Tuesday, November 25, 2014

"The Taking of Deborah Logan" By Haim Mazar and Logan Mader

It seems to be a mystery among horror fans that Adam Robitel's "The Taking of Deborah Logan" wasn't released in theaters when so many subpar, by-the-numbers horror movies have been in the last few years. The film is so well executed that it's hard to have a gripe with any lack of originality it might exhibit from time to time. And it's very scary. Jill Larson's performance as the seemingly possessed lead character Deborah Logan certainly should be in the conversation as one of the best performances ever in a horror movie.

Haim Mazar and Logan Mader execute the score perfectly, with an excellent sense of when to bring the music to the fore and when to lurk in the background and create an atmosphere that gives movement and atmosphere to the onscreen environment without becoming cumbersome or muddling the dialogue. There's some tried and true methods on display here as well but like the film they work to provide exactly what's needed for good scares. The music rarely completely reveals itself as a point of focus for the viewer, and this augments the movie perfectly, but there are a few times the music is more noticeable and particularly effective, especially during the end credits, where a sparse piano and an ambient backdrop lend the perfect sense of unease. Highly recommended, particularly for fans of psychological horror.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

"Oculus" By The Newton Brothers

The Newton Brother's sparse score for Mike Flanagan's engrossing horror film "Oculus" has a lot of ominous movement; low end synthesizers up front pulse and lose and gain tempo, while strings hang further back in the mix and glide downward in murky reverbs. This creates a perfect backdrop that never distracts or draws undue attention to itself. It calls to mind classic 70's and 80's scores without sounding trite; it's innovative enough so that everything sounds fresh and reverential at the same time. The spooky piano tune at the end is especially notable.

The film itself has plenty of good thrills, clever misdirection and psychological horror a la "The Shining"; the tension rarely relents as we watch an antique mirror manipulate a family into bloody murder. Although the mirror as a prop for good scares is a longstanding and effective device in horror films, I can't recall another film that specifically centers around a mirror itself, and the music gives it life and breath.

Highly recommended.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

"The Brood" By Howard Shore

A young Howard Shore's score for David Cronenberg's "The Brood" is thrilling if a little by the numbers; it's difficult to get the full breadth of it because it is, for some reason, in mono. But it knows when to come to the fore and it knows when to sit in the background, and it pays homage to earlier horror films like "Psycho" and "The Omen". Shore, of course, went on to score almost every Cronenberg film, as well as every film made in Hollywood between 2004 and 2013.

As a film "The Brood" has its moments but never fulfills its potential. There is something that really works about about mutant child murderers in snowsuits but it never feels especially scary. There is very little explanation of how the film's strange environment came to be, the result is a film that's supposed to be heavy but feels very light. Robert A. Silverman's performance is notable for being hilarious, perhaps unintentionally so; it's hard to say. However it is worth a look if you're a fan of horror, particularly of classic 70's horror.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

"Black Moon" by Diego Masson

Louis Malle's "Black Moon" (1975) doesn't have much music in it; the lack of a soundtrack somehow adds to the surrealism and anytime music does emerge it is either being played on a piano onscreen by the main unnamed character played by Cathryn Harrison; or sung by the also unnamed male lead played by Joe Dallesandro, or, in one of the film's creepier scenes, created by cat walking across a piano. Both actor's performances are Wagner pieces; the former a love duet from "Tristan und Isolde"; and the latter "Prize Song" from "Die Meistersinger von N├╝rnberg" (both adapted by Diego Masson). The duet from Tristan und Isolde is particularly astonishing in that it is sung by young children which makes it sound other-worldly, and the dearth of music up to that point only punctuates this effect.

The film itself is completely mind blowing for the first 20 minutes; after that it occasionally works and mostly doesn't. It is definitely worth checking out for its beautiful, surreal moments. It is part of the Criterion Collection - you can watch it on Hulu Plus in HD if you have a subscription.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

"Invasion of the Body Snatchers" By Carmen Dragon

Carmen Dragon's score for the classic sci fi/horror film "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" (1956) is a timepiece and a very well executed, big Hollywood soundtrack, albiet made on low budget. The film itself holds up astoundingly well, which is due to the strength of the story and also in part to the lack of a need for impressive special effects. The action is augmented beautifully by the score. Listen to the score here and watch the movie (really, watch this movie) here.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

"Repulsion" By Chico Hamilton

The soundtrack for Roman Polanski's beautiful classic "Repulsion" is a sparse affair composed by the great jazz drummer Chico Hamilton. The feeling of Polanski's claustrophobic cinematography is accentuated exquisitely by splashes of avant garde jazz. Watch it here or check out the soundtrack here.