Let’s go back a few years to 2008, to a movie entitled THE HAPPENING, and a score that was the work of James Newton Howard. I recently watched the movie again on TV and was still struck by the suspense and the sense of apprehension and uncertainty that just oozed from this movie, the musical score had a lot to do with creating this thick and foreboding atmosphere. Newton Howard again providing us with a soundtrack that was haunting in a nice way and unsettling in so many other ways. THE HAPPENING, is an energetic, swift paced, blood pumping and heart racing thriller. It is about a family who are on the run from an unexplained and it seems an un-stoppable entity or occurrence that not only threatens their existence, but also is putting in jeopardy the future and survival of the whole of human kind. Stylishly directed by M.Night Shyamalan, this is one of many collaborations between Newton Howard and the director. In recent years their collaboration has earned respect from not only fellow film makers and composers but from fans and critics alike. The directors obvious gift for creating icy and fearsome thought provoking sci-fi horrors being enhanced by the highly talented and gifted Newton Howard. Although THE HAPPENING is not as hard hitting as SIGNS or SIXTH SENSE dramatically or musically but it comes very close and I must say that I enjoyed it a lot when revisiting the film and the score.
Newton Howards score is just perfect for the movie, the composer underlining the action and moments of violence wonderfully with blasts of sound and dramatic percussive and brass stabs. But there is also the more subdued side to the score via the sober but almost icy cello performances which literally make one tingle. In many ways, this is a score that can be likened to styles of both Jerry Goldsmith and Thomas Newman, with maybe a nod or two in the direction of Herrmann? There is an almost delicate touch throughout the proceedings and key points which in fact adds more of a menacing atmosphere than any amount of booming percussion, urgent string performance or jagged sounding brass stabs could ever do, plus we have the action material in cues such as SHOTGUN.
Then there is the dark and sinister piano laced with strings and punctuated with brass in YOU CAN, T JUST LEAVE US HERE, the score purveys a sense of tension and evokes a mood that is filled with uncertainty and at times panic and dread. The composer relaying these emotions via sinewy strings and solo violin in certain areas. With a calming but malevolent sounding piano in the background on many of the cues it is hard to feel assured or easy whilst listening to Newton Howards music.
The END TITLE SUITE on the recording runs for just over 8 minutes, within this piece we get a chance to relish the quality of the composers score, with the track containing key phrases and thematic material from the soundtrack. With some emotive Cello and viola performances included. The momentum of the movie I felt waned slightly mid-way through, but the score continued to be strong and above all interesting, adding much to the proceedings. One to look out for if you have not already got it within your collection.