In recent years the score for the Horror movie seems to have become a more popular entity within the realms of soundtrack collectors. OK, a horror score normally contains its fair share of crashes, bangs and bumps but because the music is from a tale of terror or torment or a story of evil and sheer fright, does not mean that the music cannot be melodic or have sweeping themes to underline the action or the at times grotesque or just downright scary moments that the movie could contain. In fact in many cases composers have scored a moment of sheer terror or a moment of violence with music far removed from the actual scenario being acted out upon screen; by this I mean the composer underlines or enhances that moment with music that could either be beautiful or indeed soothing, thus making the scenario even more shocking and hard hitting with watching audiences when it takes place. The music in effect very cleverly lulling the audience into a false sense of security then “BAM”!!!!!! …. the deed is done and they did not see it or, more to the point, hear it building or coming.
Spanish composer Fernando Velazquez is a Master at this type of scoring and when working on horror pictures has demonstrated this on many occasions. One of his latest scoring assignments, MAMA is another such case. The composer has created a score that, granted, does contain numerous harrowing musical passages and some hefty use of brass and strings to purvey an ambience that is fearful and tense – but there are an equal amount of musical moments which are near celestial sounding in their make up or style and throughout the work is a strong romantically slanted style; ush in places and sweepingly attractive.
The opening theme for the film “The Encounter and Main Title” is a case in point. It begins with low, brooding strings creating an atmosphere taut and threatening but this atmosphere is watered down slightly by the utilization of woodwind and chimes introducing a children’s choir. The vocals are intertwined with rich and melodic strings, bolstered by woodwind and piano; the theme builds and rises to a full and harmonious crescendo melting away and bringing the cue to its close. The style the composer employs, with dark and unsettling woods and underlining strings, are augmented by brass that at times growls and rasps in malevolent and ominous sound which puts me in mind of Bernard Herrmann. Yes, I know many have said that Herrmann was born again when composers such as Donaggio and Banos came onto the scene but Velazquez certainly has the ability to create this Herrmannesque sound. His strident and richly dark theme for “Devil” is a prime example of this but there is far more to this score than drama and jagged stabs and growling brass flourishes. The composer does not merely employ a style which I for one associate with Herrmann but he builds upon it and adds to it, infusing his own unique musical stamp on the work, giving it a more impacting and greater effecting sound – it is both driving and melodic which makes it a more rewarding listen. Track three “Helvetia” is a good example of how the composer fuses both melodic and dramatic styles. Solo piano starts the proceedings, underlined by strings which do not overpower or encroach upon the piano’s territory, until the mood of the cue alters and it becomes very much darker. Low strings take the composition into the depths of darkness creating a formidable and uneasy environment. Woodwind is added to the mix and punctuates the strings until strings again become the mainstay of the composition, then brass is introduced in a kind of avant-garde, modern style which creates a mildly chaotic and frenzied interlude.
Track four “A New Home” is another good example. Strings and subtle use of brass and piano create a sense of mystery but the composer introduces woodwind which, above the darker material, relays a more relaxed musical ambiance. Calmness ensues briefly when the woodwind is joined by delicately placed piano trickling its way through the woodwind performance, creating a haunting but short lived piece which certainly draws the listeners attention. Track five “What Happens Now?” works in the reverse fashion. It begins subdued and in fairly low key but is interrupted by a sharp, frenzied and shuddering stab from the strings. The cue then descends into a shadowy and fearful mode with strings providing the backdrop to a solo voice, then childlike voices at the cue’s conclusion, overpowered by a great crash from percussion, woods, strings and brass. Track six, “Voices From Another Room” is probably one of the most effective; the composer manages to create a real sense of terror with this composition where voices and woods played in unison with brass, brought together by strings and further use of growling brass. This is probably one of the most entertaining scores I have heard in a long while simply because of the way it has been constructed and orchestrated. It is a horror score that has heart, soul and real thematic qualities. Well worth checking out.