Intrada records have announced the premiere release of composer John Beal’s impressive score for the 1981 Universal horror film The FunhouseAlthough the film capitalizes on the horror craze started by the likes of Halloween several years earlier, it did not follow suit in its approach to scoring. Whereas the earlier film featured a legendary electronic score, executive producer Mace Neufeld insisted that a largely orchestral approach was warranted. The orchestra mixed with some electronics brings a sophisticated depth to this early entry in the slasher film genre. While the score starts in a very unassuming fashion that involves a simple piccolo solo which is the initial representation of the core of the composer’s central theme, the mood quickly alters as a searing orchestral stab slices through the piccolo performance stopping it in its tracks and changing the mood from subdued to harrowing in a second. The score reaches its climax in a full-blown passacaglia of sorts, and as the action in the funhouse comes to a head the composer realises and employs a macabre carousel theme that is alluring and unsettling, which he presents in varying arrangements, in the form of a march and a waltz. It is a soundtrack that purveys a chaotic aura and at times has to it a richness that we associate with movies from the 1960’s and early 1970’s. Fans of the horror/slasher genre embraced the score, and it has remained on many wants lists around the world for decades. For the release, Intrada obtained the original 24-track session elements stored at Universal, allowing the composer to oversee a new mix, highlighting details and a stereo image never before heard.  

Watch the soundtrack trailer here.

In the film, teen Amy (Elizabeth Berridge) sneaks out to a traveling carnival with her date, Buzz (Cooper Huckabee), her best friend, Liz (Largo Woodruff), and Liz’s boyfriend, Richie (Miles Chapin). Reluctantly she goes along with their plan to hide overnight in the carnival funhouse. When the four teens witness a murder while locked inside, they become the targets of a shady barker (Kevin Conway) and his monstrous son (Wayne Doba). The film was directed by Tobe Hooper, best known for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Poltergeist. 

Main Theme.

In some ways Beal’s score evokes the style of Jerry Goldsmith as in his scores for Planet of the Apes, and The Omen, and in certain key areas the music of Italian Maestro Pino Donaggio comes to mind, Don’t Look Now being at the top of that list. It is a classic horror soundtrack and one that should have been released years ago. Thanks to Intrada we can at last savour the glorious and relentless tones, passages, and motifs that John Beal created for the movie. Its overall style and musical persona certainly do not sound like many of the horror scores from the 1980’s. The mix of symphonic and synthetic being seamless thus fashioning a harrowing yet at the same time thematic work. Recommended.

for info and samples click here.

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