tree Title' is a mood piece which hints at what is to come, and then segues into a march to battle feel. 'The Mind of a Killer' is a sinister foreboding with a clockwork timing. 'The Marine' is the most incidental in structure of the lot, with low key tones, underlying cello and the occasional light pipes. 'Another Victim' has pan pipes, although not as jaunty as we normally hear with this instrument. In fact, this track is the most varied, containing creeping menace, a slight quickening of pace and a rising and lowering of volume. 'Something’s Wrong With Bob' has eerie undertones. 'Samantha Visits the Tree' is simply a low rumbling menace. 'Officer Harris' is more of the same. 'Flashback And Natalie’s Story' supplies us with a rattling/slipping sound, which sounds like a creepy washing machine! String over organ comes in late in the piece. 'The Murderer' has similar string and incidental sounds, replaced by piano, flute and a low screech. 'Paranormal Investigators' is simply rumbling. 'Possessed' has a fluttering string section and off-key piano. 'Aunt Debby’s – Closing Credits' is a disappointment; I expected more than mere noises for closing credits. 'The Spirit' is a very short sequence which reprises the off-key piano over a string rumbling.


The further through this score I got the less accomplished it seemed to become. If the soundtrack had incorporated more light and shade, more of a sense of drama, I might have scored it as high as an 8. There is good background ambience without on its own being able to instil tension, anxiety or fear. Everything is very much of the same level and the same pace. As there is no sense of danger or urgency I’m interested to see the film and gauge how well it fits.

Verdict: 5 out of 10

(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2018) 

What Still Remains, by Jonathan Beard

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Label: Lakeshore Records

October 2018

Lakeshore Records releases What Still Remains – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack – on digital download. The film, directed by Josh Mendoza, follows the story of Anna, the last of her family, through a post-zombie virus environment known as the ‘Change’. Forced to leave the protection of her house, she encounters a group which promises salvation. But can she trust them? The score is by Jonathan Beard, whose previous projects include music for media and the concert stage (Star Wars – The Old Republic, Frank Vs. God, The Passion of Anne Frank, and Driving Miss Daisy). He has also collaborated with a number of other composers...


Beard describes the movie as a Hitchcockian psychological tapestry with subtext dialogue, and that the music needs to reflect that and dance between what is said and what is the real truth behind the situation. The theme for Peter, the leader of the group, is a four-note piece which jumps between the major and minor scales.


But how does this all shape-up as a film score album? Many horror   soundtracks these days incorporate the discordant string section mewhere along the line, which sounds like an angry swarm of bees. 'Berserker and the Forest Chase' begins with this effect before segueing into a military-like battle march. 'Journey to What Still Remains' incorporates a slower mood string piece which is reminiscent of an earlier age. 'God Doesn’t Choose Sides' is a moody undercurrent, and 'Ben and Anna Dance With Words' is a crawling, screeching string movement which belongs in a TV thriller from the 1950s or 1960s. The latter park of 'Berserker is Charged' made me laugh, as it’s pretty clichéd as far as scary music goes. You expect a shocked vocal exclamation from Shaggy and Scooby right afterwards.


'Peter Steps on a Trap' is a scrabbling, off-kilter noise. 'David Must Pay a Price' is a suitably dramatic uprising, but again it’s all strings. Where’s the variation? Where are the surprises? Of the last eight tracks, the only one with any venom is 'Attack' (and that is for only halfway through). Even the 'Main Theme/End Credits' is lacklustre, to say the least. Hardly memorable.


One of the most disappointing things about this soundtrack is that whenever piano or the horn section is introduced it is stomped all over by the string section. A wasted opportunity.

Verdict: 4 out of 10

(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2018) 

You Might Be The Killer, by Andrew Morgan Smith

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Label: ScreamWorks Records

December 2018

Screamworks Records releases the film soundtrack for the horror film You Might be the Killer, directed by Brett Simmons. In the movie, camp counsellor Sam (played by Fran Kranz of  The Cabin in the Woods) wakes after a series of blackouts to find himself surrounded by murdered bodies. Along with horror movie buff, Chuck (played by the lovely Alyson Hannigan of  Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the American Pie sequels), he concludes that he must be the killer. But is he the guilty party? They are literally waiting for the next incident. The music is composed by Andrew Morgan Smith who worked on Zombie Shark, A Deadly Affair and Jeepers Creepers 3. He describes the film as a purposeful send-up of the classic slasher horrors of the 1980s, and agreed with Simmons that it should pay tribute to the scores of that decade, Jerry Goldsmith, Alan Silvestri and, of course, John Carpenter...


When I first saw this in my review batch I was intrigued, as Andrew Morgan Smith’s soundtrack for Jeepers Creepers 3, which I reviewed in 2017, was a solid and entertaining enhancement to the film. This one comes racing out of the traps in suitable style with 'Bloody Facetime' (a nice play on words). From the outset it’s dramatic and pulse-racing, before hankering down to more quiet, subtle and creepy moments with use of strings, keyboards and strangely pagan sounding horns.


'Kaywacked' opens with bells and screeching; this translates as more of an underlying menace snatched straight out of the 1980s, before turning to proper music melody just long enough to lull you into a false sense of security. 'Beyond Traumatic' is more of a linking string piece, with an underlying Jaws feel to it. It threatens to turn into a full orchestral   piece before slamming you with noise and offering an operatic-style close. 'Last Summer' is a retrospective piece with piano and strings which becomes fully orchestral. A very nice segment of music (imagine a more fleshed-out version of that scene in the original Friday the 13th when the sole survivor drifts across the lake in a boat).


'Splitting Headaches' has the horn section introducing a jaunty piece that you just know is going to be smashed aside by a heavy, otherworldly and slightly off-kilter patchwork of sounds which come and go. Very dramatic it is too. I can imagine something similar to this track being used in an H.P. Lovecraft story, with the coming of Dagon or Cthulhu. 'Campfire Tale' calms things down a bit. It goes for eeriness, with building and dissipating strings. 'Plot Holes' (nice title) conveys a feeling of intrigue which builds and concludes before it actually goes anywhere.

 

'Face Off' features mainly brass and strings, with a ringing-in of keys, slamming and the realisation of a threat portrayed with low bass and fluttering. 'Taking a Stab At It' is another of those calm introductions   which is suddenly ripped away from you with an almost demonic dramatic orchestral piece, the balance of which you can’t quite get a hold of. 'Final Girls' is a grand whole comprised of smaller sections different somewhat in style, but with the horn section ever-present. Finished It has intriguing high-pitch strings and a ringing which feels like the aftermath of something.


The   soundtrack concludes with 'You Might Be the Killer', a very entertaining end credits 1980s-style electronic song by HARLO (check it out on Youtube). Although by 'Final Girls' I was beginning to tire of the proceedings, overall this is another solid and effective score from Andrew Morgan Smith that mixes age-old horror cliché sounds with modern techniques.

Verdict: 8 out of 10

(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2018)