Friday, December 12, 2014

"The Banshee Chapter" by Andreas Weidinger

Andreas Weidinger's score for Blair Erickson's riveting horror thriller "The Banshee Chapter" contains some very well executed sound design. Weidinger does an excellent job creating an unsettling atmosphere that hangs around the periphery and provides great tension for the film's numerous scares. His impacts are perfectly timed with the picture to make you jump five feet out of your seat every time a new ghoul is suddenly revealed. Despite the fact that the film uses essentially the same device repeatedly to scare us, it somehow manages, or at least it did for me, to work every time.

In my opinion, found footage has reached its saturation point and is on its way out, but The Banshee Chapter uses it sparingly without relying too heavily on it for cheap thrills.

The underrated and always great Ted Levine (also a member of the excellent cast on the absorbing and highly recommended FX serial "The Bridge") plays an over the top character based on Hunter S. Thompson who provides some comic relief, and Michael McMillan does a great job in his role, (and - shameless self promotion warning - also plays the lead character in "Jon Davis Gets A Sex Robot" which I did some of the music for in this episode

I saw another review of the Banshee Chapter that said "you can't have the non-found-footage part be as wobbly as the found-footage parts." I don't see how that criticism holds up to scrutiny, because, why can't you? I don't understand that rule, or why critics make up arbitrary rules for films and never explain why it's necessary for anyone to ascribe to them.

It's a tight one hour and 30 minutes; it doesn't overstay its welcome, and is intriguing until the end. As with many high tech horror movies, one is probably best advised not to overthink things and just enjoy the ride.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

"The Babadook" by by Jed Kurzel

The Australian horror film "The Babadook" (dir. Jennifer Kent) is a feast for eyes and ears. The whole team involved in shaping the sound of the film does great work here; Frank Lipson's sound design is excellent and does well in avoiding stock horror effects that even good horror movies too often can't seem to avoid; the placement of music, original and otherwise, is perfect, and Jed Kurzel's score is superb. The music remains on the periphery for most of the film and sets us ill at ease while remaining eerily beautiful and also quite melodic; a quality that is often missing from modern day horror. Kurzel's sound sculptures tend to hang in the center of the stereo field while we're surrounded by unsettling yet gorgeous chimes and bells and music boxes in long reverbs.

The film itself is abundant with fresh ideas. Like any good horror movie, it is about much more than monsters. As with the score, it avoids stale gimmicks and also injects some ideas we don't see very often in modern day horror: one particularly astonishing scene features the sleep deprived lead character Amelia (very well played by Essie Davis) having a hallucination in which she sees on her TV a sequence of antique films in the style of Méliès' "La Voyage Dans La Lune" or the dream sequence from Charlie Chaplin's "The Kid" in which our monster (the Babadook) appears and reappears.  Later another TV sequence shows a newscast in which Amelia eerily leers out of a window in the background, perhaps the best shot in the film. The original music that lies under the former augments it perfectly with an ambient soundscape without ever overdoing it. A very well made film with one of the best scores I've heard all year.